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Is the Market For Antiques On The Decline In 2020?

As with anything, when the times change, attitudes change. Including attitudes to antiques and antique furniture. We now live in a fast-paced digital world, and with the rise of fast fashion, it sometimes feels like items are disposable and easy to replace. But what does the market for antiques look like in 2020? Are there still keen buyers looking out for bargains, or is the antique market on the decline?

Fast fashion vs long term investment

In this fast-paced world, consumers can have their wardrobe redone or their home-interior revamped more easily than ever, as almost everything they need is readily available. Also, with the development of production techniques, certain items are cheaper than they once were. Fast fashion extends to home items, people get bored easily and are likely to replace rugs, mirrors, and cabinets for a new feel. This tendency to replace rather than stick with staple pieces means that many opt for buying cheaper pieces knowing they may not keep them for long, rather than investing in more expensive higher quality pieces. Antiques do have a higher price point, and many aren’t comfortable with that long term investment. Living in a disposable age is not always the greatest fit for the antique market.

The decluttering trend is not a fad

It’s pretty hard to have missed the recent obsession with Marie Kondo’ing your space. Whether it’s rolling your jeans in your drawers, or parting with items that you’re keeping out of sentimentality, the ethos behind this movement suggests we’ll be happier when we let go of items that ‘no longer bring us joy’. With so many Millenials following this trend of decluttering their apartments by getting rid of all unnecessary clothing, items, and pieces of furniture, the tendency toward minimalism has definitely taken hold in this generation’s psyche and is here to stay. And minimalism is also not that conducive to a household full of antique furniture and decorative items.

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Renting vs. Owning a Home

Another reason why 2020 may be seeing a decline in the antique market is the nature of people’s lifestyle habits and the increase in the cost of living. Back in April 2020, the U.S. economy registered the most monthly job losses in history. And three months later, it registered the biggest leap in existing home sales ever. Housing prices have soared to record highs despite the coronavirus pandemic. Given the current state of the real estate market, and the soaring prices in most major cities around the world, it is becoming harder and harder for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder, with many people renting well into their thirties or still living with their parents. In fact, 52% of young adults in the U.S. still live with their parents, surpassing the previous peak during the Great Depression era.

Unaffordable housing also means a smaller space. Not only may there not be enough disposable income to purchase antiques, but most Millenials just don’t have enough space for larger items. This makes it harder to keep or invest in those hefty and bulky heirlooms.

An environmentally conscious generation

However, alongside these trends is a real commitment to environmental issues that many hold. Faced with the reality of an ever-increasing carbon footprint and the dent it makes on the planet, Millenials are getting much more environmentally conscious. With this in mind, many consumers value the sturdy, well-made, and beautifully crafted antique pieces for the home. Knowing something has been around for centuries, and was made to last, contrasts with the cheap, industrially produced, and easily breakable items which are much more common these days.

Upcycling: the new sustainability trend

The upcycling trend has been pursuing a healthy growth in the past few years. Rather than buying from a known chain, a bland chair that has been produced in millions of exemplars before ending up in everyone’s home, some people would rather invest in unique and weathered vintage pieces. Whether it’s first-time buyers or just people who are into their crafts, there is also a market for antiques that need a little TLC to be returned to their former glory. For some, putting time and love into restoring an antique can not be beaten.

Resurging trends

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The truth is that tastes and sensibilities shift back and forth across the ages. Certain design trends can shift people’s buying habits. Whilst there is evidence to suggest that certain period pieces have reduced in financial value, ultimately these pieces often see a resurgence after a few years as tastes shift once again. Whilst the market for 2020 may be in decline, this is not to say that the declining trend will continue in the years to come.

Online auctions and fairs

When thinking of the state of the antique market in 2020, you cannot avoid considering the impact of the current pandemic of COVID-19. Undoubtedly, the industry has faced an initial decline in sales this year, as galleries and auction houses have been forced to close their doors. However, this has seen a rise to much more online auction activity. The industry has had to adapt and respond to the vast number of people, and potential customers, shopping online during the lockdown. The pandemic has brought us innovative online auctions and fairs, like for instance Brimfield Live Online, which have attracted much interest. In opening up events that can seem intimidating or exclusive to the layman, live auction organizers reached out to a new group of customers who haven’t or wouldn’t have necessarily acquired antiques before and brought them into the fold of the antique buying community. The continuation of this online activity may help see a boom in sales and a welcome push for the market.

Conclusion

In conclusion, times change, tastes change, but in many cases, they come back around again. Whilst the move towards a more minimalistic lifestyle may impact a certain group of customers, the simultaneous move to be more sustainable and environmentally conscious may see a new burgeoning customer base. Whilst the antique market for 2020 may be in decline currently, as long as the industry continues to adapt there is definite hope that it will improve and grow in the years to come.

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