Vintage sellers use virtual flash sales, pop-ups to engage collectors

Vintage sellers use virtual flash sales, pop-ups to engage collectors


The resale market has gone rogue, embracing new tech for grandmillenial goods. Meet three Greenville shopkeepers succeeding without retail hours.

Once upon a time, antique stores peppered the landscape along Main Street in Greenville. Reselling collectibles occurred during business hours, five days a week. But online sellers and social media fueled collectors’ fire to hunt virtually.

The pandemic accelerated tech-based buying and the urge to organize and redecorate drove consumers to their digital devices like never before. Instagram became a scroll-worthy diversion while we worked or studied from home and Greenville-based accounts capitalized on selling goods using the app in unique ways.

Wilson Girls, photo provided

Wilson Girls Host Pop-ups

Sisters Jean Wilson Freeman and Cathleen Wilson Seay established a local brand called “Wilson Girls.” The two are known for vintage styling and garnered a local following for sharing flea market conquests, holiday tables and collections.

They renovated a long-empty 1940s gas station in West Greenville and began hosting pop-up sales with items picked from flea markets and the overflow of their homes. They advertised them on Instagram. Wilson Freeman’s original art drew in designers for the Thursday-Saturday sales. Antiques dealers bought from them too, using them as a sort of wholesaler.

COVID-19 changed nearly everything. The sisters shut down operations for months before deciding to try an invitation-only pop-up with reserved time slots. “We had no idea if anyone would sign up. We simply used a Sign-up Genius form and waited to see,” Seay says. “The next day nearly every slot was full.”

The plan was to allow five guests 20 minutes to shop, masks required. Suddenly the former C-store, with doors thrown open, felt like a semblance of a shopping experience. Customers showed up in droves for their appointments and bought like never before. Their Instagram account @wilsongirlsllc organically added thousands of hyperlocal followers, a feat that area businesses pay agencies to accomplish.

Wilson Freeman and Seay think the magic sauce has been a handpicked mix of old and new, seasonal wares and a bevy of goods from artisans they admire, from jewelry by Urban Collars to pottery by Annie Koelle. They added new designer lamps and custom pillows by Kuca Home. Votivo candles too, but only in the scents they personally favor. (A key to the “Wilson Girls” brand is to offer only what they would have in their own homes.) Their audience responded, nearly doubling revenue sale-over-sale.

“I think people felt safe here,” Wilson Freeman says. “We are a curated shopping experience, not a big-box store with tons of employees. ‘Wilson Girls’ is about an aesthetic we love; a creative take on daily life, we’re living it regardless. We want it to be interesting and elevated, homey and heartfelt.”

Joyfully Vintage, photo provided

Joyfully Vintage Sells on Instagram

Rachel Jellis, a sixth grade English teacher, began selling vintage tabletop on Instagram to supplement a passion for travel. The pandemic may have curbed trip planning, but her account @joyfullyvintagegvl has become a side hustle with several thousand followers.

Jellis uses clever wordplay to sell the trappings of the grandmillenial trend: silver flatware, brass animals, floral china. Monday Blues, Waterford Wednesdays, Saturday Steal have become favorite selling foils. “A lot of it has to do with being an English teacher,” she says. “Coming up with puns or using alliteration keeps me posting daily.”

It started as thrifting to find deals on quality items. Today, Jellis plots stops after school and hunts most Saturdays. She’ll hit an occasional estate sale but says shopping at charitable resellers is part of her business model.

“I officially have the bug,” she says. “I love finding the unexpected, that’s why I named it ‘Joyfully Vintage.’ Customers tell me the joy they get from having something their grandparents did.”

Buyers range from college to retirement age, mostly women. “Since the grandmillenial trend took hold, I’ve seen a wide range of women looking for similar old things,” Jellis says.

Joyfully Vintage, photo provided

She posts items same day, or as soon as she can research, price and photograph them; at times determining the back story of an object can take hours of digging. Things sell within 48 hours or sit for months and Jellis combats algorithms by maintaining an Etsy account, where metrics calculate fresh views.

A community of like-minded accounts support each other in the Insta-world, sharing and reposting. The cheerleading and lack of competition surprised the entrepreneur; Jellis says vintage sellers have banded together to create a community of buyers, something shipping makes totally possible.

Grey Street, photo provided

Grey Street Market Holds Flash Sales

Ryan Dennis has sold mid-century and vintage goods in lots of ways, including maintaining a booth at a local shop. But it was using Instagram to schedule flash sales that became the brass ring for @greystreetmarket, an account with more than 4,000 followers.

She has an ability to group goods together, styling pieces in alluring fashion as if they already sit in a bookshelf or on a mantle. Grey Street Market specializes in what Dennis calls, “vintage pieces from the most stylish decades of last century.”

She has a penchant for unique travel souvenirs, handwoven baskets, printed juice glasses, reams of like-hued bound books, pottery and trays, maps and small art. Fresh-vintage is the category she uses to pull it all together.

The flash sales occur on the same night at the same time on Instagram. Buyers use specific, yet simple, instructions to claim an item. “I set my sales to be on Monday nights at 8pm every week so that people could count on them to happen,” Dennis says. “It’s kind of like a game and all you have to do is be on your phone on the couch.”

Her business grew 40% in 2020 and customer feedback points to the exciting, fast-paced sales. Regulars note that watching who buys which item is its own form of hyperlocalism.

The rest of the week is for invoicing, wrapping and delivery. Sold items show up locally at your door, the type of service formerly reserved for milk bottles. Grey Street Market has also become known for including a retro treat, most recently a Sugar Daddy pop attached to a hand-written thank you note.

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