As a designer, your involvement in the Lauritzen Gardens Antique & Garden Show says a lot about you. Not only by your knowledge of and ability to share this incredible, beautiful resource with your clients, but also by your support of the gardens. The Lauritzen Gardens is one of our community’s brightest gems, and lending them our support is important. Of course, your main objective in attending is to find the best possible pieces for your clients. Preparing beforehand will help you accomplish that goal.
First, establishing relationships with antiques dealer is key, and it often takes years to create a network of high quality, trustworthy dealers. The show has already taken care of this for you. Rest assured, the quality and variety of goods you will find at the show is top-notch. It is truly one of the finest and most successful antique shows in the country.
Your focus now should be on your clients and finding unique pieces for them. I begin this process by mailing a letter to my clients a month or two before the show. I remind them of the approaching date, share information about the show and urge them to attend. I am also careful to note that I am available to meet them at the show if they would prefer. Not only does this further support the show and the garden, but it puts me in front of my clients. Often my letter serves as a friendly prompt for a client to call about an upcoming project, which in turn, benefits my business.
Next, I compile a list of things that I am looking for at the show and send it to participating dealers. This helps make me and the dealer a team, as they can then bring items specific to my clients’ tastes and needs. Often this gesture benefits everyone. I find pieces perfect for my client, and the dealer makes a sale.
Don’t be concerned if you feel you don’t know enough about antiques to benefit from attending the show. The dealers know the antiques; you can let them do the talking. They have a wealth of information and they are happy to educate. They will also be far from offended if asked whether a price is negotiable. That is an expected question, and your clients will appreciate you making the effort. At the worst, they will say the price is fixed. That said, if your client is keeping to a budget, lower prices may be available on Sunday, the last day of the show. Understand, however, that you are taking a gamble and someone else may buy the piece beforehand. Things move quickly, so if you like a piece, others will no doubt have their eye on it, too.
Making a profit may also be a designer’s concern, but it need not be. Attending the show on the behalf of your client is no different than other time you may spend on their projects. For example, I will typically attend the opening night preview party and make myself available at no cost to my client. If they schedule a time to meet and shop the show together, however, I then bill hourly. In addition, dealers typically work with designers by discounting the trade, meaning there is a margin built into the price. Feel free to discuss this with a dealer; they will be more than comfortable to share. If you’d prefer to not have this conversation in front of your client, discuss the matter before the show or ask to contact them at a later time.
Finally, many designers feel that antiques are not right for their clients. I would urge you, however, to give the show a look. While there are “traditional” antiques, you will also find Biedermeier, art deco, primitive, midcentury modern, arts and crafts, Asian and much more!
For more designer tips, make sure you reserve your spot at one of the show’s Designer Walks, which are free with show admission.