Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 17, 2011

Antique, second-hand retailers see better sales

Shab is Back

By Daniel Human
Tribune business writer

— A lot of it is old, some of it is kind of homely, but it has sold well, according to store owners.

Popularity has picked up for shabby chic, rustic and re-purposed antiques and second-hand items as shoppers look for more personalized and affordable Christmas gifts.

“Everything re-purposed is all the rage right now,” said Kris Campbell, who owns Timeless Pieces and Treasures eBay Consignment Shop, 631 S. Reed Road. “People can’t buy as much, so they’re focusing on that one special item.”

Shoppers as young as mid-20s have gone to the store to find used and revamped furniture, toys or collectibles, among other selections.

An added draw has come from prices, Campbell said, noting a full-size, shabby chic bed in her store that had a $99 price tag.

Furniture for a few hundred dollars was consistent at Treasure Mart Antique Mall, 116 W. Alto Road.

Business owner Eric Weaver deflected the idea that shabby chic was popular this year — rather, “primitive” items have sold well. Instead of old merchandise that might have been repainted or re-varnished, which he defined as “shabby chic,” shoppers have searched for items that are closer to their original state.

A major selling point over the last few years, Weaver said, has been furniture’s quality compared to the price.

“You can buy solid-wood, American-made stuff as opposed to more modern, particle-board stuff,” he said.

Smaller items — coins, jewelry, knives — have also been popular, he said.

“If you just sit here and watch all day what leaves, it’s such a wide variety of objects,” he said. “You’ve got to have everything out and ready because you never know what they’re going to buy.”

Antique sales have picked up nationwide this year after they plummeted, like most other areas of retail, when the recession began in 2008, according to Lincoln Sander, executive director of the Antiques Dealers’ Association of America.

Although, he noted, his organization represents high-end dealers on a by-invite basis, Sander said he has noticed improvement in the greater area of antiques, collectibles and second-hand items.

“The antique business in general ... has improved somewhat,” he said. “Although, it’s not where it was four or five years ago.”

Holiday retail overall should pick up slightly from 2010, the National Retail Federation predicts.

The organization on Thursday adjusted its annual Christmas shopping forecast by projecting a 3.8 percent increase in sales after bumping the figure up from 2.6 percent.

“After strong sales reports in October and November, along with a successful Black Friday weekend, retailers are cautiously optimistic that this season will turn out better than initially expected, bringing added stability to our recovering economy at a time when America needs it most,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a press statement.

Online holiday sales have also continued to pick up, which has served Campbell’s eBay-based business well.

Better search engine optimization, which includes tactics to bump up a website’s listing rank in an Internet search, have helped boost business over the last few months, she said, as well as eBay’s increased marketing.

Sander said eBay and similar websites have become major tools, both for buying and selling, for many of the antique dealers his organization represents.

“Look at all the stuff that has sold on eBay,” he said. “We have high-end dealers finding stuff.”

• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at daniel.human@kokomotribune.com.


KT photo | Erik Markov

Moving merchandise: Andy Eicholz and Bill Biehle move furniture to the front of Timeless Pieces and Treasures eBay Consignment Shop on Thursday. The shop has experienced better sales as people look for re-purposed gifts as low-cost alternatives.