With the slow, and in some states unpredictable, return of antique shows and flea markets around the country, more and more show promoters are looking for alternative ways to host their events online to keep their shows alive, and their dealers selling, until they can return to live events.
Online shopping is not new to the antiques marketplace. Shop owners, dealers, and auction houses have been moving their business online for years, creating virtual storefronts on buying sites, selling directly from their website, and teaming up with auction platforms. For some, online sales have now become their primary source of revenue while for others it represents a strong and growing segment of their brick and mortar business. What is clear is that antiquers and collectors have become very comfortable doing business online; they recognize the value of global search capabilities and the convenience of armchair shopping with direct-to-doorstep delivery. That will not change post-COVID, and in fact, is only expected to grow.
Live events, however, are different. Show-goers are buyers who love to browse, touch, haggle, and walk away with their purchase. The thrill of the hunt and making personal connections make any purchase that much more meaningful and valuable for the buying experience and the stories that go with it And, of course, there are the food trucks! So how can you replicate the sights, sounds, and tastes of a live event, online?
That’s the challenge and question facing show promoters across the country as we enter our sixth month of social distancing, with no light at the end of the tunnel for holding large indoor and outdoor festivals, antique shows, and markets in many states around the country. The cancellation of these shows has had a devastating and far-reaching effect on the antiques marketplace, and in particular, the dealers who make their livelihood or supplement their income selling at shows
In an effort to keep their “family” of loyal dealers and faithful show-goers connected, and their shows, visible and viable, more and more show organizers of larger monthly shows, antique weeks, and seasonal fairs are turning to Facebook, Instagram, virtual show software and online marketplace platforms to host their events. While online shows cannot replicate the live experience, they do provide an opportunity for show-goers to meet up with the dealers they were looking to see, and for these dealers to sell during these socially distant times. And it seems to be catching on as the experience is refined, and hope dwindles for a speedy return to normal.
Ruby Lane, the world’s largest curated marketplace for antiques and vintage collectibles, has teamed up with Barn Star Productions, producers of the Spring and Fall Antiques at Rhinebeck shows and the MidWeek Antiques Fair during New Hampshire Antiques Week, among others, and the new owners of the Hertan’s show field at Brimfield, to host their shows on rubylane.com. These shows have a home on the rubylane.com website, populated with dealer shops offering fresh merchandise only available during the show’s limited online run. Buyers can browse through dealer stores like they would booths at a show, or search by category to have the available selection assembled in one place, a luxury that could only take place online. And while you may miss the aesthetic display of a well-curated booth, the items for sale at these shows come with photos and descriptions, and the ability to reach out to the dealer for more information. It also provides for easy and secure payment, and doorstep delivery.
If you haven’t had the experience of attending a virtual show I encourage you to attend the Brimfield LIVE Online shows on Facebook
, September 8-14, for fun live show openings, an online auction, and interviews, all week long. And browse through the Brimfield dealer booths on rubylane.com during show week, as well. This online event, spearheaded by Hertan’s after it was announced that the May Brimfield shows had been canceled, has grown through the July online show and now the upcoming September show to include most of the major Brimfield show fields, providing armchair access to over 170 dealers and over 3,000 items. I know it’s not the same thing as walking miles in all kinds of weather lugging around your finds and standing in line for a porta-toilet, but for now, it provides the next-best experience and keeps the show and its dealers alive until live events return.