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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Better than I can say it.

Lifted from the Young Antique Collector's Blog- by Andrew & Holly. Link to their blog on the right. This is a more refined statement of rage.

The real competition

Recently, I've been having a riveting, albeit blood pressure-raising, conversation with an Indiana friend in the trade. He received the newest Pottery Barn catalog where they are hawking bad reproductions of 19th-century printer's chests and other things very clearly based on antiques. It's almost like they look through auction catalogs or go to shows to get inspired, and then send the plans to China to cheaply manufacture knock-offs.

And then the new Restoration Hardware catalog landed in both of our mailboxes. Hoo-boy...have you all seen this? Gary Friedman, the CEO, states, "No longer mere 'retailers' of home furnishings, we are 'curators' of the best historical design the world has to offer."

Um..excuse me? Seriously? I don't know what's more offensive, the fact that he described himself as a curator or that he claimed to have stuff that's better designed than the originals that his company has so poorly imitated.

I'm terribly sorry to inform you, Mr. Friedman, but if you want to find the curators of the best historical design, you need to look at places like Winterthur, the Met, and the MFA-Boston, as well as at antique auctions and shows around the country. Additionally, your customers would be better served by going to auctions, shows, and flea markets, where they will find better design AND better quality, all for a better price and in objects that will be worth something in 10 years.

Folks, you want to know where the (potential) young collectors are? They are at Pottery Barn, Target, Ikea, and they are shopping via catalogs like Restoration Hardware. They may not be as interested in history or art as you are or we are, but they are interested in style, quality, and price...and they aren't finding the best at those places, although they think they are. We need to get their attention and draw it to our business. So next time you see a Pottery Barn catalog on the coffee table of a friend or relative, surreptitiously swap it with an auction catalog or a copy of Maine Antique Digest, The Magazine Antiques or Antiques and Fine Art.

(And to my museum friends, you need to raise a stink with American Association of Museums...they need to protect the title "curator" the way that the American Library Association protects the title "librarian.")

Friday, August 27, 2010

Just when I thought I was done vomiting.

Yesterday's mail produced the new "Restoration Hardware" Catalog. The are "no longer mere retailers" but now consider themselves "curators of the best historical design the world has to offer". The are re-inventing themselves as a faux antiques superstore with much higher prices. Would you please tell everyone you know to stop buying this crap.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I've had all I can take, and I can't take any more.

Up on my soapbox. Received the new September 2010 Pottery Barn yesterday in the mail. The featured item is their new "Printers Collection" which features a series of modular furniture that you can configure to fit any need, Storage, TV's, electronics, bookcases- if you can imagine it, you can build it. "Modular" media furniture, inspired by antique printer's cabinet's. Seem innocuous enough, until you read how they describe it "Heirloom Quality Collection" & "Beautiful Hand Finish You'd Expect to Find on a One of a Kind Antique". My three year old yet to be potty trained son stands a better chance of producing something "Heirloom Quality" in his next diaper. Later in the catalogue, I notice antique tie-ins, like their "Gee's Bend" Quilt Collection, and items licensed by the Museum of American Folk Art. Now these things may seem harmless, but think for a second. These items, being sold as faux-antiques and heirloom quality will be relatively worthless when they walk out of the door. Pottery Barn features a $699 Starburst Quilt, I just purchased a 1920's Amish Quilt at a show for $225. Chances are- the quilt I bought will retain value, while the Pottery Barn version has a good chance of being worthless in 5 years. Spend your money wisely.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bring me the head of Ronald McDonald

I like to think that in all the seriousness of the business, sometimes we need to have fun. Ronald's head now resides in our basement, his body-unknown. A fun find at this weekend's Springfield Show.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Springfield This Weekend

Join us at this weekend's Springfield show. The Show features over 250 vendors along with "A Country Gathering" a specialty show held Saturday in the Youth Building. Great stuff for everyone to be sure. I'll try to get some photos, video and other items of interest for El Blog.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Insider now features Video

John & Doug from Praiseworthy Antiques have always been viewed as creative forces in the business. They are also the first to utilize this groundbreaking sales technique to spur customers into action at the Manchester shows. Voice-over provided by the Insider.

Manchester, Union and other ramblings.

Just completed the annual pilgrimage to Antiques Week In New Hampshire, followed by the Union, Maine show. I will try to cover them in order, but good luck with that.

1. Alexander the Great's Army travelled lighter than we do. Six adults plus one three year old for 10 days- yikes.

2. Sunday at Northeast Auctions provided some interesting observations. While most of the usual suspects were in attendance, many dealers seemed to be active buying for inventory. Prices on Sunday were by report not as high as the Friday or Saturday sessions. I saw more than a few smiles from the audience after winning bids.

3. Monday at the Barn Star Pickers Market- decent crowd and reports from dealers all over the map. Great looking show as usual with a few notable additions among participants.

4. Tuesday at Nan Gurley's Deerfield Show- spent the better part of the day at the most relaxed of the New Hampshire shows. If you haven't had a chance to attend, the ambiance and dealer mix make this one a favorite. Humidity thinned out the crowd in the afternoon, but dealer reports were good.

5. Wednesday- Midweek at Manchester- Frank Gaglio's second show which features 112 great dealers. Although a few high end dealers were not there, the show remained a visual masterpiece. Also noticed a few exhibitor's offering a wider range of items, not so firmly entrenched in high end as the past. Those adjustments were much appreciated.

6. Wednesday- Start of Manchester. New venue- the show returned to where it was started, the JFK ice rink and added air conditioning. Only got a quick glimpse on the second afternoon of the show, but a good collection of professional dealers with nice presentation value.

7. Thursday- New Hampshire dealer's show- the one that started it all. From reports, good dealer sales and as always as beautiful show. Wished I could have spent more time, but going in late on Thursday seems the only way to really talk to dealers. Show seemed to exceed most expectations.

8. Friday- pack up the fam and off to Maine. Arrive late afternoon for the end of Union early buying. This show has the best food in the country- bar none. The seafood and ethnic offerings make this a food lovers/antique paradise. Got good/mixed response from dealers. Crowd strong, but as usual not buying quite enough to make everyone happy.

General Summary:

As a general observation, these shows seemed to fall in the pattern that we have been seeing lately- some optimism, sales slightly exceeding realistic expectations. Dealer sales are still below what I would call a 5 year average level and clearly not consistent enough. Running into a lot of extremes- dealers selling great next to someone struggling. Did see a lot of encouraging signs, more affordable items at the higher end shows and prices adjusted to tempt customers. Crowds appeared to be strong at most venues, with the NHADA show and Union both appearing strong. Still getting the sense customers are hesitant to pull the trigger. Overall- encouraged but we still have a long way to go. At the New Hampshire shows, I also noticed an almost complete lack of shoppers under 40- this problem only seems to be getting worse, and it's time to start to get to work on it.

Photos next

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Off to Manchester

Heading out this weekend for the Annual Pilgrimage to Manchester and Union, Maine. Will report back with photos and details?