Why I’m On My 7th Antiques Diva Buying Tour in 3 Years
Did you ever wonder how The Antiques Diva® stays in business? After all, we personally introduce our clients to our secret sources – which means they are no longer our little secret! My secret weapon – even more important than my little black book of secret sources – is our team of locally based Antiques Diva Guides. Today’s guest post is by Margaret Schwartz, owner of Modern Antiquarian. Margaret is an expert in buying, marketing and selling antiques and has a passion for the home décor business. And yet after 3 years, she is now planning her 7th Antiques Diva buying trip to Europe! I’m first in line to sing the praises of our amazing team of knowledgeable, well-connected expert antiques shopping guides who know the markets like the back of their hand, and help our clients translate and negotiate, document their purchases and coordinate international shipping – but last week Margaret asked if she could write an article about her experiences with our Diva Guides (and I have the text to prove it!) I’m delighted to share with you Margaret’s 1st hand experiences with Antiques Diva buying tours and Diva Guides – accompanied by her personal photos from her tours.
Why I Still Use the Antiques Diva & Co to Stock My Store
After three years and a half dozen Diva tours, you might ask why I keep using the Diva Guides to stock my store. Why do I keep spending money on Guides? Well, there are many, many reasons!
Time is Money
It might sound odd, but it saves me money. There is an old adage “you have to spend money to make money.” This might not be exactly what they meant, but it still applies. Working with locally based Diva Guides I save precious time overseas by visiting dealers who have inventory I’m looking for, at the price point I need, and are guaranteed to be there. By maximizing your schedule you are saving time – which is saving money.
A friend recently said to me, “Efficiency is critical when you’re on an international buying trip. You can pass some costs on to your clients, but you can’t pass off your own inefficiencies.” Very true. When buying overseas there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out, notes written, and photos that need to be taken. You have to fill out the purchase orders properly otherwise there could be mixups with the shipper. The Diva Guides know exactly how the shippers like their POs so it saves you from a costly mixup, as well as gives you the extra time to do another loop and make sure you didn’t miss anything, check emails, get in touch with clients, or take a minute to review the list of inventory you’re still looking for. You end up getting half as much done in twice the time once you realize everything a Diva does behind the scenes.
We all speak the language of antiques, but do you speak Flemish? Because I sure don’t. Having a local guide who speaks the language, both verbal and nonverbal, gives you a leg up. Shipping antiques is not the same as buying for resale in the US. An individual buyer who wants to spend $5,000 on a piece for their own home is entirely different than me spending $2,000 with the goal of reselling it in my shop for a profit. You’re dealing with different margins and a different type of expertise is required. By the time you factor in hiring a driver, maybe a translator, liaising with the shipper, and losing discounts you get with the Diva, you realize you’ll be saving money by spending money.
Making International Contacts & Maintaining Relationships
Diva Guides have longstanding relationships in the industry. When they have worked with dealers for years, they have a mutual respect and admiration for one another. I have seen this countless times in person when on tours. Dealers greet the Guides as old friends do, rolling out the red carpet offering tea and a cozy place to perch while reviewing purchases. You catch up on the latest industry news and discuss business.
Overseas business isn’t conducted the same way it is stateside where you stick to business. People want to vet you, know a teeny bit about you, who you are, and what your business is. Having a Diva Guide with you is a sort of credential. You’ve been “Diva-Approved” and are therefore a qualified buyer. These meetings and conversations help to establish your own independent relationships with dealers, but these relationships need to be nurtured and maintained. Diva Guides can help push these relationships along. Gail introduced me to a fabulous dealer in the UK who I’ve worked on building a relationship with. Eventually, he was generous enough to write a recommendation for me when I applied to be a member of LAPADA. These things don’t happen overnight so trust in your Diva Guide to help usher these things along.
Vendors Show Up
Many of the best dealers are appointment-only and they respect the Guides enough to actually show up when they say they will! As a native New Yorker, I truly hate when time is wasted. A few years ago I went on a Diva tour for a day while in England. While I had some downtime during my trip, I had the brilliant idea of popping over to a part of London that has fantastic dealers whom I’ve dealt with before. That was a massive waste of time. It was summer so I assumed some of the shops would be closed, but practically the entire street was deserted! Had I used my Diva Guide for an extra half day I would have been able to get into these shops by appointment. Because the Divas have personal relationships with the vendors, they typically have their personal mobile number and call them up and tell them to get down here if they don’t show up! Although that hasn’t happened often because the Divas run a tight ship.
Power in Numbers
You will no doubt get local prices for inventory when working with the Antiques Diva & Co. If you are working with a Guide you have the buying power of all the Diva clients combined. The dealers want repeat business and they want to keep the client – both you and the Divas – happy. The dealers will offer generous discounts because they want you and the Diva Guides to keep coming back. What you spend on a tour can easily be made up with how much you save through the Diva discounts.
Second Set of Eyes
When I arrive at any dealer location I always walk it twice in opposite directions. I cannot tell you how many times I have discovered gems that I didn’t see on my first pass through but saw on the second pass through in the reverse. Even with this tried and true method I still miss things. This is when your Diva Guide can come in handy, pointing out things you might have overlooked. The local Diva Guides are skilled at what they do and they quickly understand exactly what you’re looking for.
Diva Guides can also point out interesting details about pieces you are considering. Things you might have overlooked at first glance but are spotted by the Guides. These things could sway you to pick a comparable but slightly different piece from the same dealer. This second set of eyes is so important when you might be suffering from buyer’s fatigue.
