It made sense to open a vintage shop online after a series of small pop-ups here on my ceramic site were a big hit. I love vintage design. I studied Art History in college-- even more than I studied ceramics! I'm a bit design obsessed. Beautiful things that function well, sigh, is there anything better? Making ceramics is how I express this love for beautiful, functional objects. Collecting vintage is another part of that same joy.
One of my favorite weekend activities is trekking through local consignment and antique shops looking for gems I can't leave behind. There's only so much stuff I can justify keeping in my own home... that's where my vintage shop on Chairish comes in!
I'm frequently asked about my Chairish shop: how I collect vintage, how I price my vintage finds, how I store and ship everything, and the biggest one of all: Does Chairish actually make me any money? I'm just over one year into having my Chairish shop and I'm sharing all the details with you in this post including how much money I made from selling vintage last year and how hard it actually is to run an online vintage shop.
How I Collect // What comes home with me and what I pass over
I have an informal set of rules for deciding what I'll buy when I'm thrifting. The major things I consider are: Condition, price, is it by a notable designer, is it time-period specific design, color, material, and then wrapping it all up together-- how do these details compare to current home decor trends?
I usually only buy things in perfect or subtly used condition. A piece from a notable designer or luxury brand are almost always going home with me too if they're priced right (more on that in a second). Mid-Century items do very well on Chairish, and I pay a lot of attention to trending colors in interior design too. Those details become a mental checklist for me when I'm vintage shopping.
I only collect items that I'd actually live with, and this alone weeds out a lot of junk because I'm pretty picky. I ask myself: If I buy this item and it doesn't sell, does it still serve a purpose in my life? Will I be happy with the price I paid for that purpose to be served if I end up living with this piece? This light for example currently hangs in my kitchen's dining nook and I love it!
Pricing for Profit + Sales // Making money while keeping inventory moving
I always look at the comparables online when considering a vintage purchase to get an idea of the market value and demand for that item. My go-to resources for price comparing are: the Chairish Pink Book, Etsy, Ruby Lane, 1st dibs, Replacements, and Ebay. My goal is to make at least four to five times my initial purchase cost while pricing fairly for the item's value.
Chairish makes it really easy to mark items down if they're not selling. I tend to mark down once every 2-3 months by 10% until an item sells. If an item's potential profit becomes too small I usually opt to either keep the item (remember I already decided it can serve a purpose in my life) or I'll gift it to someone I think will genuinely enjoy it.
Setting Limits // How much I collect at once
This is a very important point! I can't stress this enough. It's too easy for a small collection to morph into a pointless hoard. I refuse to live that way, and find that clutter is a major cause of anxiety in my life. To fit the senseless accumulation I set limits for my collecting in two key ways: A dollar amount limit and a space limit.
One of the reasons I started selling on Chairish in the first place was that I had too much vintage from my prop collection that I used in photoshoots for my online ceramics business and I was running my entire business from home. There was stuff everywhere and it caused a lot of stress. I've now sold through most of that initial stock, and I don't want to find myself back in that same situation. My solution isn't to stop collecting entirely because I truly enjoy it, but to scale back, collecting more thoughtfully.
I now have designated areas for storing my vintage: two of these Ikea cabinets and a small stack of larger items at the studio that I keep organized together even though they don't fit into the cabinets. That's it! If the items don't fit in those designated spaces I don't buy them. At one point I had three dining room table sets which I thought would be great for photographing my tableware but instead they just became a huge trigger for my clutter anxiety.
For the money limit, I used to limit my spending to reflect 50% of the money I'd made the month before on Chairish, but then my sales began picking up (yay!) and I realized how much I loved having less stuff in my house. So I cut that budget waaaaaaaaay down. The last three times I've gone thrifting I set a $30 budget and still walked away with incredible finds!
Let's Talk Money // Can you actually make money selling vintage online?
YES I've now sold 96 listings on Chairish for total sales of: $7,995.92 since launching my shop there November 2017. Based on my total sales, my average sale price was $83.29. Most of my items were purchased for well under $20 each, so I'm looking at a comfortable return for my purchase cost. In many cases I'm hitting that 5x goal with a few higher and lower returns worked in. I learned a lot about what sells best in my last year selling vintage and I'll be working for even better returns in 2019 armed with that information.
Okay, but how hard is it to run a Chairish shop and make money?
Buying vintage to turn a profit does take a certain know-how to make sure you're stretching your dollar as far as possible for the best return. For example, I know Mid-Century design is a big hit with the Chairish buyer, and I find these designs easy to recognize when I'm thrifting so I've made many great flips with this type of product in my Chairish store. Chairish sends out a very helpful guide recapping trends from previous seasons and outlining what they'd like to see more of on Chairish. This guide is so helpful and definitely guides my purchases.
One of my favorite things about Chairish is how consistent the listings look on the site because their photo team edits out the background on all of the submitted lead photos. I love this feature! I don't have to spend much time or effort on my listing photos, aside from using great natural light and using a tripod for a crisp shot. A couple small adjustments in photoshop and their team's background editing ensures I have a great image ready to share on social media every time!
Do I recommend Chairish?
100%. I don't have a single negative thing to say about my experience selling on Chairish. As a business owner with plenty of other things on my to-do list each day I love that Chairish handles the lead photo editing and all of the customer service on the site. These two things have made a huge impact on my ability to keep up with running my ceramic business; starting a brand new business, The Studio Source; all while still selling vintage online!
Selling vintage does take care, time, and research but if you're willing to commit those things to it, I've found Chairish to be the perfect partner to make it possible to add another revenue stream to my art and design based business.
I hope that was helpful! To check out the latest in my Chairish shop click here.