What Sells During a Pandemic?
Updated: Oct 12
Back in March, when COVID-19 moved to the forefront of everyone’s mind, I thought that surely, my business was done for. After all, I didn’t sell toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or boxes of N-95 masks that everyone was so desperate to find. Who buys nice pottery and jewelry when the world is ending? Turns out, more people than you think.
I remember turning on the computer one day and being flabbergasted when I sold a marble bust for $1500. During a pandemic. Who needs a marble bust during a pandemic? Obviously, someone that already has plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
As time went on, I was more and more surprised by what was selling. Fine crystal. Stemware. Artisan pottery. Video games. Pocket watches. Many, many bottles of cologne, including an enormous 32 oz display bottle that the buyer was overjoyed to have found (I was grateful to not live with that individual, as just walking past the perfume displays in the mall can give me a headache.) What was driving all of these random, non-essential purchases?
Turns out, as people began to hunker down, not only did they have more money on hand from not going out anymore, but they also yearned for things that would bring them comfort. Spaces would get redesigned to become more functional and/or beautiful. Old toys, games, and puzzles were suddenly in high demand by a population yearning to escape to simpler times. Even certain types of fitness equipment became almost impossible to find, as gyms had closed up and regulars were desperate to maintain some semblance of their shape and sanity.
Initially I experienced a spike in sales, as there was suddenly a giant sales shift online. Ebay experienced a huge surge in yearly growth through the end of their second quarter in June, jumping up nearly 35%. Amazon experienced a spike of nearly 43% during the same period. Everyone now wanted (or was forced) to buy a lot more online. So I was selling like crazy, and consequently running out of inventory. With very few new consignments coming in, I started digging through boxes in my shop and around the house. Alarm components from my previous office – sold. Unwanted fishing equipment – sold. Jeans that “shrunk” from stress eating – sold. I was quickly running out of things to sell!
Fortunately, towards the end of April people began to realize that the world was not ending and started to emerge from their bunkers. By May I was steadily receiving calls and emails, and by June I was struggling to keep up. I ended up re-hiring my wonderful photographer / graphic designer, Adrienne, who helped me put together this newsletter to better keep in touch with friends and clients.
SELLING DURING A PANDEMIC - WHAT’S SELLING NOW
So what’s selling right now? A little bit of everything. As an online seller, I am seeing people buy a lot of items to either decorate their homes, themselves, or fill in their collections. Interesting curios, art, pottery, and porcelain have all moved out the door fairly quickly, as have a number of watches, fine jewelry, and even some sterling serving pieces and decorative objects. The other month, we even sold a beautiful mid-century Singer sewing machine for almost $600, as it was in superb condition with the original case and accessories.
The pandemic hasn’t changed everything. I still do not sell a great deal of dishes, books, or modern (10-20 year old) collectibles, as there is not a great interest in most items with high supply and low demand. Collectors still prefer vintage or unusual items that are hard-to-find and in excellent condition.
CERTAIN FURNITURE IS SELLING WELL
I ventured out in town last week to talk to some friends of mine that own local furniture consignment stores. Blake Addision, owner of Classic Treasures in Durham, says that contemporary furniture is selling well, along with anything mid-century modern, or anything mission or cottage style. He no longer accepts china cabinets or wardrobes, as younger generations simply aren’t using them anymore.
Angela Mann, of Always Home Furniture Consignment in Durham, says that small 4-person tables and bedside tables are hard to keep in stock right now. She won’t take out-of-style pieces like armoires or television entertainment centers.
HOME & GARDEN AND OUTDOOR RECREATION EQUIPMENT
If you have some bulky home & garden items you need to let go of, selling local is the way to go. During the last few months, I sold a number of items on Craigslist rather quickly, from shelving to generators and even a rolling tool chest--which I delivered to a buyer in Cary. Oftentimes, if you’re able to meet out-of-town buyers halfway or deliver to a local address, you can get your asking price paid in full in cash.
Outdoor recreation equipment has also experienced a huge surge in demand. I have lived next to Jordan Lake for 11 years and I cannot recall seeing more people fishing, boating, or paddling on the lake than this year. I think people are now evaluating more than ever where and how they spend their time, and spending time outdoors with close friends and family is an excellent way to get exercise and relieve the stress of this year. If you happen to have a used bike, paddleboard, or canoe/kayak in good shape that’s not being used, you can almost certainly sell it quickly on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace to someone nearby.
It’s a good time to sell lots of things, despite the constant stream of negative news on TV. If you, a friend, or family member needs to downsize or help with a particular item, we’re happy to research it for you and/or give you a referral to sell it elsewhere, when appropriate. For all of the things impacted by the pandemic, we are grateful that the resale industry is still alive and well.
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Chris DiGiovanna is the President of Trader Chris Consignments, which specializes in selling valuable collectibles, jewelry, watches, and estate silver on eBay since 2011. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .