Website of the Month: www.rjgantiques.com
By Noah Fleisher
Reprinted by permission from New England Antiques Journal, 2007.
Slowly but surely the business of antiques is integrating the Internet into its way of doing commerce. It's taken almost a decade, and there are still many dyed-in-the-wool holdouts that insist an antique has to be held and seen in person to make an informed decision â€“ and we're not disagreeing with that â€“ but there can be no doubt that, for better or worse, the Web plays an increasingly larger role in the industry by the year.
Sometimes the dealer approach to the Web is a halfhearted one, aimed only at driving people to the nearest phone or shop, or to a different Web site altogether. All too often links lead to pages that have been "dead" for months, or even years. Neither scenario is helpful to the potential customer 1,000 miles away, or the buyer who simply prefers â€“ in this age of technology â€“ to shop from home in their pajamas.
That said, there is a portion of the dealer population that has taken the advances in technology to heart, and chief among those would certainly be Russ and Karen Goldberger, of Rye, NH, who do business as RJG Antiques.
Known as one the very best dealers in the nation in decoys and Americana, RJG is that rare breed in antiques that has embraced its Website, and all of its attendant responsibilities, and emerged with one of the very best online experiences a customer can hope to have. With almost 10 years of online experience now under its belt, RJGs site is very easy to navigate, full of relevant information, articles, high-res photos and â€“ best of all â€“ fully reflects the personality of the business. What you see is what you get with RJG, and what you get, plain and simple, is good antiques and decoys.
"We were one of the first," said Russ. "I'm a marketing guy by orientation and training, so I saw (the Web) as another potential selling vehicle."
Most of all, with its Website, RJG has put its reputation online, literally. It's a longstanding truism in the business that a dealer has nothing but their reputation to stand on, and with an unconditional guarantee, RJG stands implicitly behind everything it sells. This has resulted in a dedicated buyer-base that comes back to the Website frequently â€“ it is, after all, updated every single day â€“ and buys with regularity. This, relates Russ, was the goal all along.
"My objective in this business," he says, "in any business, has been to earn repeat customers."
There are two features, among many, that especially standout on www.rjgantiques.com, and they are the "prior sales" button in both the antiques and the decoys callouts, and the scrolling list of pictures and prices of RJG's five most recent acquisitions â€“ that's five antiques and five decoys â€“ that greet a Web surfer on the top right of the home page when they arrive. The prior sales speak for themselves, allowing customers to see exactly what RJG has sold recently. It's an upfront and straightforward way of speaking to the quality of their antiques and their unabashed pride in dealing in such fine items.
Russ and Karen are so dedicated to keeping the recent items scroll current, relates Russ, that a cast iron fire mark with clasped hands, listed in the scroll on the day that NEAJ spoke with him, had literally just been put online the day before and was made available digitally within an hour of getting the fire mark back to the shop. He had flown to Wiscasset, ME in a friend's Cessna plane, picked up the piece, was back in Rye by 3 p.m. and had the piece listed by 4 p.m.
"That's probably the extreme version," he said, "but that scroll is a very effective piece of real estate."
The RJG Website is one that bears a good bit of scrutiny, and holds up both for its informative entertainment values. There are links to many good Websites, and to articles written by and about Russ and Karen, and their specialties, as well as many more features that you have to spend a little more time on the site to get to know. The Goldbergers have also made sure to market their site in the correct way, spending money with various search engines to ensure prominent search listings. It's an expense that has paid them back several times over with frequent new clients and dedicated longtime ones; a lesson that many dealers would do well to heed.
If you love good Americana, good decoys, appreciate good Web design, or just want to see how a well-respected antiques business runs a highly functioning and profitable Website, then do yourself a favor and log on to www.rjgantiques.com. You may just find yourself drifting back there again and again in the coming months. We'll be right behind you.