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Last week, tourists walking around the Cavendish Boardwalk in Prince Edward Island were greeted with a trip down memory lane when they happened upon a vintage pop-up hosted by What, These Old Things? founder Brigid.
She’d loaded her car up with vintage books, collectibles, beachcomber decor and clothing to take with her to the pop-up, which held fort for a week alongside tourist-fave vendors like COWS Ice Cream, coastal attire shops, souvenir stores and fish and chips outposts.
Thing is, Brigid — who usually sells via her website and at her Curio Collective markets — actually lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Not Prince Edward Island.
The reason I love this story so much is because Brigid tried something new.
In another province.
In deciding where to pop up, she looked beyond the usual suspects: coffee shop, brewery, retail store, market.
She chose a side-of-the-road shopping plaza, popular with tourists looking to do some summer shopping, and across the street from a beach and campground.
Talk about thinking outside the box.
(To hear how it went, see Brigid’s interview with CTV Atlantic here).
But wait, there’s more.
Here in Toronto, Ontario, where I’m based, a new style of market descended upon the downtown core this summer.
Antique collectibles and fine jewellery are laid out alongside vintage clothing, MCM decor, local artisans and food vendors, all set to thumping background music.
Sunday Variety Market is not your usual “antiquing” experience — and that’s very much the point, according to founder Kealan.
I’ve heard from more than one area dealer that they don’t like the model, because antiques don’t “belong” with the other items on offer at the market.
I don’t agree, but I do get it. Do something one way long enough and then something new comes along and shakes things up. It can be hard to adjust.
But change is inevitable. It’s also necessary for growth.
Is Sunday Variety Market the way you’d expect to buy vintage and antiques? Nope.
But the crowds don’t lie. They like it, and that’s what matters.
Another Toronto story: A few years back, Harrison, Alan, Andrew, Johnnel, Colette and Jonathan — the vintage and streetwear vendor team behind The Street Market — negotiated a deal with Cadillac Fairview to host their markets inside the shopping conglomerate’s malls.
Now, The Street Market pops up inside of shopping centres all over the GTA-Montreal corridor and has become Ontario’s biggest travelling thrifting event.
And in Edmonton, Alberta, Rosalyn at Tipsy Palm is heading up another new style of market.
The Curate Vintage Market features vendor booths as any market does — but there’s a central cash, providing a more boutique-like shopping experience for the customer, akin to the collective model used in retail.
Vendors take shifts so not everyone needs to be there at once, reducing the all-too-real #marketlife burnout on the weekends.
Not to mention Rosalyn has held the Curate Vintage Market in a number of less-conventional spaces, the most notable being on the show floor of the local home and garden show.
Not a bad way to get five or six vintage vendors to stand out: Put them in the middle of a sea of kitchen countertops.
All of these examples share something important in common: they expose new audiences to the experience of shopping vintage and secondhand. Tourists. Condo dwellers. Shoppers in traditional malls. Home show enthusiasts.
These innovators are moving the needle for all of us.
Increasing sales is a perennial goal for many sellers. But tapping the same customers over and over again to help achieve that goal isn’t sustainable.
It’s the role of a shop owner, and the role of the sector as a whole, to find new ways to reach new people.
Maybe they’re the people who’ve previously written off shopping secondhand. Or the people who just haven’t gotten around to trying it and now have the opportunity in a totally new environment.
Innovating doesn’t have to be on a grand scale, like starting a new market or popping up in another province.
It can be smaller, like creating a referral program or trying out a different kind of market (many cities have entrepreneurial showcases, for example).
What’s one thing you can do to introduce new people to your shop?
Let me know what you are thinking!
P.S. There are lots of stories of innovators like these out there. Know of someone doing something differently? Tell me!
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