Monday, April 16, 2007

Hate Junk Mail and Pesky Telemarketers????

Seems like every day my junk mail increases, and the piles are getting larger and larger. Mostly it's solicitations from credit card companies, banks, and sales flyers from all sorts of stores. Luckily, we heat our home with wood, and all of this miscellaneous paper makes for great fire-starters.

In the summer when we aren't heating with wood, we just save it all in a paper bag, ready to be used in late September when we again heat with wood. It's a shame to waste all those trees needed to make the paper for this junk mail, but at least I have a practical use for all this excess paper.

Click here for a
1) website
which will help you lessen the amount of junk mail in your mailbox!

Click here for
2) another site
which will allow you to opt-out on junk mail for five years.

To eliminate those telemarketers who always seem to call in the middle of dinner (or your favorite tv show),
3)click here.

It only takes a few minutes to fill out the forms, and is well worth the time. Do all three if you can, and you'll see a noticeable difference in the phone calls and useless mail you've been receiving.

A couple of years ago I got rid of nearly all the aggravating telemarketing phone calls by adding my phone numbers to the Do Not Call list, and my phone has been blissfully silent ever since. You can find the link to the government's Do Not Call list on the 3rd site.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Ann Arbor Antiques Market

Stopped by the Ann Arbor Antiques Market today. The April show is the first of the new season, and it's always worthwhile to shop it since so many dealers have accumulated lots of fresh inventory over the winter.

In April, it's a two-day show (September is also a two-day show), while all the other monthly shows are one-day shows. All are held on the 3rd weekend of the month. The show is ever-changing in it's dealer roster, with anywhere from 200 to 300 dealers there each month. The show runs from April through November. These dealers come from many different states, with some traveling more than 1000 miles to exhibit at Ann Arbor.

Sometimes customers think that the same dealers are there every month, but that is not true. I overheard the following conversation:

Shopper to a dealer: "Can I get your card?"

Dealer: "Sure - can you tell me what you were interested in?"

Shopper: "Well, there were a couple things . . ."

Dealer: "Which ones?"

Shopper: "Well, let me have your card. You'll be here next month, right?"

Dealer: "Actually, no, I won't be here next month. Might be here in September, but I don't know yet for sure. What can I help you with?"

With that, the shopper turned and walked away before the dealer could hand her his business card. She assumed that all dealers return each month bringing the same items! She then decided that if he wasn't coming back for several months, she was no longer interested in talking with him. Such a shame that she wasn't comfortable with further discussion, but by the time he gets back in the Fall, he probably will no longer have the items she liked.

The Ann Arbor show has changed management recently, and there were plenty of new things I noticed at the show.

One of the changes is the location of the outside tent dealers - they were moved to a completely new location. Many of these dealers were quite unhappy about this new placement; they felt that they weren't getting the customer traffic they have received in the past, and therefore, not the sales. Also, it was quite cold and very windy, which usually means that customers prefer to stay in the heated barns, shopping the inside dealers. The old tent location was quite near the barns, and people often moved through the tents and then went back into the heated barns to warm up. The new tent location is a quite a bit farther away than previously, and I suspect that many shoppers just didn't want to walk so far in the cold and bitter winds, knowing that they wouldn't have the respite of warming up in the heated barns unless they walked all the way back to them.

Another change is the good look of the show - many more booths were walled and papered this time. It's a distinctly more formal look, and gave the show a good visual appearance. It made many dealers' merchandise look fabulous. Several dealers mentioned that they liked the look very much, and that they were given the walls and paper at no additional cost. Not all the booths were given this treatment. It appeared that it was mostly the dealers in the front few buildings only.

There didn't seem to be as many police officers at Ann Arbor this time. The local sheriff's department has for many, many years had an agreement with the show to provide law enforcement for a specified fee each month, but they were noticeably less in number this year. That might be a problem - Ann Arbor has had a reputation in the dealer community for shop-lifting problems. The clearly visible uniformed police officers walking around in past shows were quite helpful in limiting crime, also in helping find lost children, controlling traffic, answering questions, and generally being available if needed for any emergencies. Hope they bring back more officers!

