While the antiques industry seems to be in a contraction mode with fewer shows and lower gate numbers, you wouldn’t know it from a popular market in Chicago. Vintage Markets like the Randolph Street Market Festival have been able to repeatedly attract a young, educated and affluent customer who is knowledgeable about the products and ready and willing to buy.
Kimberly Oliva of Estate Chicago has been a vendor at the Randolph Street Market Festival for the past six years. She says in the past two in particular, the demand for vintage items has picked up considerably. Her presence at Randolph Street has opened up new markets for her business.
“Young professionals, students, tourists and internationals are coming to the Randolph Street Market Festival looking for high-end lighting, furniture and designer goods,” Oliva says. “The customers are very knowledgeable and ready to buy what they want when they find it.”
Dealer Don Colclough, also known as Mr Modern, has been in the business for more than 30 years participating in many shows around the U.S. Today he says the market is swinging decidedly toward vintage.
“Young people are wising up to the fact that, compared to new, with vintage you can get better quality at lower prices,” Colclough says. “Why buy a new Herman Miller chair when you can get one that was actually made in Michigan for a third of the price?”
Colclough says today’s vintage market customers aren’t like those at traditional antiques shows. They aren’t collecting, but instead buy for function and design.
The traditional antiques market is soft today, Colclough says, because for the older stuff there are more sellers than buyers. Plus, antiques is a double-generation back business. Colclough says people today want what their grandparents had. What’s popular is also reflected in popular television shows.
“You don’t see oil lamps like on Gunsmoke anymore,” Colclough says. “Today you have Mad Men.”
Shows like the Randolph Street Market Festival have met success and remain popular because their promoters understand the trends and demographics.
“In the antiques world, they don’t always like the word vintage,” Colclough says. “But its crazy not to be adaptable in any sort of business. You have to go where there market goes.”