We started Retro Age in July of 2003. I was on maternity leave from my marketing job and had just given birth to our first child...a gorgeous baby boy who arrived with a grand set of lungs which he used 24/7. It wasn't an easy time. I needed a mental break.
I found eBay when our first born was one month old and set about selling our household surplus items. I loved it. My corporate advertising (hello St Kilda Road) and marketing background gave me the perfect experience to enjoy the new selling platform.
Once I had sold our house (just joking), I realised that I had fallen in love with the whole online selling experience. I had just finished selling part of my fabric stash and there seemed to be a market of buyers wanting old fabric with weird retro patterns. Well - that's what I thought. 70s patterns can be wild and weird and absolutely disgusting to some people.
So I set about setting up Retro Age as a legal business. I got my secondhand dealers license and business certificates and then I could legally sell old and used goods in Victoria - a law here. I opened up an eBay store and the rest, as they say, is history.
Our first website was launched in 2004 and we have had various platforms and softwares since. Our current 'modern' version is this Shopify one and it has thus far served us well. We have now had a worldwide website presence for 13 years!
However, the market is changing. With the onslaught of Facebook and Instagram - and even Snapchat - you can almost sell anything, anywhere. We've followed these trends as well as we could, all the while building our website presence and reputation.
Most people love the website experience and will only buy here - other buyers pop up on Instagram when we have a sale. Facebook has died as a selling platform and we no longer have our closed group or Facebook sales.
This year we changed our focus away from the website for the first time and embraced Instagram as a selling platform. It's not the easiest way to sell a product. Yes, you have an audience who may see a photo in their feed (much harder now since Instagram changed their algorithm), but tracking sales, prices and uploading continuity was an issue. The other issue is a flooded market by many people who use it as a hobby to sell wares they come across on their day-to-day adventures and not as a registered (and tax paying) business.
We had an awful experience with using the courier service Sendle for the first time. They lost a giant box filled to the brim with vintage sheets. Did you know they charge you a $100 excess to launch the claim process? Yes, they do! And the only reason we got our money back for our customer (apart from persistence) was a) we are a legally registered business and b) we could provide a verified PayPal business account transaction. Back to Australia Post we go!
The problem with using another selling platform like Instagram is a) we lost website customers and b) we had to double list our fabrics - once on Instagram and once on our website. This took an amazing amount of tax paperwork and time. We then had customers contact us, disappointed that we were selling some fabric only on Instagram and they didn't have Instagram accounts. You can't please everybody, but they had a point.
Thus, we've made the decision to return to focusing on our website. Things will change a little, though. We will no longer 'dribble upload', but will have sales on certain dates and times. We've reveal what's in these sales on our social media. Customers can buy the quantity of anything they like and progress through Checkout to obtain accurate postage options. And then we post it off - simple! And what doesn't sell goes into website stock - a win win for all, I think.
It seems like we've gone full circle with this renewed focus on the website. We started here 13 years ago and will continue to re-build it up over the coming weeks and months. Diverting off to social media was interesting and, in it's own way, successful - but, my feelings are - for a legal business to continue, prosper and expand, it still needs to focus on an impressive website presence. I got myself a little confused and returned to the 'hobby' selling stage when, in actual fact, we're one of the original vintage fabric websites and still one of the largest. Focus, Ness!
I am looking forward to the weeks ahead...
Simplicity pattern book scrap ideas from 1970 May 10 2016
These shots are taken from a Simplicity pattern book from 1970 - I thought I would give all of you fabric lovers a giggle and also some scrap ideas!
Vintage sheeting charm square packs May 04 2016
We're always busy behind the lines at Retro Age - even though we don't update ye olde blog so much these days. We have been selling some of our 5" vintage sheeting charm square packs directly on Instagram - they are soon to arrive to our website. Woohoo - high fiving each other after die cutting so many with all fingers intact.
Christmas information December 23 2015
Our website shall remain open throughout the Festive Season, however postage/shipping will cease on Wednesday 23 December 2015 and will resume on Monday 4 January 2016.
Merry Christmas to one and all!
Preview fabric sale listings June 28 2015
We have so much fabric we've had to find more of a streamlined way of getting it onto the website and Instagram. We've created a new collection to the website to get the fabric up to you ASAP. We've called it Preview Fabric Sales.
As the fabric is unpacked in the studio we're taking a quick snap shot and measuring it. We'll then get this photo onto the website and Instagram with a price and you can buy from either site. After around a week or so (all going well), we'll book this fabric into our business system and put it on the main website pages and will sell it for our usual uncut fat quarters.
New search functionality and listing information March 04 2015
We are always trying to improve ourselves - our business, our service, our fabrics, our price. Anything that we think can be improved we'll work on. That includes giving our customers as much information as possible about each fabric.
NEW SEARCH CATEGORY - QUANTITY
We have now added in a new search category into our main bar near the top of the website. You can now view fabrics by the amount we have left.
This is a main category, so as soon as you select the size of fabric you're after, you'll also then be able to select the specifics you want - whether that be colour, design style etc.
NEW LISTING INFORMATION - WEIGHT
What we are also now including in our listings is the weight of the fabric per quantity. As you can see below, each quantity of this wool weighs 87g. This assists customers in working out exactly what fabric they want to ensure they get the best value for their shipping/postage buck. We need to retro-fit our listings with this information, but from now on we'll be adding it in.
That's all for now - but we're far from finished getting this website to exactly where we want it to be and how we want it to look. As we release new features we'll announce it here!
