Running a stall at a fair or market is great fun but sometimes it is hard to sell specailist items, or you need to reach a wider audience than your local customers. There are other options for selling available, both through the Internet and also at specialist events. Many traders who have a stall or a shop use other methods to sell their wares -often an item might not "fit" with other stock, but an online auction allows a sale at a good price.
Social media has opened up a world of possibilities. Before Facebook, selling online involved having a website or using ebay or other auction sites. I have noticed recently that more and more people are listing and displaying photos of items on their business Facebook page and doing a great trade. This could be for vintage china and glass, craft and hand made items, second hand goods for the home or furniture and larger objects. To be successful, you will need to build a following for your business Facebook account - however, there is plenty of information out there on how to do this. The most important part of this process is to have a good, clear photo or photos of the item and to give a decent description. If there are faults you should mention them - an unhappy customer will not be slow in making their feelings known on your page! Some people build up some excitement by announcing a Sale or Auction of their items. If you have a big following this can be a good way of getting people to focus on your page. Others just list items as they come in, using a fairly simple template photo and short description to do the deed. Don't forget to mention post and packing costs if you sell this way. Even a small item can be costly to post and your profits will vanish if you have to cover this cost without charging for it. If the item is very large, investigate using a courier service - these can work out cheaper. If you do sell on Facebook, it seems to work best on a first-come first-served basis, but you will need to manage your page. Be quick to acknowledge who makes the first offer by putting up a SOLD message with the name of the individual tagged, so there is no doubt who purchased it. It is then up to you and the buyer to arrange for payment and ensure the item is sent promptly. Paypal is a good method of receiving payment, but you might be also be willing to accept cash, cheque or postal order.
This rather informal method of selling has less protection for the buyer and seller than Ebay. For example, if there is a dispute there is no mediating party to sort it out! And if someone doesn't pay, you can't do much about it. So, be a little cautious about selling via Facebook.
Ebay (www.ebay.co.uk) is the giant online auction service which allows you to sell pretty much anything you can imagine. You will need to set up a personal account and agree to their terms and conditions. As well as paying for each listing, you pay a % on every sale. Look out for free listing offers for specific categories or over weekends. Listing is relatively simple as you are taken through the process stage by stage. There are countless books and articles about how to sell well on ebay, so I won't go into massive detail here. It pays to be very clear in your description about the piece and to provide plenty of photos. You should be meticulous about describing damage and flaws, otherwise your disappointed buyer is sure to give you poor feedback. Feedback gives you credibility as a seller and buyer and if it is tarnished by a few complaints, might deter other people who were potential buyers. You may want to start out with some small, low-value items and get familiar with the process. You have the option to set a starting price or reserve, to sell only to a domestic audience and to offer items for collection only. Bear in mind the more conditions you add, the less bidders you will have. A zero or low starting price auction tempts the treasure hunters and being willing to post or courier to home or abroad brings your pieces to a wider audience. Again, do check costs and state these clearly from the start for any postage or delivery charges.
It is worth spending time writing about your item - some ebay sellers are positively flowery, others terse to the point of almost non-existent information, which for a buyer can be frustrating. Find a happy medium and write upbeat, descriptive and factual selling copyy. If you are selling something with any age, use the words "vintage antique old" in the title - this picks up searches on each word. Check your spelling! Poor spelling means your item may not be found by keen buyers who search only on correctly spelt wording. Remarkably, there are now specialist sites that search ebay for misspelt items on behalf of bidders. These item can often be bought at bargain prices, due to lack of competition in the bidding process. Look at how other, experienced sellers word their descriptions and use photos to best effect. Many ebayers have shops and have nicely designed templates within which to sit their information, terms and conditions. Do spend time on the terms and conditions of sale and returns.
Other sites that are popular for selling vintage/antique items abound. Etsy is a great source of the quirky and unusual, with many vintage items listed. Sellers can set up an Etsy shop with a picture of each item, price, description and postage. Many Etsy sellers also post links to their Etsy sales page from Facebook - a kind of social media double whammy. Writing good descriptions, photos and clear sales information including post and packing costs is important.
Another great service for selling antique and vintage items is The Hoarde (www.thehoarde.com). Items on this site tend to be the more decorative antiques and vintage and there are plenty of different sellers on board to study. There is a selection process, which is clearly explained and if you like using a computer, take good pictures and want to expand your audience, this could be a good option to follow up.
Another way of selling is to set up parties in people's homes, a bit like a Tupperware party! You take your stock along, the host or hostess invites their friends and provides refreshments. You have the chance to demonstrate and sell your stock in a mini-presentation. This can be fun and sociable, but sales are never guaranteed. Often the chit chat and gossip dominates the evening and the purpose of the party is somewhat lost. Or people are not that interested in your items and have just turned up to support their friend. A more fruitful opportunity for generating business are the invitation-only private house parties, often held for charity, where a few selected traders are selected to sell. These can be very profitable if the visitors are the yummy mummies and well heeled ladies that lunch who like a bit of private shopping with an exclusive edge. An extension of this are the charity gift fairs that abound in the autumn - many have stringent selection processes and are difficult to get into. It is arguable whether antique and vintage items are popular at these fairs - not everyone wants to buy used items for gifts. However, many charities attract a strong and loyal following of affluent supporters, who will spend generously at such events.
If you fancy being really ambitious, and specialise in an area such as dog or horse collectables or gardenalia, you could take a stand at the shopping villages of major dog, horse, country or garden shows. The investment in these can be substantial and you will need masses of stock, as they are often several days long. I have seen dog antique stands at Crufts, packed with china, glass, brass, silver dogs and dog-related ephemera. Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows often have stands with a range of vintage garden tools, furniture and statuary - often with big price tickets! If you have a theme or passion for a niche area you will find other enthusiasts at such events. If you like automobilia, then a stand at Goodwood Revival could be the perfect outlet for your vintage oil cans, road maps and picnic sets. The same theory could apply for sporting events with vintage equipment and ephemera available at golf tournaments, tennis matches, cricket games etc. There are also many auction houses who hold specialist sales once or twice a year and if you do find something unusual, consignment to a specialist sale could bring you a great price.
Developing your business takes a bit of thinking and effort, but it can yield great results. You may find less competition for business and a more knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience by investigating specialised and niche events and selling opportunities. Be bold and try something different!