Running a business that is at the luxury end of the market, specialises in a whim purchase, or a collectaholic’s desire, it is crucial, you put your customer first.
In this current economic climate where every penny counts, antiques purchasers, want to get both the most reasonable deal, and to be made to feel that they and their purchase are important to the seller. So how do we achieve this at The Antiques Bazaar?
The first thing we do after purchasing stock, is to embed our motto, “carefully sourced – proudly sold” into our business practice. Everything is fastidiously researched and then labeled clearly. We ensure that we are knowledgable about all our stock and love to chat to all who stop by the stall. Much of our stock has a real history, so whether it is the piece of silver that has been in a pawn shop earlier in its life, where the amount and initials are scratched upon the reverse, or it is an amazing pair of Susse cherubs, which came from the Chatsworth Attic Sale, run by Sotheby’s, the customer needs to know about the provenance of the item. And the customer needs to know we know our stuff. There is nothing more off-putting than a trader who does not know their stock. All antiques tell a story and this helps build up interest.
A a matter of course, we make sure all our stock is unblemished, clearly labeled, and well laid out. An attractive stall is visited more often than something that is chaotic. Silver, ceramics and jewellery are in lit cabinets and the larger ceramics are laid out against a blue velvet background…
We have gradually built a data base of customers over the last two years and we now know them all individually, from Mrs Earle who collects silver salts, to Charlie and Helen who adore Davidson Primrose glass. We use this data base to keep our customers informed of what is happening, which fairs we will be attending and mailing out free tickets, whether it is for the excellently run Bowman’s fairs at Stafford Bingley Hall and Harrogate, the Buxton Antiques Fair or the prestigious NEC – Antiques for Everyone.
This personal touch does not stop there. If a customer has bought a great deal from you, and has said she wants a pair of feminine cufflinks for work, a small pair of hand-crafted silver set opal cufflinks, were sent as a birthday present. This adds to our reputation and of course, a number of people will hear about this truly thoughtful gift.
We also source items for clients and to date, I have sourced: Art Nouveau silver salts, Davidson Primrose glass, two pieces of Pilkington’s Royal Lancastrian, including an extremely rare three handled vase.
Business is not just about selling. There are times when things go wrong and it is how you deal with this that makes your reputation too. Imagine the awful experience that one of your ceramic pieces has a very minor piece of restoration that had passed unnoticed. This happened recently. I immediately said to my customers, that I would do whatever it took to make them happy. The outcome was in their hands. They decided that a small reduction would satisfy them. They thanked me for my professionalism and the quality of my communication.
It is hard work, but incredibly rewarding, when that particular person is united with one of our items. As the Rae’s said, start as customers and leave as friends. A wonderful epithet on which to do business.