Day in the life of a vintage trader

Today we have a real treat, a behind the scenes look at what its like to be a vintage trader at the Vintage Homes Show at Victoria Baths. Alex from Stockport based vintage homeware trader Snygg kindly volunteered his services, read on to get a taste from the other side of the stall…

Were you one of the record number of visitors to last Sunday’s Manchester Vintage Home Show? If so, you’ll have seen our stand – we were the pale, sleep-deprived, coffee-swilling couple in the corner having an amazing day. If you bought from us, thanks! If you didn’t, well, maybe next time.

You see, you can’t please everyone at a vintage fair. And if you’re standing (that’s the term we use, and it’s quite literal) at an event like Vintage Home Show, you need a good variety of stuff. Because it’s all about selling desirable items, not essential ones, and you’ve got to hope that something on your stand gets the right person’s heart racing.


So, at 8 o’clock on Sunday morning we arrived at the fabulous Victoria Baths with a van packed full of beauties chosen with this event in mind. There, we joined the ranks of barely-awake traders shuffling back and forth with trollies and boxes, carefully unpacking and unwrapping everything they’d packed and wrapped a scant few hours earlier.

By 10am, we’d got our stand looking great and we could relax for a few minutes with a much needed brew. We might have got the job done quicker had we not made constant forays out to see what other traders were pulling out of their boxes, but that’s part of the fun.


At 10.30, the doors were open to trade visitors. You can tell them because they move quickly and laugh at your prices, but you can get some good deals done. At 11am, the doors opened to the public and the real fun began.

For us, things got going slowly. We were pretty much the first stall everyone saw as they came through the door, so inevitably most people wanted to do a circuit of the room before they decided what they wanted to buy. And there were some amazing things on sale – we could have spent far too much money ourselves! It was an eclectic wonderland of all that’s great about vintage design, almost a museum of last century’s popular culture.

Talking of museums, here’s a tip if you’re planning to get into the vintage game. If an older person comes by your stall and can be heard to mutter: “We had one of those when we were first married and it cost six shillings,” they’re probably not going to buy that same item from you for £20.  These events do attract plenty of people who just want a dose of nostalgia, and it’s lovely to hear people’s memories. But the people you really want to meet are the ones whose eyes light up, who keep coming back to your stall, who can’t keep their hands off that special object only you have. We had plenty of those on Sunday, once they’d been round the room.

What we enjoy about the job is finding out why people love something, whether it’s a piece of fabric, a lovely vintage vase, a teapot or a candle-holder. You get to hear about their lives and their homes and why both will be made better by what they buy from you. You see them going away that little bit happier and know it’s all been worthwhile – the early morning buying trips, the research, the packing, unpacking, polishing and labelling. You have to expect a bit of haggling of course – the cursed antique shows on TV have made that de rigeur – but most people are happy to pay for the happiness you provide. It’s about as satisfying as retail gets.


 By the end of the day, we were tired but very happy. We’d sold some wonderful things to lovely people, and we knew were going home with considerably less stuff than we’d arrived with. Even so, tearing down is always a chore – you’ve got to bring what’s left to the next fair, so it all needs packing carefully when all you want is a sofa, curry and a bottle of wine. But you also know what you didn’t sell this time might be someone’s dream purchase at the next fair, so it’s all worthwhile.

If we met you at the Vintage Home Show, it was great to see you. Traders and shoppers alike, you make our day with your enthusiasm and interest. Special thanks to Keeley, too, for making the whole thing happen. And if you haven’t been to the Vintage Home Show before, why not come to the next one on 9th June? We’ll be there, and we might just have what you didn’t realise you wanted!

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The next Vintage Home Show at Victoria Baths is June 9th 2013.