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!

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