The Future of the Antiques, Vintage and Collectibles Industry

The Antiques, Vintage & Collectibles Market Future: Is It Really Dying?

Wikipedia labels the years 2007–2012 “The Great Recession.”  It has been a period of general economic decline, observed all over the world, and affecting almost every market (including antiques & vintage). By July 2017, CNBC stated that 1 in 3 Americans had still not recovered from those years

For dealers, this complicates the questions swirling in the Antique and Vintage Marketplace: Is the antique and vintage industry dying, or aging out? Is there a future for A & V? Will the A & V market recover?  

There is no question that the A & V marketplace is changing. But consider this: The growth of the internet, as a secure shopping channel, has only existed since 1994. That means that anyone 21 years of age and younger, has lived their entire life shopping online.

Furthermore,  Nov 28, 2017 , or “Cyber Monday,” became the largest online shopping day in US history. Online transactions reached a record $6.59 billion, according to Adobe Insights, a 16.8 percent increase over last year. Mobile sales also, for the first time, reached $2 billion, over a 24-hour period.

The Antique and Vintage market is changing. It is metamorphosing, as are many markets, going online, where millennials, and savvy collectors shop for everything, from groceries to cars, art, and antiques & vintage. As with the development of other new technologies, like automobiles and email, it changes the way people do business. We are in a period of transition.  Many dealers, people (who didn’t grow up speaking computer) are resistant to this new wave of technological and business change. It is especially alarming to those who reject adapting.

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein


The Analysts’ Take On The A & V Industry’s Future:

According to noted industry research analysts, IBIS World: “The Online Antiques and Collectibles Sales industry has continued to flourish over the five years to 2016, largely due to the growing ubiquity of online shopping. Antiques and collectibles are timeless yet discretionary items, making this industry highly sensitive to changes in disposable income.”

“In the coming years, the industry will attract a larger customer market as more households buy industry products electronically and consumers have more income to spend on luxuries. Positive income and consumer spending growth will drive demand for discretionary products. Rising consumer confidence will particularly benefit the industry’s long-term growth because it makes consumers more willing to splurge on discretionary antiques and collectibles.”

IBIS World  identifies 3 of the most critical success factors for an online antiques and collectibles business this way:

  1. Ensuring pricing policy is appropriate
  2. Having a diverse range of customers
  3. Ability to quickly adopt new technology

Another industry resource, Big Commerce, details three factors, very or extremely, influential in determining where Americans shop online: 

1.Price (87%), 2.Shipping Cost and Speed (80%) and, 3.Discount Offers (71%)

For more information on how Antique & Vintage dealers should approach these factors, read our Online Storefront Renovation Series.

Something Critical is Missing From The List:

Something spoken of by many experts, yet not in the lists above, is critically important, in our changing industry:  Online sales require that inventory be more highly curated. In other words, more strategically chosen, and presented. Many vintage, antique and collectible hunters will wander through dark and dusty brick and mortar thrift stores, knowing that 90% or more will be completely uninteresting to them, but persisting to find that one undiscovered treasure.

And, while general marketplace shoppers are more likely than the average shopper to enjoy taking their time to find the right price (62% v. 54%), they are FAR LESS LIKELY to wade through 90 online pages of uninteresting inventory, to find something they love. In fact, they may not go through 9 pages of un-curated inventory.

“The most successful retailers are strategic and targeted in their efforts, both offline and on.” – Big Commerce

According to data analysts, Chartbeat, research shows that 55% of visitors will spend fewer than 15 seconds on a site, if their interest is not captured in that time. To pique interest that fast, and capture sales, online shoppers require that carefully chosen inventory be brought to life with more images (78%) and better product description than you would expect in a traditional sales environment, and that the whole process be relatively easy, and quickly completed. 

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein

This difference in shopping behavior is profound enough that to be successful, online A & V businesses must adapt. Having a diverse range of inventory may appeal to a wider range of customers, but that range still needs to be carefully chosen and displayed, or the customers is gone in an instant, and the sales opportunity is lost. It is not merely new technology that must be adapted to, but also new business practices in sourcing, selling, and appealing to online buying behaviors.

The Rest Of The Story:

Because art is often antique or vintage, is also considered timeless, and is also a discretionary purchase, the art market has long been a part of the broader antique, vintage, and collectibles market. An annual global report by the world’s leading art market analysts (The European Fine Art Fair, or  TEFAF),  considered to be the bible of economic trends, in the art and antiques world, showed a 7% drop in money spent on art globally, and a 2% drop in the number of works sold in 2015, over 2014. However, that was only a PART of the story. Internet art sales actually rose during this same time. According to the 2015 TEFAF report, the online sector grew 7 percent in the past year to $4.7 billion…


So, to summarize, NO. The antique, vintage and collectibles market is NOT DEAD, and it is NOT DYING. It has an interesting, bright future to look forward to, and for which it must prepare. It is not “doom and gloom,” and “the sky is not falling.” It. Is. Changing.  And we can adapt. It’s what we do.

Visit GoAntiques.com to shop for Antique & Vintage items!

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