Published: August 18, 2020
ONLINE – The 26th Anniversary – and inaugural online edition – of the MidWeek Antiques Fair took place on the Ruby Lane platform from 8 am on Wednesday, August 5 to midnight on Friday, August 7. Forty-three dealers presented more than 1,700 items in total. According to Barn Star Productions president and show promoter Frank Gaglio, the online event received about 61,000-page views and about 40 to 50 items were sold during the course of the show. Gaglio had opened the show up to Ruby Lane members and a few of the dealers were new to MidWeek.
“Our site did OK” Gaglio said, speaking by phone a few days after the show closed. “Online shows are still no replacement for a live show, but I wanted to give our dealers an option. Ruby Lane has done a good job with us, working with the dealers. Sales can always be better, but some dealers did well.”
Ruby Lane president and chief executive officer, Tom Johnson, said “Working on the MidWeek show and being part of something as important as Antiques Week in New Hampshire has been an incredibly rewarding experience for us. As collectors ourselves, we look forward to shows where like-minded collectors, from every corner of the world, can connect and share their passion and love for antiques. We are truly privileged to have partnered with Frank Gaglio and look forward to working on exciting future projects.”
Ruby Lane’s platform can make tracking sales difficult. An item is marked “Sale Pending” once it has been paid for but dealers are not supposed to mark the item “Sold” until the buyer has received the item, at which point the item often disappears from the dealer’s online booth. If a dealer has an existing shop on Ruby Lane, their inventory remains visible after the show closes but sold items may not be visible.
If you think success in an online antiques show requires constant monitoring of one’s virtual booth, guess again. Two of the dealers who reported selling the most items are each based in Connecticut and both lost power for several days when Tropical Storm Isaias roared through Western Connecticut on Tuesday, August 4.
“We had 12 or 13 worthwhile sales,” said Ed Holden of Sherman, Conn.,-based Holden Antiques. He was selling on Ruby Lane for the first time and spent the show and a few days afterwards in Vermont. He said he could get online Wednesday morning but then his connectivity was poor. In the end he said “the total was fine,” despite the additional difficulty of doing it under less than ideal conditions. Of all of his sales, he said he sold to just one new client, with everything else going to people who he had never worked with before.
New Canaan, Conn., dealer Patricia Funt was still without power when she spoke with Antiques and The Arts Weekly a week after the storm blew through. “I did well, I couldn’t believe it. I had no power for the whole thing. I was running around trying to charge things so I could respond to people.” She noted several sales, “all to new clients. I was very pleased with how the show did. A lot of things that sold were favorites of mine.” She was surprised at the interest from California, Florida and Connecticut. Funt has had a shop on Ruby Lane since 2007 and did Ruby Lane’s online edition of Barn Star’s Antiques at Rhinebeck show when it ran June 20-21.
Bettina Krainin of Harold Cole Bettina / Krainin Antiques in Woodbury, Conn., said the show “was worth doing” and did “fairly well” for them. While she did not specify a number of sales, she said she made sales to clients she had known, including ones from Australia and Canada. Like Funt, she has a shop on Ruby Lane and participated in Barn Star’s Rhinebeck show.
Pat Martin of Home Farm Antiques in Bolton Landing, N.Y., deemed Gaglio’s decision to partner with Ruby Lane a “genius move,” saying the MidWeek show “was a good show for us. Surprisingly good. It was a heck of a lot easier than doing it in person. The customers seemed responsive and I had some sales; I was happy.” Martin said nearly every sale was to a new customer, but said most were regulars at MidWeek when it had taken place in person. It would seem that efforts by both Gaglio and Ruby Lane to bring existing MidWeek shoppers to the online edition paid off. She is now in the process of updating her website (www.homefarmantiques.com) and said business through other online venues, including Ruby Lane, where she has been a member since 2013, has picked up.
