Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Next Generation of Vintage Shoppers

The discussion among online sellers these days revolves around how to reach the next generation of vintage shopper. There is a generation of creative talent out there, a group that uses vintage items to “re-purpose” and “re-create”. That notion often sends a collective shudder through the vintage community. There are some purists (I count myself among them) who have a heart wrenching moment when they see beautiful pieces of vintage costume jewelry, pottery, glass, or porcelain torn asunder and turned into something “re-purposed.” It is not that the finished product does not hold beauty, or is not of value – it is the destruction of the old to create the new. 

Today’s online community, the very people driving the marketplace and the creativity and the new and exciting ventures, have used computers since they were in diapers (think Leap Pad). They have been on the internet since pre-school. The internet is their learning platform, it is their creative platform and has become their social platform and their networking platform. It is where they go to shop, first. Want a new widget? Well, let’s go online and compare prices before we even leave our house. Let’s see who has the best widget for the best price. Let’s go online and read reviews. Let’s go online and see who has the one I want in stock. Let’s order it online and have it delivered to the store, or even delivered right to our front door. 

Today’s shopper carries the internet in their hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in the form of their smart phone, or their tablet device. They can scan a barcode in a store and find reviews of an item, and where to find best price within a reasonable driving radius – or where to purchase it online. I attend auctions and estate sales and wander flea markets in search of treasures and delights. I’m a collector and I’m a shop owner. When I look around at the auctioneers, the people running the estate sales and the vendors at the flea markets, the majority of those people are my peers. Once in a while I will see a vendor at a flea market who is in their 20s or 30s, but the vast majority are 50 plus. I’ve met only met a few auctioneers under 40. 

In a recent discussion with my favorite auctioneer, their concern was the aging auctioneer community. They had recently attended a convention of their state’s auctioneer community – and looked around the room to find that the attendees were all of the same generation. Where are the new faces? Where will the new generation come from when his generation is ready to step down? How do we as sellers reach the next generation of vintage and antique collectors? Those who love vintage and antiques for what they are, as they are, and appreciate them for their own beauty rather than something to be re-purposed or re-used. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for going “green” and reusing and recycling. But there is a lot to be said for the treasures of our past and keeping the beauty of the past generations alive. How do we as sellers communicate with the generation that thinks something made in 1970 is an antique? 

I’ve been working with a group of sellers on The Vintage Village, and we’re asking ourselves how we use today’s tools to reach that next generation of antique, vintage and collectible shopper. There’s a group devoted to Ruby Lane, and another devoted to Ruby Plaza there. We’re exploring adventures in Facebook, where there is a community working together called “Got Vintage?” We help each other learn the new marketing techniques online that will keep us in the emerging internet marketplace. I’m learning to use online platforms, like Pinterest, to build momentum forward and reach that next generation. I’m using Twitter, and learning the value of tweeting. 

As online sellers, we have to move forward with change and we have to learn how to use it to be effective for our business model. I was delighted to see Ruby Lane add a Pinterest button right to each listing! It allows our customers to pin items of ours directly to their pin boards and create a buzz on Pinterest about our vintage and antique items! We can use them to pin our own items to boards. This is in addition to the buttons for Facebook and Twitter. It’s growth, it’s change, and it’s good for us! Now we just need to learn how to use these tools effectively to grow our own business and to build a new generation of antique and vintage lovers.