I’ve been in the antiques business for over 30 years, much of that time as a show dealer. It’s an interesting life, traveling to different cities, making friends, learning the lay of the land. When business is good, and it has been for quite a few years, it’s very rewarding (not just monetarily). Don’t get me wrong, it has its ups and downs. When the business cycle tightens, as now, the shows become much more unpredictable, and that can be quite disconcerting. I don’t take home a regular paycheck, so all of the responsibility falls on me.
Many show visitors don’t understand that the shows are a business. The success of a show depends on sales, period. It’s a cycle. A show promoter has an established show or starts a new one. The dealers sign up, hoping to meet new clients. The dealers have significant costs, both monetary and time. The dealers travel to another city and have the expenses of transporting their antiques there, employees (for some), booth rent, electricity, showcase rental, hotel, food, etc. If they can’t sell enough to cover their expenses and earn a decent amount, they won’t be back. The show suffers because good dealers aren’t exhibiting and the public is disappointed with a mediocre display. And that’s the point. Antique shows are a business. Many attendees don’t understand that. They pay their admission and expect to see a high quality show. It’s a great day out. It’s even better than a museum because you can touch the items and ask questions of experts. Sometimes I want to put a sign in my booth that says “If you like what you see and you want me to come back, buy something!” Of course, I can’t do that, so my only option is to cancel shows where the public doesn’t buy enough to make it worthwhile to come back. For me it means that I’ve canceled all my shows in Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Washington, DC, and unfortunately because I love it, San Francisco.
Now this part sounds like “Support the Girl Scouts. Buy cookies”. Support the antiques shows you like by buying that item you admire. Remember “Only you can prevent forest fires!” Oops, I meant “Only you can prevent antique shows from closing!”