Cleaning Up In A Tough Economy: Weschler & Son (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Cleaning Up in a Tough Economy: Weschler & Son Auctioneers

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:49:04
So it's no secret. We all know for the past few years the economy, well, it's been, it's been a bit iffy to put it mildly and when times are tough there are plenty of ways you can, you know, tighten your belt. You can clean out your closet, you can clean your home, you can try selling your stuff at a pawnshop or a yard sale or Craigslist.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:49:25
Or you can start shopping at a place that offers discounted secondhand goods. Lauren Hodges recently visited a local re-saler that's pretty much been cleaning up in this struggling economy.

MS. LAUREN HODGES

13:49:42
Inside a large three-story building on E Street Northwest, a crowd of people is shouting out bids as Tom Weschler oversees an array of old books, paintings, vases and furniture. Weschler is one of three auctioneers running Weschler & Son, a local auction house that's been around nearly 120 years.

MS. LAUREN HODGES

13:50:00
The Weschler's have seen economic climates of all kinds. But whereas other companies might struggle during a recession, for a business like this one, a crawling economy can actually be a good thing.

MR. TOM WESCHLER

13:50:10
We actually have seen an uptake since about October, probably in the 10 to 20 percent of our inventory that does come from private individuals because they were downsizing.

HODGES

13:50:20
And hoping to make some cash if not pick up some new bargains.

WESCHLER

13:50:23
We're also seeing people coming in interested in buying more furniture in smalls than they have in the past.

HODGES

13:50:29
Hence the added heat on the auction floor.

WESCHLER

13:50:31
There's been more energy and more participation in the bidding process.

MS. LEIGH RIDDICK

13:50:35
To business motto's that will help a company do well in a bad economy. One is to have a business that has a less expensive alternate for something that people need or value.

HODGES

13:50:44
Professor Leigh Riddick teaches economics and investments at American University's Kogod School of Business.

RIDDICK

13:50:49
Maybe someone was shopping at Sac's and Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus and maybe now they're going to step down to Kohl's and Target.

HODGES

13:50:57
Riddick says the secondhand market trend is one of the more personal effects of the struggling economy.

RIDDICK

13:51:02
In terms of desperation gets more the middle class and further down the income chain who are getting rid of that one special thing.

HODGES

13:51:10
Such as treasured family heirlooms?

RIDDICK

13:51:12
Silver teapot from their grandmother or the painting that their uncle bought or whatever it is.

HODGES

13:51:16
Those valuables are a specialty at Weschler & Son. Tom says out the door prices of most items he auctions off are going down, which is good news for the buyer, not so good for the owner.

WESCHLER

13:51:26
We probably have gotten more conservative and realistic with our estimates in the past year, year and a half with that in mind.

HODGES

13:51:35
Another change, he says, is the age of customers at the auction house.

WESCHLER

13:51:38
We are seeing people in their 30s coming to auctions where two years ago we weren't seeing that.

HODGES

13:51:44
Weschler says for young professionals navigating this economy buying previously owned items is a must for stocking their growing households and that is a trend for any generation struggling with less opportunity than its predecessors.

WESCHLER

13:51:56
But we are seeing some effort into the 30's and 40's of people trying to furnish their homes more economically as opposed to going the retail route.

HODGES

13:52:07
A 30 something man grabs a pile of vinyl records from the auction floor and shouts his bid. Items like these are what Professor Riddick calls, "small luxuries."

RIDDICK

13:52:17
When people are financially constrained, they pick one thing that they're going to let themselves have, maybe it's a massage, maybe it's a trip to the theatre, maybe it's a trip out to eat.

HODGES

13:52:26
Riddick says it's retail therapy or in this case, re-sale therapy. A kind of pick-me-up.

RIDDICK

13:52:32
And often when people who are looking for those perks, if you will, that will help them get through the tough times, they will look for a less expensive alternative.

HODGES

13:52:42
Here in the auction house patrons achieve that shopper's high, mixed with a sense of victory. A woman who just successfully outbid a rival for an antique book happily tucks her treasure under her arm. The price tag for her momentary glee, only $5. I'm Lauren Hodges.
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