Thursday, February 29, 2024

Can antiques stores survive the rise of online marketplaces — or will they become relics of the past?

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Discovering historic treasures while leisurely browsing through antique stores and shops selling vintage wares is often a “must do” when visiting regional towns across the country.

But, with the growing popularity of online marketplaces, antique and vintage shops could become relics of the past.

The owner of regional Victorian vintage store Tin Can Collective, Tim Drylie, says bricks-and-mortar shops are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the growing popularity of sites such as Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree.

Stepping inside Tin Can Collective in the Central Victorian town of Creswick on a November afternoon, it’s hard to focus your eyes on just one of the kaleidoscope of mid-century curios on display.

The store mainly carried mid-century goods. (ABC Ballarat: Lexie Jeuniewic)

One corner of the store is filled with a paisley lamp shade, a portrait of a glamorous woman with a perfectly coiffed platinum blonde hairdo, and a stack of stoneware.

It’s also impossible to ignore what you can’t see. 

Throughout the store, cardboard boxes are packed with goods covered by old newspaper or bubble wrap. 

After four years in business, Mr Drylie has made the decision to shut the Albert Street store permanently — and in early December, he closed the front doors for the last time to concentrate on an online version of the store.

A man with a greying beard holds a blue-coloured bowl behind a table with drum cases inside a store.

Mr Drylie is turning his attention to an online iteration of Tin Can Collective.(ABC Ballarat: Lexie Jeuniewic)

Mr Drylie says the popularity of online marketplaces has changed the nature of vintage and antiques dealing.

“Having to adapt to the virtual world, that can have its challenges when you have marketplaces which are essentially free for people to engage with online,” he said.

“And that changes the nature of the space for us in terms of the market for us.

“There’s opportunity in that, but inequities as well.”

The stone shop front of an old store with an awning supported by upright wooden posts in a country town.

The Albert Street store was Creswick’s only vintage store until it closed in early December.(ABC Ballarat: Lexie Jeuniewic)

Adapt or die

A 2023 research report from e-commerce company Pattern surveyed 2,000 adult consumers from Australia in February.

It found 88 per cent of respondents had purchased something from an online marketplace in the past year, and 92 per cent intended to make a purchase in the year ahead.

Just over 60 per cent of those shoppers made a purchase on eBay, which was forecast to have 4 per cent growth by the end of December.

Taking an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach, Mr Drylie is working to further develop the digital iteration of Tin Can Collective.

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