One of the biggest problems in the antiques business, besides the slow economy, is the lack of young people that are interested in antiques. I just read this interesting article in the “Antique Trader.” The article was written by Melanie Thomas. She gives some interesting ways that we might use to bring more young people into the fold. Here are some of the highlights from the article.
Remember career day in school, when your hardworking teacher scrounged up as many working parents as possible to discuss their jobs, hoping to inspire us to follow in their illustrious and productive footsteps so we’d one day become contributing, tax-paying members of society? For five minutes apiece, firemen, doctors, lawyers, accountants and even actuaries stood in front of our classrooms, much like a police lineup, to talk about their glamorous, self-sacrificing or lucrative careers.
Do you ever recall having any antiques dealers in this mix? Me neither. Maybe because being a “dealer” was something that conjured up images of back alleys, folded white paper and fistfuls of cash. Or maybe becoming an antiques dealer was a fall-back career
Does that mean being an antiques dealer is some kind of default career? Why is it children never say they want to be antiques dealers when they grow up?
Ms Thomas goes on to say:
We need to shake up our profession’s image and transform it into one that children dream about and aspire to. Let’s bump antiques dealer from the fall-back position to its rightful place in the front of the classroom.
So right here and now, I propose we make a promise to ourselves and to our chosen profession. We need to sell our careers to the next generation and inspire someone else to be as enthusiastic and passionate as we are about our collections, shops or hobbies, because enthusiasm is contagious.
Because if we don’t swell our ranks with new members, we’ll soon be awash in a sea of gray and white — hair, that is.
If you don’t believe me, take a good, long look at the attendees strolling down the aisles at your next antiques show. For every four people over the age of 50, there may be one under the age of 35. No kidding. I took two hours out of my life one afternoon and counted.
There is good news, however. The economy has forced the younger generation (and I don’t just mean college co-eds) to take a serious second look at vintage furnishings, providing these treasures an outlet for a new life. So let’s take this budget-conscious consumer to the next level……
If the antiques business is to to not only survive, but thrive, we need to find a way to make antiques attractive to younger people. When we lived in Dallas, the shops that were popular with the younger generation featured mid-century modern and other vintage furniture, as well as collectibles from that period. They usually also had some vintage clothes. I wondered what all of the buzz on the local internet scene was about a couple of these stores. But who sends the most time on the internet talking about things, the younger generation.
Unforunately too few dealers are willing to do the things Ms. Thomas suggested. If we don’t think we can sell them something, we seem to not have time for them. Even though many stores seem to look down on anything that is not a “true” antique, mybe we need to change our attitudes. Maybe the reason we have so few young cuatomers is because we don’t have what they like. Maybe we should consider having at least a section in our store dedicated to things from the mid 1900′s. Done the right way, this would not be a liability for you other customers. Art Deco and architectural antiques fit in well with this era. We can continue to complain about not having you people as customers or we can try to do something about it.