The new July dates were a problem to many of the exhibiting dealers - they do not want the July show to change into a 2 day show. Historically, July is a tough month for sales at Ann Arbor. So many customers are on family vacations, and the heat can be unbearable at the show. Attendance is down, along with sales. Adding a second day to the show means adding more expenses for dealers - more hotel cost and food expenses for that second day add up, and most of the dealers feel that the second day does not produce enough extra sales to offset the added overhead.

Even though I was there primarily to research an article I'm writing for an antiques trade publication, I just couldn't help it and found myself shopping for antiques (okay, so I'm an addicted antiques-shopaholic). I was able to pick up two lucky finds - a pair of Shaker-made wood scoops (my husband collects Shaker items, so he'll be happy since he doesn't have any scoops in his collection), and a lovely mid-19th c small grain-painted table in a wonderful Hepplewhite style. I'll be taking this with me to Maine soon, where it'll be appreciated and won't last long. It's form is super - delicate yet straight, tapered legs, and good graining overall. It's not very big, but a bit taller than average, so it can be used just about anywhere in one's home. I just love early furniture which is practical too!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reminiscing about the Antiques business

When I first started in 1980 as an antiques dealer, I was very fortunate to befriend a couple of dealers and collectors who taught me the basics of the antiques trade. As we all know, this is one weird business. It's both wholesale and retail at the same time (how many businesses do both?), and the negotiating price thing can be outrageous (at one time or another, most of us have sold something for 30-50% off - and it's expected now!). How many other industries do you know buy things, clean and repair them, and then try to make a living from them? And that's not to mention the long hours, unusual characters, and strange working conditions many of us have endured . . .

The antiques business is most unusual, and without the help and direction of some very good and faithful friends early in my career, I wouldn't have lasted this long. They gave me the joy and laughter of finding wonderful old things, and made the tribulations so much more tolerable. They explained the hand-shake part of this business, and that one's word is their absolute reputation. And from the beginning, I vowed to pass on the same help that they gave me so long ago.

Anytime I can pass on assistance to my fellow dealers, I try to do so. I certainly don't have all the answers, but if it's something I've already done, or somewhere I've been, I'm very happy to share info.

Nowadays, I'm seeing more and more cut-throat antiques dealers, and it confounds me - why would anyone want to be alone in this business, being known as a poor excuse for an antiques dealer and having a bad reputation for treating others badly. Or being know for back-stabbing business techniques. Or taking advantage of newer dealers' inexperience. I just don't get it. I'd much rather be happy sharing with my dealer friends, laughing and giggling, learning new ideas and sharing life and business experiences.

I've had the good fortune of loving this business for nearly 30 yrs (more, if you count my collecting times prior to becoming a seller), and the pleasures of the antiques trade has given me many wonderful life stories not only here at home, but across the country and in several other countries too. Weird businesses bring together new friends, allow us to learn really odd information, and provide for much laughter and many smiles as we think back over the years.

I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Two weeks ago, a dealer friend who's been in this business as a nationally-recognized show dealer for more than 40 years told me that he just couldn't sleep the night before the four day show we were doing. He was so excited about the show he stayed awake a good part of the night! He has exhibited at this show for more than 30 years, twice a year, and he still has that inner sense of wonder and thrill, not knowing what awaits him at the show.

His open mind and willingness to just be himself has brought him many customers over the years, and many of those customers have turned into true friends. He is such an engaging person, and he's enjoyed his full-time life as an antiques dealer. The fact that he'd had not one but TWO flat tires on his van on the way to the show (a 1000 mile trip away from his home) didn't faze him one bit. He just took care of business (flat tires are a nuisance, but do not have to be a major problem) and was smiling and laughing the next day while telling his story.

Nothing slows him down. He's dedicated, happy, looks forward to every day. He can make a family of snowmen out of a ten foot deep snowstorm. That's the kind of antiques dealer I want to be!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Winds of Texas

We just returned from Texas, where we exhibited in an indoor antiques show known as the Original Round Top Antiques Fair. It's quite large, having more than 100 dealers at the building we were in, plus two more buildings and one large tent for additional dealers.

