Can Groupon Save the Antiques Business?

Groupon ScreenshotThe word around these parts this week has been “Groupon,” the online social shopping site. Jon Jenkins mentioned in Wednesday’s podcast he would be using it for his upcoming show in Nashville, and I discussed its use with two other promoters, one on each coast. Internet users sign up for “Groupon” and then receive a discount daily in their email tailored to their locale. Groupon it seems is not likely to reach existing antiques show customers and so using it to bring in new customers at a discounted rate shouldn’t be much of a sacrifice to promoters. With a young user group with above average incomes, Groupon would seem a perfect match for introducing antiques shows to a new audience. That’s the theory, and I know of only one example of its being tested. That was done by the Chicago Antique Market/Randolph Street Market in Chicago. Here’s what they found out:

March 15th of 2010 I emailed Groupon about the possibility of us getting a Groupon for the Randolph Street Market. I explained who we were, what we are about etc. I emailed again about 6 weeks later just to state I was still interested. I heard nothing back and finally in August, I got the email, we were in for a side deal and could possibly be a main deal in the Spring of 2011. I said absolutely, we’ll take it. I knew how huge Groupon was, I got them everyday in my own inbox. I considered this to be amazing stroke of luck to even be considered.

You don’t get to pick and choose anything. You go with the flow and take what you get. Side deal, main deal, day of the week, even month, it’s their call. The told us the week of the deal, it was going to run on Sunday. Ok, not ideal and we were still supposed to be the side deal. At 6am I was walking around the Allstate Arena flea market near O’Hare and I got the email on my phone and just about had a heart attack, we were the main deal and the subject of the email. I called Sally (Schwartz) at 6 a.m. I was so excited. We had no idea what to expect, especially on a Sunday. We spent the entire day watching it climb, 700, then past 1000 and on and on. Every time it hit another big number we were stunned. It finally closed out at 3,300 Groupon coupons sold. All day long we were also getting major hits on the website and hundreds of people signed up for the mailing list.

Our next show wasn’t until the last weekend in September and we probably accepted 800 to 1,000 Groupons at the gate. I think it’s pretty common not to redeem them all and we did bring in more at the Fall Fashion Explosion in October and The Holiday Market in November. The Groupon was good for any event for the rest of the 2010 season.

They obviously don’t give us email addresses or anything else, just the ticket number and the name on it. So nothing in where exactly they came from as far as geographically. I can tell you just based on the people who came in and I talked to they were younger, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s. We were able to reach an entirely new group of potential customers and I really thought 3,300 of these sold was an amazing number for an antique/vintage show.

I think what was cool was that we were a local Chicago business, the tickets we sold on Groupon were 1/2 our online ticket price, so 4.00. I’m sure Groupon can do a lot bigger and better offers but to date they have kept it mixed with small and large offers from Mom and Pop businesses to the Gap. We are signed up to do another offer in the Spring. They will let us know when and they created the ad with the info we provided them. I can tell you I was pretty proud of that, one of the best things I accomplished all year 🙂

Melissa Sands, Randolph Street Market

About Eric Miller

Eric Miller is co-founder and contributor to Urban Art & Antiques. His website is ericmiller.me

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