Creating a 'hold' account on Retro Age February 20 2015
We've had quite a number of enquiries regarding 'holding' fabrics to get the most value from posting/shipping in recent weeks. We can easily create an account name for you so you can progress through Checkout and pay only for the fabrics and not the postage/shipping every time you make an order. We process these orders as usual - preparing them and putting them aside. Then, at your request, we can invoice you for postage/shipping via PayPal when you've finished shopping over several days or weeks.
If you would like one of these accounts please don't hesitate to ask for one to be set up for you. We can do it very easily and are happy to pop fabrics aside for you for up to one month :)
First charm square listings are now live February 08 2015
As you can imagine - and as some of you have seen at Drysdale (ack - how embarrassing) we have an extensive remnant and off-cut collection spanning the 1880s onwards - yes, right up until the modern era. I never throw fabric out, no matter what the size, so I've got a whole room (from floor to ceiling) of divine remnants to upload. The remnants will be sold as fat quarters if they are that large - and then down to remnant or patchwork size.
The first 5" charm squares went live on the website tonight - just two little listings to start things off to give you a taste of what's ahead and to ease me in. Yep - that's right - all 5" charm squares are only 45c each, no matter if they are antique, vintage or modern. I wanted to be fair to vintage and modern quilters and crafters, so one price for all 5" squares it is!
Soothing time February 01 2015
Knowing I can now upload our entire collection to the website is quite daunting, as I know just how long it's going to take to get all of our pieces up on here. I'm having to remind myself to step back from the photographing/uploading cycle to just enjoy the fabrics. This is what I have been working on this weekend, apart from the usual family outings, coffee with friends, Queensland election watching and housework. I started to cut charm squares from our mountains of offcuts around six months ago, storing them in boxes as I went. I find it so relaxing and soothing to cut them. I used to sell packs on ebay years ago and had started to put some on the old website early last year, but I never added to our small online selection as sorting our remnant boxes (yes - those customers who have seen them recoil in shock and horror every time they see those boxes that fill ONE room) was a job I never got around to doing. Well, over these last school holidays I sorted all of them into colour, type or pattern. This weekend was a red weekend, as you can see. These fabrics range in age, from around the 1920s onwards.
Phew - getting there January 16 2015
This new website has taken us off our feet. We knew our old one was clunky - but, gosh, these orders coming in thick and fast are telling us that it was DEFINITELY past it's use-by-date and customers are overjoyed at this new one. We have some customers who have shopped with us since our first website back in 2003 - gosh, I can't even remember the name of that template. I found it in the UK, - it was one of the first ecommerce templates to be released and it was super popular in the media etc. I remember how long it took to upload and how I needed to constantly adjust the sizes of the photos. And then two years later I found a WAHM site - Work At Home Mothers - and that's the site that has kept us going since around 2007-2008. It had so much functionality for it's day - but, well, we're now some seven years later and technology is rapidly improving.
We've had some URL issues with Shopify and our domain host, but that should be sorted now. It's been some time on the electronic chatting thing sorting that out, so I haven't uploaded all of this fabric that's beside my computer. I am thrilled to finally get our collection up onto a website with the functionality we needed - I can't wait to show it to you all. Lots of functionality to add to the website, too - that will come in due course - no rush for that when these orders need to be posted Express...
Have a lovely weekend xx
Day two January 14 2015
I am more relieved today than yesterday, even though I am busily ironing out chinks in the new website. It's almost a relief today that the darn thing is live.
We dithered for months over the functionality of the website as we needed to finally get all of our stock online - that was our main drive. Our first website went live in late 2003 and we've only changed software once since then - yes, once in 12 years! Suffice to say we knew our website was getting old in the tooth (much older than mutton). We needed something to sort the fabric just like our system does here - strange, I know, but true, and we were willing to wait and research to find the best fit. Those of you who have seen our set-up in Drysdale or here know what we are talking about...too much fabric! It was Shopify or BigCommerce? Grrr....decisions, decisions. It wasn't until chatting over a latte with the lovely Celeste from Geelong's own Natural Supply Co that I went with the website you see here. The 'Minimal' template doesn't need mucking around, twas free (bonus!) and I can add in other functionalities over the coming months - I can highly recommend it to any online biz out there. Oh - and if you LOVE natural beauty products without the chemical nasties and without them being tested on our sweet animals, I can highly recommed Cath and Celeste and their new business Natural Supply Co. They're local to the Geelong region, are passionate about their business and are keen to give as many of us gals the BEST product for our health as they can find. They're at naturalsupplyco.com.
Vintage fabric from old website January 12 2015
If you're seeing this blog post it means you're viewing our new website. Welcome!
We are working hard to have all of our stock from our old website on this website. This is quite time-consuming as we're photographing around 800 pieces of fabric. But we'll get there! As we upload our old stock, you'll notice we're also uploading lots of new vintage fabric stock for you to select from.
If you have any enquiries about old stock that you were tracking on the old website please don't hesitate to contact us with a rough description and we'll get it onto this website ASAP.
Welcome to the new Retro Age Vintage Fabrics website November 06 2014
The time has come for the old Retro Age website to be laid to rest and a brand spanking new one to be launched and filled with vintage fabrics, sewing patterns and patchwork charm squares - not to mention lovely linens and general vintage sewing goodies. The old website has served us well since 2009, but with the onslaught of digital devices such as smart phones and pads we found the old software just could no longer keep up with what our customers deserved.
This new website is being launched with some fabric - but it's definitely not all. We finally have the capability to upload our entire inventory onto this new software - something we're very excited about. Please bare with us over the next couple of weeks as we work to iron out any new kinks in the website - be gone, internet gremlins! - and finessing your shopping experience.
If you have any feedback or you would like a specific feature added to our website please don't hesitate to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org - we love hearing from you!
Ness and Justin