The last night of the show a huge thunderstorm came rolling through the area. We weren't too concerned since our booth was indoors in a relatively new, well-built steel buildin
g. We heard the storms at 5 am, after an all-night rain, but since we were safe inside our hotel, it wasn't anything to worry about. Of course, we didn't know about the tornado that hit a Houston building about an hour east of us, taking off it's roof but luckily not injuring anyone.

If you
sell at antiques shows, weather is always a consideration. Show dealers are a hardy lot - they come prepared for all kinds of unexpected weather. We bring different kinds of clothing to cover both hot and cold temperatures, always have rain gear with us, and in general are pretty well prepared for the various extremes we might face.

The pictures here show the force of the strong Texas winds. The same storm that
ripped the roof off a large building in Houston was responsible for destroying this 30' x 40' brand new tent. The tent had been staked outside our show building with 3 foot steel rerod stakes. When the winds hit - estimated at approximately 50-60 miles per hour, it lifted this heavy-duty tent straight up twenty feet into the air, and then blew it across our building, landing it 200' away. The tent rolled across the top of the building, still attached to it's stakes and 3 inch diameter aluminum poles, tearing the edges and punching holes in the roof.

Down the road from our show, several hundred exhibitors at some of the tailgate antiques shows were showing in large tents. Many of them lost merchandise as their tents collapsed in the high winds. We heard that at least five tents were destroyed.

The tent next to our building flopped it's aluminum poles like legs, tumbling across one dealer's cargo trailer and then finally landing on another dealer's van. It covered the van like a giant spider, with it's aluminum poles splayed across the van. Some of the poles remained on the roof, while others were torn off and landed in various pieces on the ground. Both the van and trailer suffered some holes and dents, but neither was severely damaged.

Wasn't it fortunate that this didn't happen during the day, when patrons could have been eating lunch in this tent or walking around outside??

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Free Custom Business Cards for my Friends!!

For several years I've been ordering my business cards from an Internet company called VistaPrint. They are in Massachusetts, and offer a pretty good deal - 250 cards for just shipping costs alone, which amount to about $8. Over the years I've probably ordered at least 10 different styles for both my antiques business and my husband's massage therapy business, and have always been satisfied with my orders. The card shown here was one I used when I had an antiques shop a couple years ago. Since you can change the wording around as you please, I've used these cards as a discount promotion card for my antiques business, and I've given them as unique surprise gifts for customers, too. (How can you go wrong for only $8???)

Sometimes I'll order a couple different groups of 250 at a time, with each costing only $8 per order for shipping. There's about 40 or so different free designs - hundreds more designs in their "premium cards" if you wish to pay a slight upcharge - and lots of room on each card for your own individual wording. You can change it around however you wish, as it's really easy to customize your own cards.

They allow many options - you can get a matte finish card (that's included in the free card, and looks good, so I use that) or a glossy finish (there's an upcharge for glossy). You can also order more than 250, but since I regularly change my wording and information around, I like to order them in the 250 count free order.

Since I'm a regular customer, recently VistaPrint gave me a special link to pass on to my friends. It will lead you to their site, and give you a first-time customer special discount, plus it gives me a small credit towards my future orders. VistaPrint is always sending out promotions to it's customers - a couple weeks ago they offered me a free rubber stamp with wording of my own choosing ($15-20 value) with my order. I definitely took them up on that freebie.

They ship pretty quickly. Their "slow shipping" costs around $8 - I use that because it almost always gets here in 10 - 14 days. You can also get faster shipping, at a slightly higher cost.

If you think you'll need business cards anytime soon, give this company a try. They've been a solid company to work with, very reliable, and their designs are very professional. Once I ordered four different sets of free cards, ending up with 1000 cards for their shipping costs of $32 total, delivered to my door by mail. Try to order 1000 business cards from your local printer for that price!

They have plenty of interesting patterns and designs, from classics like the above card, to gardening and many other topics. They also offer their customers Specials that are useful, like the rubber stamp for free, also custom Thank You cards, note cards, magnets, post cards and similar products that you might be able to use. Please use my link - I'd appreciate the small credit for my next order!