By Steve Sundlof
BRIMFIELD, MASS. – Brimfield, the Northeast blockbuster of antique shows, once again took over the town from July 3-8 and witnessed the range of weather patterns, from blazing blue skies to an intense rainstorm that deluged the fields Tuesday afternoon. Crowds were off on Tuesday despite the opening of 15 fields- traffic passing through was minimal compared to May and many dealers felt the numbers were about 30-40 percent less than the May dates.
Summer speaks of slower, longer days, intense heat and unhurried movement as the sun inches along its lofty path. People are off to foreign lands with kids in tow or traveling the U.S., and are still reluctant to spend money on rdf_Descriptions that perhaps, aren’t true necessities. Stock market woes, eBay, Summer- all laments uttered during a review of the show.
Bob Penta, Bugle Boy Antiques, East Providence, R.I. replied, “As far as the gate attendance is concerned, I have seen better July’s. It seemed that gate attendance was at least 40 percent off from May. Customers themselves seem to be very choosy and price conscience, more so then in May. Thus my overall sales were 50 percent off. This could be because of the hot spell or eBay, I just don’t know.
“If it wasn’t for my poster ‘I want you’ by James M. Flagg (an Army recruiting poster from the San Fernando Station at 4th & Main, L.A., excellent condition and framed) it would have been a ‘A really bad show.’ The poster sold for $1,350. Anyway, you have to take the good months with the bad months because they both make up the whole year. Management is fine; the July show is never good.
Christine Parcher, owner of Memories on Main Street, Marlboro, Mass. stated, “The show started out very slow, attendance was very low, no crowds at all. I am quite used to the 6 am rush, there was none. Sales picked up to a brisk pace around 8 am. By mid afternoon you could see where your sales would be for the day.”
“First day thoughts, ‘Wow!, this industry is being shaken up by its roots by this recession.’ Only the strong will survive this summer season. Luckily for those who did brave the show due to the lack of other vendors setting up, there turned out to be additional sales volume from the lack of competition. This played heavily in my final numbers, and on many other dealers I spoke to.”
“By weeks end I had almost equaled my sales made at the earlier May show, which is never heard of at Brimfield. I was also not the only one to report strong figures at week’s end from additional sales throughout the week. Other rdf_Descriptions of interest included no lines at either Mays or Heart of the Mart on opening day. Little to no traffic problems. I was very pleased with the show at week’s end, and will continue to sell at the Meadows.”
“Buyers were more knowledgeable, and there is a new wave of customers coming through on one day, running home to their computers that night and returning for the rdf_Description on the next day, it happened more than five times that I know of. Hey, I see it as better them then me packaging up another rdf_Description, I’ve got enough stuff to ship on eBay as it is. Those dealers who survive and ‘Change with the tide’ will make it through this mess, and those who don’t might want to think about full time at Sears.”
Amabel Stanley of www.eMarvinGardens.com, Millbury, Mass. replied, “This is my third year at Brimfield and I am always in the back of the field of Quaker Acres. This July’s sales were about the same as last year although the foot traffic seemed to be less. The attendee’s were not browsers; they came to shop. Since my rdf_Descriptions are seasonal, it is difficult to say what the key rdf_Descriptions were. I tend to use July as a clearance season and have significant price reductions on some of my rdf_Descriptions.”
“Regarding our field management, the Adams operate Quaker Acres very professionally and are extremely polite and accommodating to all of us. They maintain very clean facilities and have sufficient portable toilets on the grounds. Parking is convenient as well. This draws traffic into the field and encourages more buying because customers can load merchandise right into their vehicles. They also manage to keep the field looking full during the entire week that is a plus to many of us who do stay on for the duration. I have heard complaints from customers regarding the admission they paid did not match up to the amount of dealers that were there.”
“Show date works fine and July ranks third in sales volume. This year’s weather was perfect! I’ll be back each and every season!”
David Ross of Keller & Ross, Melrose, Mass. remarked, “I thought attendance in July seemed to be slimmer than in the past. We have the good fortune to have a space directly on the road in the Quaker Acres Field and are open for business from Tuesday at dawn through the following Sunday. I noticed that the foot and car traffic on Route 20 wasn’t nearly as busy as in previous years. The Saturday crowd of retail shoppers seemed to be out shopping on Friday. Sales were fine for July. We sold a lot more low-end ticket rdf_Descriptions than high end. Even though customer traffic appeared to be down from previous July Brimfield shows we were not disappointed with our sales for the week.”
“Susan & Lee Adams are the promoters of Quaker Acres and are very accommodating to their dealers and have always been a pleasure to deal with. As an extra bonus for us they offer free parking late in the week for customers, which helps increase the foot traffic on our field. I know for a fact that parking is free on Quaker Acres on Sunday and this can only help to pull in needed traffic.”
Keller & Ross specialize in Twentieth Century dinnerware with a focus on Fiesta, Jadite, Russel Wright designs, kitchenware, and cocktail shakers. Joe Keller and David Ross have also written two books on collectible dinnerware, Russel Wright, Dinnerware, Pottery & More and Jadite, An Identification & Price Guide, both published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen Pa.
Tim Camisa and Mike Rooney own Vermont Wholesale Antiques in Williston, Vt., and Tim echoed the thoughts of many dealers by saying, “I am sure the gate and attendance was 50 percent less than May. Smalls were the best sellers and primitive furniture did not sell at all.”
“Buyers were apparently afraid to spend money and those who feel they lost a lot of money in the stock market don’t realize they made a whole lot, lost a bunch, but still had returns over the 10 percent average. The hype of the economy is making people believe they shouldn’t spend- though this is the best time for other dealers to make some great purchases for resale. I’m surprised because sales are usually strong to other dealers but since these dealers weren’t making money the first few days, they in turn did not spend.”
“The weather was ideal but the foot traffic was terrible. I don’t believe eBay is the problem as everyone keeps saying because these sellers could find some great buys for reasonable prices. I really feel that people are not traveling around as I see here in Vermont that foot traffic has also dropped quite a bit. A lot of dealers packed up early and left out of frustration and the heat. Two high-end dealers left Central Park field to set up at J & J and made nothing. That is not a good sign.”
Change, the word many uttered when describing Brimfield, probably bests explains the “pulse” of Brimfield. It may not have the strongest beat, but it certainly is still with us and will need to adjust to a new set of parameters. People react strongly to the buzz words of today- “ailing economy,” “plunging Dow,” and “unemployment.” Some reactions are justified, if your job is on the chopping block, of course you aren’t going to go out and spend money. But if people keep hearing the economy is weak, they believe, act out of fear and this creates a ripple effect.
Brimfield is a relationship between sellers and buyers; like all relationships, change occurs. Change is good, as it makes us aware of each partners strong point and allows people to know what they don’t want. Brimfield is undergoing its own market correction, as much of the merchandise has become less unique and less antique. Partnerships change, you just hope you still recognize some of the original features that once attracted you. Brimfield needs to have a more universal vetting of goods and should establish much more stringent guidelines in what constitutes “antiques.” Flea markets are great events, but Brimfield deserves much more than that label.