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Community over competition: A vintage seller’s mantra
Photo: Akos Szabo/Pexels

Community over competition: A vintage seller’s mantra


Vintage seller Shannon Ganshorn, founder of South Surrey Vintage, chats about what's behind the #CommunityOverCompetition movement

With the rise of the vintage and resale market, the small-business social-media mantra of “community over competition” is increasingly being used by resellers.

So just what is #CommunityOverCompetition? The catchphrase promotes connection and support between shops — it’s the idea that even in a saturated marketplace, every brand has something special to offer. It embodies the values of collaboration, kindness, referrals and knowledge exchange.

All of these things are positive for the vintage-seller space, says Shannon Ganshorn, owner of South Surrey Vintage and a self-professed champion of the #CommunityOverCompetition mindset.

Meticulously curated wall unit depicting vintage plastic toy figurines, spools of thread, and ephemera arranged in the colours of a rainbow.
Shannon Ganshorn, owner of South Surrey Vintage in Surrey, B.C., is a collector at heart — one of her display cases is pictured above. Photo: South Surrey Vintage

“Helping each other and promoting each other is beneficial to everyone,” Shannon says. “Why draw lines in the sand when we’re all doing the same thing? We all want to be successful. It’s actually become a really cool community [online].”

Shannon doesn’t just talk the talk — she walks it. In 2019, she self-published a resource guide called the Instagram Sellers’ Handbook to help emerging sellers, many of them part of an older demographic who were altogether new to Instagram, to navigate the world of selling vintage on social media.

Shelves containing vintage hardcover books and a floral array of book spines.
“I just love my own collection,” says Shannon. “I call them art installations because they are creatively displayed. I have a lot of fun with vintage!” Photo: South Surrey Vintage

While the handbook is no longer in print, Shannon still offers digital copies to Instagram newbies and has much advice to share. She contributed several passages from her handbook to three of our Reseller Tip Sheets.

She says #CommunityOverCompetition removes some of the intimidation that comes with asking more established sellers for advice. When new sellers do reach out to her, Shannon wants to help. “I always say, I’m totally excited for you to get going and for your shop,” she says. “It’s really just a matter of sharing the love.”

Portrait of the seller with chin-length mauve hair, a floral half-sleeve tattoo, nose ring, and Apple watch.
The online vintage community has undergone a lot of changes over the past few years, Shannon says. “At first there were some bigger personalities and it became quite competitive, but then it morphed into this movement of helping each other,” she says. “I was one of the people to really push that idea of community over competition.” Photo: South Surrey Vintage

Sharing specialized knowledge

Shannon has over 20 years of online selling experience under her belt — she began moving products on eBay in 2001. In 2017, she opened South Surrey Vintage as a Facebook-based business, but switched to Instagram shortly thereafter for its easier-to-use interface and audience reach.

In the shop’s early days, customers were concentrated in the U.S., but as the online vintage-selling community grew in Canada, Shannon saw her local client base expand as well.

Now, she ships worldwide and is a star seller of 1960s-era kitchenware, housewares and collectibles. Shannon posts large weekly product drops, often categorized by colour or theme, for her dedicated following of 4,000-plus on her Instagram page @southsurreyvintage, and hosts shoppers on weekends in an outbuilding on her property in Surrey, B.C.

A collection of blue and white Pyrex and tablewear displayed in a grey hutch with glass shelves.
“My three big things are Pyrex, milk glass and colourful ’60s vintage,” Shannon says. “I love flower power and really big, mod patterns.” Photo: South Surrey Vintage

Shannon says her corner of the market turns to her for her encyclopedic knowledge of Pyrex and milk glass. As a Pyrex specialist, she can identify patterns, historical information and market value.

“People in my community know that they can approach me because I’m interested in sharing my ideas to help others,” she says. “My message is, let’s do this together. And here is everything that I know that I can help you with.”

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Niche within a niche

The wide range of interests among sellers is what helps to keep the online vintage community vibrant, Shannon says.

Whereas her shop caters to an audience that appreciates colourful mid-century housewares, another shop might be popular for 1970s neutral decor or 1980s streetwear. There’s room for everyone, and sellers should carve out their niche within the niche, she says.

“I don’t know anything about vintage clothing and yet it’s a humongous market and there are so many sellers there,” Shannon says. “Younger people are really engaged on social media, they’re doing their own little pop-ups. It’s really exciting, but it’s totally separate from what I’m involved in.”

A pair of indigo jars atop a battered brown box with a latch and a round pomade container.
“To be able to share [information] with someone who’s interested in building their name and a following is an exciting road to be on,” says Shannon. “If somebody gets a piece of Pyrex, they’ll ask me what is it called, when is it from, what’s it worth, if they should sell it on eBay, etc.” Photo: South Surrey Vintage

While she may not be entrenched in every vintage niche, Shannon’s “community over competition” ethos and supportive spirit still applies. She says she’s fascinated by the younger demographic’s rising interest in vintage, especially when it comes to fashion.

“Gen Z is about identity and expression through identity, and the clothing and accessories is such a key part of that,” she says. “I get goosebumps thinking about it, because it’s really this part of them expressing and standing up and saying, we are here and this is what we’re doing. I love that.”

Selling on Instagram

Two of Shannon’s top tips for using Instagram to make sales:

1) Look around.

On Instagram, sellers should “watch and learn,” Shannon advises. “Look at what everyone else is doing and pick up little pieces that you can apply to your own store.”

Dedicate some time every week to reading other sellers’ posts. Note which hashtags they use, how they structure their store policies, what information they include about their items, and what you like about their product photography or video style.

“It’s not copying them, but it’s taking little bits of their flavour and adopting it for your own shop,” says Shannon.

A framed display depicting vintage tin buttons, cards, and toys.
“I collect a specific pattern of vintage Pyrex, tin globes, Marx dollhouses, vintage tins and Fisher-Price people,” says Shannon. Above, a display of vintage tins. Photo: South Surrey Vintage

2) Know what works for your audience.

Products styled in vignettes look good, but they may not be right for your shop.

Shannon normally uses single-product photos — and when she tried introducing styled vignettes with a list of products and their prices in the caption, she saw a drop in conversions. “My customers were used to how I posted before, and I guess the vignettes had too much stuff to look at,” she says. “Stick to your own style.”

The same goes for inventory. As a part-time seller, Shannon says she has the flexibility to sell only what speaks to her.

A few years ago, she noticed how popular wicker and brass had become and added some pieces to her inventory, even though they weren’t in keeping with her usual fare. It wasn’t long before she realized she didn’t love them.

“I can make killer money on it, but it’s totally not me,” she says. “The reason why I’m a vintage seller is because I love specific things. If I had to make money for my livelihood, then I could become a buyer and seller of everything, but being a vintage seller is a super fun hobby for me. So I stay true to what I love.”

More vintage-selling tips

Shannon Ganshorn shares more of her tips for sellers, from shipping and customer service to Instagram basics, in three of our FREE downloadable tip sheets:

How do you encourage #CommunityOverCompetition? Let us know in the comments!

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