One of the things that keeps me going in my Etsy selling venture is seeking (and receiving!) inspiration from other successful vintage sellers. I devour their shops and stalk their sales. Not to copy. No. That would never work. Vintage selling is often a OOAK business…what I find and what you find will be completely different. Niches may be the same but the whole experience is unique.
No, I stalk these shops to remind myself that YES! this can be done. You can make money (good money!) by selling vintage on Etsy. And you can have fun doing it.
So in that vein, I’d like to share a success story with you. This will be the first in an ongoing series.
Say hello to Amy, from Vintage in Bloom. Amy has been running Vintage in Bloom on Etsy since 2008 and currently has over 2500 items listed. As of this writing, she’s had 8207 sales!! And that number will probably go up while I’m writing this post! Truly inspiring for me since my shop has been open about the same amount of time…lol and I’m nowhere near there! Let’s find out how she does it!
Almost 8 years! I opened my shop in June, 2008.
What made you choose Etsy as your selling venue?
Do you sell anywhere else besides Etsy?
I had been on Etsy as a buyer since 2006, so I already knew I liked the site. And the idea of establishing an online shop really appealed to me, in contrast to Ebay, which was more auction driven at that time and felt less stable and permanent to me. Though I do sell on Ebay too now, opening a shop on Etsy made me feel like a true entrepreneur.
Is this your full-time job? If so, did it start out that way?
For the first five years, I worked at a full time job in art publishing, in addition to running my online shop. I would draft new listings at night after dinner, or on the weekends, any spare minute really was spent building my inventory, answering messages, or packing orders.
Then in 2013, I was laid off from my job a week after returning from my honeymoon. I had never been let go from a job before, and I remember how mixed my emotions were; shocked, scared, angry, a little sad.. But then standing in the parking lot, putting my box of belongings in the car, I also felt a sort of euphoria as I realized this was my chance to see if I could make a living selling full time. It may sound trite, but this was my dream job, and what better time to see if I could make my dream work? By then, I had built a sizable customer base, with enough steady sales coming in, that it seemed feasible, if I could just spend more time on it.
I jumped in head first, immediately putting into action the things I had never had time to do before that I felt would help grow my business; listing more items daily, heavily promoting, shipping the same day when possible, shopping estate sales on Fridays etc. The first full month after being laid off, I sold enough to cover what my old paychecks would’ve been, and I’ve never looked back since.
Tell us a little bit about your process. You have so many items listed!…do you have a certain system that you use to be so productive?
I try to do 10 – 15 new listings a day on the weekdays.
Ideally, this is how it goes: I draft three listings, take photos of those items, edit photos, and then activate those three listings. Doing it a few at a time keeps a steady flow of new items in the shop throughout the day, and I can take little breaks in-between if I want to. I have a photo tent setup with lights (thanks to my husband for that!), so I can take photos whenever I need to, that really helps. And I’ve tried to cut down on the number of items I do heavy research on.. For instance, knowing the exact year a certain designer brooch came out may be an interesting selling point, but it won’t “make” the sale enough that I should spend 20 minutes trying to figure it out. Sometimes you just need to do enough research to make sure you are pricing correctly, and move on.
I also have to give major credit to my wonderful husband. He plans out the route for the estate sales we will go to every weekend (and does all the driving), packs all the bulky orders that I dislike packing, helps organize the stock, and loads of other behind the scenes stuff that really frees me up to do my work more efficiently.
Whoa…I like the 3 at a time idea! I may have to steal that!! 🙂 Moving on to a different subject, what are your top 2 favorite sales of all time from your Etsy shop?
I sold a small wooden rocking horse toy for Ralph Lauren’s NYC Christmas window display one year. I didn’t get to see if it ended up in the window, but I really liked the thought of that.
My favorite sale was [this] antique sapphire engagement ring to a young couple. I was first contacted by the bride, as I helped her decide if it was the right ring for her, answering questions, sending extra photos and even a short video of the ring. Then I worked with the groom on a layaway payment plan. They were both so great to work with, and I loved that I was able to help them find the perfect thing for them, and make it within reach with the flexible payment plan. Brides (or grooms!) are some of my favorite customers in general. Any piece of wedding jewelry is usually so carefully thought out and selected, and those pieces often become infused with fond memories or even become heirlooms. To be a small part of someone’s special day is incredibly meaningful to me, I feel truly honored.
What fun stories! And so now, what are your top 2 favorite items listed in your shop now?
One is this 14k gold and opal ring. I have a soft spot for opals, and they’re very popular in my shop, so I always try to keep at least one or two in my shop at any time.
This French faux pearl shell necklace is another favorite. It embodies two things I love about vintage costume jewelry; quality of craftsmanship, and its absolutely unique design.
Those items are absolutely gorgeous! Where do you source most of your items?
I find most of my items at estate sales, but I’ve had some surprising luck at yard sales too. You never know where you will find a treasure.
What goals do you have for your shop in the future?
Significant growth! Each year I’ve been in business, I’ve beaten my previous year’s sales numbers, and it’s great to look back and see that progress. I want to be able to keep doing that, with a sizable jump year to year, whether that means listing more, putting different promotion strategies into effect, or even launching my own website. I’d also like to be featured on Etsy at some point. 🙂
If you could travel back in time to when you started selling…what advice would you give your newbie self??
I have a few pieces of advice for myself:
*List something new every day. Even if it’s only one thing. It took me a long time to figure out how much that can help your sales. (Recycleista note: Hey! Sound familiar?!)
*Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. I remember on several occasions in the beginning, where I would pass things up I deemed “too expensive” even when I knew I could make a nice profit selling them, in favor of buying cheaper pieces in higher quantity at sales. I seemed to have a sort of fear of spending over a certain amount, even if it was within my budget. It’s good to be conservative usually, but if you see something really amazing, the time to buy it is when you find it. People want to buy quality items, and not everyone is just looking for a bargain. No matter what people say about the economy, people are still spending money. If you only buy the cheaper things, there will be nothing for the higher-end shoppers to find in your shop. I now carry a mix, in all price ranges, and that seems to be working well for me.
*Make sure you have really well thought out policies from the beginning. Revisit them every so often to update as needed. And then don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and behind your policies when a problem arises. Early on I allowed myself to be taken advantage of on a couple transactions, because I was worried about bad feedback, and didn’t have clearly defined policies to fall back on and cover me in those situations.
*Don’t freak out so much over slow periods! Especially in the beginning, the sales come in waves, and it’s better to just go with the flow. During slow times, keep listing, maybe change up they type of the things you are listing, or try promoting somewhere new. If you keep at it, the sales WILL come, and stressing out about it doesn’t do you any good. I still need to remind myself of this one once in a while!
Awesome, awesome advice! Thank you so much Amy!!
I’m pretty sure Vintage in Bloom is a shop to watch and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Etsy contacts her someday for a feature!!
Be sure to also “Like” the Vintage in Bloom Facebook page to stay connected!
I certainly learned a lot today and have some ideas and will get to listing today with a renewed purpose! Do you have any comments or questions for Amy?