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Show stoppers: 7 tips on engaging market shoppers with His & Her Vintage
Leo Solorsano and Deedee Vo, founders of His & Her Vintage, in their booth. Photo: Cindy Chau/The Welcome Market

Show stoppers: 7 tips on engaging market shoppers with His & Her Vintage


How vintage resellers Deedee Vo and Leo Solorsano create moments of delight for shoppers seeking retro finds

It’s a simple but smart setup in the His & Her Vintage booth at Toronto’s Good Friends Market: a small, 1990s TV hooked up to an old camcorder pointing out into the crowd.

Approach the booth, and your videotape likeness flickers on screen, like an MTV-era mirror. You can’t help but want to take a picture.

It’s an old trade show tool — create an activation that draws customers in — made for a modern audience of social-savvy shoppers who are seeking a memorable moment, in an environment where the inventory itself is usually enough to pull people in (if the audible exclamations of ““that’s so cool” and “I had that growing up!” are anything to go by).

But Deedee Vo & Leo Solorsano, founders of His & Her Vintage, recognize the importance of differentiation, especially in a market environment where they might be surrounded by 40 other vendors selling secondhand stuff.

Leo and Deedee demo their booth activation. Photo: His & Her Vintage

Thinking social first comes naturally: Deedee and Leo are part of the Gen Z cohort of resellers, and while they welcome shoppers of all ages who are interested in their kitschy collectibles, postmodernist decor and pop art, their social media activation resonates with the TikToker and Instagrammer set.

So does their story. The couple have been together for three years and knew each other in high school.

“It’s a vintage love story,” laughs Leo. And it really is: he worked selling vintage streetwear as a teenager. When he started hanging out with Deedee, who is his cousin’s best friend, a few years later, they found a shared love of thrifting.

The pair, who started selling on Instagram during the pandemic and now pop up at markets around the city, are also regulars at The Welcome Market in addition to Good Friends Market.

On Aug. 18-20, they'll be vending at Auntie’s Supply and The Welcome Market’s Asian-Owned Market, which highlights shops run by people in the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community, for the second time this year.

And on Aug. 26-27, His & Her Vintage is hosting the first event of their own: a backyard sale featuring furniture, decor and kitchenware.

Here, Deedee and Leo share their learnings from the past two years of creating moments of delight for their customers.

1. Pivot your inventory based on customer feedback.

The couple started out selling mainly Art Deco before realizing their sweet spot was 1980s and 1990s postmodernism: retro, colourful, chrome, collectible.

They also love to include hits of midcentury modern, especially in their furniture collection, because it pairs well aesthetically with the postmodern picks — and because they both personally love it.

For their market booth, Deedee and Leo often use basic white cubby shelving (think IKEA) as a display wall, featuring alarm clocks with Looney Tunes characters, Pillsbury Doughboy–type ceramic hands, chrome fruit baskets and retro mugs.

The collectibles wall acts as a secondary activation to draw people into the back of the booth once they’ve had their fun with the TV-camcorder setup at the front.

“It's worked out so well for us in terms of our customer interactions and engagement,” says Leo. “The quirkiness that comes with the retro ’80s-’90s look, people love that.”

Deedee, who worked at Winners in her early 20s, says she learned about merchandising from her time in retail. Photo: His & Her Vintage

2. Focus on one selling channel first and build it out.

It’s important to diversify, but getting a good handle on one channel first is a choice move, the couple says.

They dabbled in Instagram selling during the lockdowns because they had no choice (and still sell on the platform) but when they started moving to markets, they committed to making them their primary selling channel.

Now that they’ve grown their market presence enough for Deedee to quit her dental industry job and go full-time, they can concentrate on building up other selling platforms. They plan to eventually launch their own shoppable website.

“It took us a while to get to the setup that we have now,” says Deedee of their market booth. They started out with just a simple table facing the market aisle, but now have a U-shaped booth flanked by shelves on either side and the cubby wall at the back, beckoning shoppers inside.

“People have been saying they love it,” says Deedee.

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3. You will always be improving — it’s not “do it and done.”

Deedee and Leo have an experiential booth now, but they didn’t start that way. They were a full year into selling and had participated in about five markets before setting up any customer activations.