Secret Sources & Trend Spotting
When it comes to antiques you can’t be too careful. There is a time and place for shopping on a High Street, but most of my favorite sources are off the beaten path. This means shopping in warehouses, industrial parks, barns, and private homes. These dealers might never be discovered without your Diva Guides. With access to these kinds of inside access dealers, these Guides have important sources of information about the global market. Discussing what is selling, what isn’t and why. You can get ahead of the game on trends if you watch and listen carefully to the dealers and Diva Guides. We all want to be ahead of the curve, right?
Years of Experience & Education
All of these benefits are from hard work over years of being in the industry. The Guides are trusted, respected, valued, and knowledgeable. I have learned so much on every single trip I have taken with the Antiques Diva & Co. I rely so heavily on UK Diva Gail McLeod, that she advises and accompanies me on trips to Sweden, Belgium, and France. Many of the Divas, like Gail, have relationships that extend beyond the borders of their own country and this is very helpful when you are on a multi-country tour as I like to do. These types of working relationships take years to establish and cultivate and you’re getting a VIP pass when working with the Antiques Diva & Co.
The Guides are so knowledgeable that they know what questions to ask. There are so many questions I ask about pieces and sometimes I forget to ask something. Or, there might be something I didn’t know about a certain kind of piece like it isn’t just a cabinet, it’s actually a cabinet made by a father for his daughter as a wedding gift. I love to be able to share the history and story of a piece when I talk to my clients. I see all of us as caretakers and I want the buyer to be able to pass along the story to whoever has the piece after them.
The Guides know these things and make sure you know it too before you make your purchases. When I was in Sweden with Gail and locally based Divo Guide Daniel, I learned so much I had to keep taking breaks to write it all down, trying to remember everything. With antiques there is only so much you can read in a book. At a certain point you have to touch, feel, look, and experience these pieces so you can build your knowledge and become trusted experts too. Each trip with a Guide is another credit in your real world antiques degree.
The education isn’t limited to the antiques. It’s a business education as well. When with a Diva not only do I have a better understanding of the history of the piece, I understand how to market it for today’s buyers. Because the Divas work in the industry with design professionals they understand how people are using antiques in their homes and living with antiques. Now I’ve learned a great deal about the pieces I’m buying, AND I’ve learned how to sell them. This is pretty much as turnkey and foolproof as it gets. Antiques are always risky, but working with the Antiques Diva & Co drastically minimizes these risks.
The locally based Antiques Diva & Co Guides have their finger on the pulse of the industry. The antiques industry is thriving in Europe and like any thriving industry there are constant changes that you have to keep up with. The Diva Guides do that for you. They know when new dealers have hit the scene and what these new dealers are offering. They know when well-established dealers are making changes to their inventory, moving, or maybe even retiring altogether. Can you imagine having to replace your top dealer because suddenly they decided to carry mid-century instead of Gustavian? That would be a nightmare to sort out on your own.
These Guides are well aware of all these changes, often knowing before the information is announced to the rest of the industry. The Guides can get ahead of these changes and adjust your itinerary accordingly. And of course I love it when they find new dealers! Being one of the first buyers at a fresh source is so much fun. Being an early and loyal buyer will help you maintain these important relationships too.
Added Value: Restaurants, Hotels, Laughs, and More
Beyond industry reasons, there is so much added value that you get from working with Diva Guides. They can tell you great restaurants to try, the best times to hit museums, and great hotels to try – all at prices that will fit your budget. Plus, they are really fun and fascinating people. You’ll learn so much about the local culture and history and gain a deeper appreciation for the antiques we all love so much. You spend so much time together you develop friendships with the Divas. UK Diva Gail and I have now spent so much time together she refers to me as her “American daughter.” The Guides make it fun, entertaining, educational, and efficient. A very hard task and they do it seemingly with ease.
One final thought I’d like to leave you with is that I believe so strongly in the brand and the value this service offers that I asked to be a part of the team when they launched Antiques Diva & Co tours stateside. I knew it would be a fantastic experience to conquer my own backyard and share what I’ve discovered with other antiques lovers. Every step of the way working with this company, as both a client and guide, is an absolute joy.
I am thrilled to be the US Antiques Diva Guide for the Berkshires. If you haven’t been to the Berkshires it is an absolute must for the Autumn leaf season. Tucked away from busy New York, the historic Berkshires are located in picturesque western Massachusetts. This tour is ideal for those looking for a dynamic experience combining arts and antiques. Home to Norman Rockwell, the Berkshires offers a unique cultural experience with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, live concerts at Tanglewood, farm-to-table restaurant scene, art galleries, lovely B&Bs, and untouched small-town New England charm. If you’re looking for some R&R, stay at Canyon Ranch for a world-class spa experience.
I also show at The Compound at Round Top and have fallen madly in love with it! Twice a year Round Top, TX, which boasts a year-round population of 90, is invaded and is host to thousands of vendors and buyers. It is filled with everything you could ever imagine at dozens of different venues and hugely varied price points. How does one sieve through all these vendors and sort the bric-a-brac from the real gems? THE DIVAS! Toma & team have Round Top covered and know where and when to go. They even know where to stay and eat. Round Top is truly an antique lovers paradise and just like the Berkshires, a do not miss trip for the casual and serious buyer alike. And when you do go please be sure to stop by and see me at The Compound where you can step into some cool air conditioning and grab fresh margaritas!
And there you have it – straight from Margaret to you! Antiques Diva buying tours
- save you time and money
- help you source the best inventory for your budget
- keep you current on industry trends
- are a master’s class in antiques
– and are just plain fun! Don’t miss out on experiencing an Antiques Diva Tour to Europe, Aisa or the US – #NoPassportRequired – and sourcing the best antiques with Antiques Diva Guides, the best antiques buying experts in the business! And if you join us for a US antiques buying tour to Round Top or the Berkshires, we’ll be sure to set you up with our newest Diva Guide, Margaret!
Toma – The Antiques Diva