The Business of an Antiques Business

Running a modern vintage and antique business today is a lot of fun. It is a great way to exercise my creative side. Curating the collection of items The Arqivist sells, networking with other dealers and sellers, designing a website and running a lively Instagram feed. It might not seem like it but there is also a skill to visiting a large antique emporium, sifting through hundreds of items and picking out the ones that match our brand identity and that our customers will want to buy and own as much as I would. I also enjoy writing this blog very much, and it is a place to channel my thoughts about the business and or more abstract ideas about fashions, history and aesthetics.

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Then there is the more businessy side of the business. Setting up bank accounts, accounting, marketing and promotion, managing and storing stock and most important of all - cash flow. Like all businesses keeping a healthy cash flow is key to its success and it is a daily challenge to keep money in the bank, as well as buying new stock as quickly as possible with money from previous sales. (And this is a common concern for all business no matter how big or small they are, Carillion and BHS being recent examples of cash flow problems although there were other facts involved).

Today the way I run The Arqivist is hugely different to how it would have looked had it been founded in the 1980s for example. The antiques industry has changed a lot in the past decade, as has retail as a whole. Previously the obvious place to start would have been working for someone who already had an established shop, a sort of apprenticeship. Then I would have opened my own traditional antiques shop and run it on a nine to five basis Tuesday to Saturday. I would have had customers from the local area and maybe a few from further afield. When not in the shop I would have been out looking for and buying items for the shop.  These type of antique shops that still exits and are run very well.

 The wonderful Post Office Antiques in Sissinghurst, Sussex, England. 

The wonderful Post Office Antiques in Sissinghurst, Sussex, England. 

But more and more dealers are turning to the web to showcase and sell their items. For one thing, the Internet is a much more democratic and accessible space. Gone is the need to pay rent, council rates, insurance etc. Now all that is needed is a website, camera and a way of marketing the business. Of course, I am still competing with the well-known names in the industry and the publicity that they have access to, but with ingenuity, creativity and not much money, you can launch your own business. And tools such as Instagram and Facebook are indispensable for connecting with customers around the globe. An online presence also means I can be in touch with these customers day or night and not have to limit trading to usual shop opening hours.  All of this makes for a much more flexible business model one that is better able to adapt and pivot to the needs of the market and the demands of my customers.

Let me know what your thoughts about online shopping in the comments section below.