They also didn’t have much of a brand when they first started out. “We never really thought about it at first, but now looking into all the Instagram stuff, I feel like it's very important,” Deedee says.

They worked with a graphic designer–friend to develop the ampersand that anchors their current branding, then ordered stickers featuring the stylized “&”, which are a hit with their customers.

Having an identifiable “look” to their business makes their social media page more cohesive and Instagram-friendly, Deedee says.

Branding wasn't something the pair tackled right away, but once they did, they realized how much it can help build customer relationships, they say. Photo: His & Her Vintage

4. Find ways to engage people.

The TV-camcorder setup was not the first idea His & Her Vintage thought of to bring people in — it started off much smaller.

Deedee noticed that with the Y2K trend in full swing, small purses were being snapped up at markets.

Even though Deedee and Leo sell home decor and don’t currently plan to branch out deeply into fashion and accessories, they created a coat rack–style tree filled with Y2K-era baguette and shoulder bags at the very front of their booth to catch attention.

Passersby drawn to the small bags and their affordable price point inevitably make their way further into the booth.  

Then they brought in the stickers, which result in a moment of delight for the customer and usually engagement in the form of relationship-building.

It was only then that Leo, who works in the TV industry in his day job, had the idea for the analog-but-digital TV selfie station. Whenever they have a 10x10-foot booth, they set up a chair and a lamp beside the TV, like a little living room nook.

“Before, our setup had always been a little shelf and then us sitting behind a table. It wasn’t very engaging,” says Leo.

Once they got rid of the table and turned it into a walk-in booth with racks at the front and the TV, “that completely changed everything for us,” he says. “Our booth was so much busier. The first market we set up the TV, we had a lineup of people to take a selfie with it.”

Nothing like a little brand awareness.

"Load out is the toughest part of doing markets," says Leo of the physical labour required to move inventory in and out of pop-up spaces. "No one really warns you about it!" Photo: His & Her Vintage

5. Keep experimenting.

Deedee and Leo are not one-and-done with the TV. Deedee’s next idea for a selfie station is to construct a wall entirely of thrifted mirrors in all different shapes, sizes and colours.

They ran a test mirror wall at one market, creating an area at the back of their booth using mirrors and clocks, and it worked.

People stopped to take photos, had to walk all the way into the booth, and in turn browsed the inventory.

Now that they’re established at markets, the couple are looking to experiment more on Instagram and explore merchandise beyond the stickers, such as shirts, socks, stickers and tote bags.

“We just want to start somewhere small and see if that can grow and if people like it,” says Leo.

Deedee and Leo use Y2K bags and small accessories to draw shoppers into their booth. Photo: His & Her Vintage

6. Being memorable means bringing customers back.

Leo was the one who’d suggested the couple start a business to sell some of the secondhand finds they’d been collecting. They intended to just to try it out and see how it went.

That kept their expectations low. When they first started selling in person, Deedee and Leo didn’t think people were paying much attention, or that they ever might have a repeat customer.

But they’ve learned that potential customers are always watching.

“People would come to a market and say, “We saw you’d be here on Instagram. And I thought I'd come out and say hi,” Deedee says.

“That actually touched us — that there is somebody that's watching our Stories and actually coming out to support us.”

Because of the logistics required to bring furniture to shows, Deedee and Leo don't bring it to most markets. They are, however, holding a summer sale to move larger pieces. Photo: His & Her Vintage

7. Don’t give up. Keep the ideas cooking.

Due to changes in the algorithm and user intent on Instagram, social media sales, once popular during the height of the pandemic, are down across the board for many sellers. But that doesn’t mean Deedee and Leo are giving up on engagement.

They’re posting more frequently in an effort to reach the people who do want to hear from them, ramping up their market presence, looking at online marketplaces and their own website, and exploring workshops for customers as a way to interact in a more hands-on environment.

No matter what they get up to next, Deedee and Leo say they’ll be involving their clients every step of the way.

“We thought, hopefully some people will come by and find something they like,” Leo says. “Being able to build all this engagement and see an actual response from it — it just really hits our hearts in a certain way.

“I don’t know if I can describe it fully to be honest, but it’s an awesome feeling.”

Follow His & Her Vintage on Instagram @hisandhervintage_

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