Florida - In a recent annual survey conducted by the Asheford Institute Of Antiques on buying trends for 2016 (see survey results here), it was noted by many of the participating dealers at the time, that the market for Mid-Century Modern had been responsible for a large portion of their overall sales growth for that particular year. Dealers from all walks - including those with storefronts as well as online concerns - all seemed to register the same sentiment; that without question, Mid-Century Modern was indeed king of the till.
However, fast-forward a few months later, and a number of cracks appear to be materializing in this once stalwart division of the decorative arts industry. In a brief follow-up to the 2016 survey, Asheford school officials sent out a limited questionnaire specifically asking about the types and styles of Mid-Century Modern pieces that were selling well amongst participants from the previous survey. While the responses were not out-of-line with the overall poll results from 2016, what was surprising were the number of dealers who complained about the sudden appearance and mass marketing of Mid-Century Modern pieces by major retail chains.
Chris Scott, a dealer in New Hampshire, noted that he’d had a number of people in his shop who had seen the exact same 1950’s style Mid-Century Modern sofa on Mayfair, except at one-fifth the price. “I was so stunned,” said Scott, “that I went online to see for myself, and there it was.” Other dealers also seemed to be aware of the broadening appeal of the Mid-Century look. Christine Abu, a dealer along Florida’s East Coast, said she couldn’t believe how many big-box stores were beginning to incorporate Mid-Century aesthetics into their overall design cues for furniture. “Unfortunately, this is starting to eat into our profits,” said Abu, “Since most people can’t tell the difference between authentic Mid-Century Modern and repos - there’s no patina to go by - like on wood.”
Of the dealers who responded to the questionnaire, most seemed to share the same concerns, especially when it came to buying fresh Mid-Century stock. Said Scott, “If I have to buy now, I’m taking a hard second-look at cost, whereas before, I’d just let loose the purse strings like most other dealers and scramble to get something authentic.” Ultimately, many of the dealers from the questionnaire simply stated that they'd have to buy more cheaply, and sell for less, if the market continued it's flood of big-box knock-offs.
While the style of Mid-Century modern is still likely to continue on the upswing for a while to come yet, it’s certainly worth noting some of these dealers early observations in regard to the potentially changing times that might be occurring within the Mid-Century marketplace; especially since those who are present at the beginning of a trend, are usually the most likely to notice when it starts to change. Dealers hoping to capitalize on the current popularity of the Mid-Century motif should keep in mind that like any trend, course-corrections may be required...
- A.I.A. Staff Writers
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