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Antiques dealers find opportunities and challenges in online sales

Twenty-eight years ago at the Meadows Antiques Show – now called the Washington Antiques Fair – in Washington, Pennsylvania, nine-year-old Marie Sirakos closed her very first Antique deal. Now, Sirakos stands behind a counter at her own antiques store, talking with a customer, as she wraps the purchase.

Sirakos is the owner of The Vintage Industry, a small antiques shop next to the State Theater’s marquee in downtown Ithaca. She developed her love for collecting antiques, vintage items and artwork from an early age. She began her career as a collector and antiques dealer about 15 years ago, by attending antiques fairs and setting up shows. Later on, she began to sell her collections on eBay.

“There is not just one place where you can sell things,” Sirakos said. “I personally like the ability to sell online. If I didn’t have [my online shops], I would have a much more limited audience for the things that I buy and sell.”

Consumers in the United States spent  $47.5 billion with e-retailers during the third quarter of 2013, up 13 percent from $41.9 billion during the same quarter last year, according to a comScore report released Friday. With more and more people shopping online, the way some people collect antiques has changed. Online dealing on websites such as eBay allows collectors to find exactly what they are looking for within clicks and compare prices.

Sirakos doesn’t just limit her business within her less than 400 square feet shop, she also sells her collections at antiques shows and online. Aside from the shop’s website, Sirakos also runs a shop on Etsy, a website that focuses on selling vintage items. The website has over one million active shops. Report shows that in the last year alone, its sellers have generated over $895 million in sales.

Etsy, whose headquarters are located in Brooklyn, N.Y., has six offices around the world, including one in Hudson, N.Y., one of the most prominent antiques centers in the United States.

Larry Forman, 65, is the President of Hudson Antiques Dealers Association and co-owner of Larry’s Backroom and Mark’s Antiques, a 2,000 square foot shop in Hudson, N.Y. Although Forman’s store doesn’t sell anything online, he said that Internet has changed the trafficking to traditional stores.

“We are not getting as many traditional antiques shops; new shops that are open in Hudson are more life-oriented,” said Forman. “I think, at least for Hudson’s future, [the traditional industry] is definitely going to change, because a lot of the traditional antiques dealers are my age or older. Once they retire, it’s hard to say what will replace them.”

Sirakos said most of the antiques dealers in the industry that she had encountered are at least 20 years older than she is, and some of the traditional antiques dealers don’t like the idea of online dealing at all.

Adam Perl, owner of Pastimes Antiques, an antiques store located in the historic Dewitt Building for 34 years in downtown Ithaca, said that online dealing has “completely, absolutely, and totally” changed the antiques and vintage industry. Pastimes currently doesn’t have an online store but showcases items on its Facebook page and sells exclusively on eBay.

The expansion of online dealing doesn’t mean that the traditional brick and mortar antiques shops are dying. There are still people who would appreciate a random encounter with cool stuff.

Emma Walters, resident of Baltimore, Md., was visiting Ithaca for the first time. While walking around downtown, she found herself stopping in front of the windows of Sirakos’ shop.

“This store is wonderful. There is a great collection,” said Walters. “It had a great vibe! So I had a lot of little things to look at. I loved it.”

Walters bought a chandelier “at a good price” from The Vintage Industry. She left the shop cradling two bags full of glass pieces that Sirakos carefully wrapped with newspaper.


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