“Frank does a lot of innovative kinds of things,” said Karen Williams of Karen and Albert Vintage Whimsey. “I thought it was a really good show. We also did Rhinebeck – that went as well for us as MidWeek.” She noted two sales early on, specifying a “sweet” small stone bench that came from a Long Island estate and is going to a buyer in New Jersey, and a pair of merganser decoys that are winging their way to a new home in Vermont. Both sales were to new clients. The Hempstead, N.Y., dealer had never done the MidWeek Antiques Fair before but has been selling on Ruby Lane and grabbed the opportunity to participate in the online edition.
Michael Weinberg, West Pelham Antiques, characterized the show as decent. The Pelham, Mass., dealer reported making four sales to existing clients: two samplers, a “good” piece of English ceramics and a pair of silhouettes. He has done five or six virtual shows since the pandemic canceled live events and was happy to see sales through virtual events picking up.
“This show was not as good for me as the first two shows I did with Frank and Ruby Lane, but it was OK and I’ve no complaints,” commented Mary-Ellen Stephens of Gloucester, Mass., Quelle Surprise Antiques. “I had some sales, including one to a client who had never bought from me or from Ruby Lane before.” She appreciates that Ruby Lane, who she has had a shop with since 2011, provides a daily report that identifies how many people had visited her booth each day.
Like many other exhibitors, Bob Quilter of Robert N. Quilter Fine Arts is relatively new to Ruby Lane. He had participated in Barn Star’s Rhinebeck show, where he did “fairly well.” In the MidWeek show, the Baltimore dealer made one sale, selling a Massachusetts painting to a new client in North Carolina.
Even if dealers did not have many sales to report, several had glowing reviews for Ruby Lane’s dealer liaison, Alex Gardner. Judi Stellmach of Blue Dog Antiques, who has two websites of her own and participates in a few Facebook groups, was not familiar with Ruby Lane but said, “Alex is wonderful. He talked me through everything.” The Stafford Springs, Conn., dealer made one sale to someone she has occasionally sold to in the past.
Scott Ferris of J&R Ferris Antiques also sang Gardner’s praises. “Alex at Ruby Lane is probably the best person to work with at any of the online platforms. He’s just very helpful and patient. He makes working though the online issues much easier.” Ferris, who did the Rhinebeck show, noted that Ruby Lane has made an important recent change that he approved of, specifically distinguishing the show more clearly from the rest of the Ruby Lane vendors. A spokesperson for Ruby Lane confirmed that the software had been updated to allow for temporary booths and Ruby Lane shops to showcase within the same inventory, allowing both shops and booths to have specially selected items available for a certain event.
Buffalo, N.Y., dealer Dana Tillou was selling on Ruby Lane for the first time and had beginner’s luck, making two sales, including a mid-Nineteenth Century British eglomise ship picture.
Highland Park, N.J., dealer Michael Brailove, Antique Prints & Paper, reported one small sale with inquiries on two more expensive items which, if those sales go through, would make him happy. He has been impressed with the way Ruby Lane presents things and the enlarging capabilities. “It really works well with some of the prints.”
William Union of Worcester, Mass., Art & Antique Gallery, Inc., sold at MidWeek in the past, but took a hiatus. He came back for the online show and reported selling one painting. Even though his sales in this show were not as strong as he had hoped, he said having an online presence was critical and he does not rely solely on the advertising by either the platform or promoter.
“Frank is doing a fabulous job and Barn Star is a wonderful organization. I did Rhinebeck and sold a couple of things,” said Carol Wess of Rue du Tresor, who was doing MidWeek for the first time. “I really want [online shows] to work; I’ll do whatever it takes to make them better.” She maintains a shop on Ruby Lane and had a few sales pending by the time the show wrapped.
MidWeek is fundamentally and specifically an Americana show; Gaglio strongly encouraged dealers to bring Americana or items with cross-over interest. A few dealers who participated with English or European antiques reported receiving little interest and sales.
A number of dealers who participated in the June Rhinebeck show observed that traffic and sales were brisker. More than one wondered if there were too many online shows taking place simultaneously.
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