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From surviving to thriving: Vintage Cash Cow reinvents itself and unlocks recycling potential to help people cash in while clearing out


Jan 5, 2019 #Business

Vintage Cash Cow, the UK’s first one platform to make selling people’s old and vintage items fast, fair and simple through a free-to-use postal service, has just hit the 40k customers milestone in less than five years on the market. The Leeds-based business grew its customer base by 13% in the past quarter alone and has an annual turnover of £4.5 million, despite initially experiencing setbacks as a result of the pandemic.

Since its launch in February 2016, the company has assisted people in generating an extra income online while decluttering their houses and concentrating its efforts on recycling, upcycling and rehoming their unused products. The consumer-facing process entails people sending a box of items via post, receiving a valuation, and having a cash offer be made to them – which one can accept and receive via same day bank transfers or cheque in the post, or reject and have the belongings returned.

The most popular vintage items sold through Vintage Cash Cow include jewellery, precious metals, silver and silver plates, watches, medals, militaria, toys, cameras, old currency, and more. It bought over 58,000 boxes from the public, consisting of over 50 tonne of old coins, over 30 tonne of non-precious scrap metal, over 5 tonne of costume jewellery, over 70,000 watches and over 9,000 cameras. It currently sells more than 8,000 lots of items each month –  containing both individual pieces and bulk groups – across multiple auction houses and online marketplaces.

At the beginning of the pandemic the company was close to losing everything, with monthly boxes dropping by 70% and staying at that level from April to June. After having to furlough 25 of 32 staff members, Vintage Cash Cow took the opportunity to critically rethink and restructure the operation. It improved its website experience, upgraded the customer relationship management system and developed a better strategy for its paid advertising. The team were also able to use the forced slow down to strike up partnerships with auction houses and begin selling through their own ecommerce store exclusively in China.

As a result, it managed to thrive after lockdown 1.0 and got 24 of the 25 staff back at work, and since then grew the team from 32 to 52. The company also has five placements active with the government’s Kickstart Scheme and hopes to offer at least 10 people currently out of work a new job at the start of 2021.

The lessons learnt in the first lockdown enabled the business to keep trading and exceed expectations throughout November. For example, from having to wait 12 weeks for boxes from 20% new users, Vintage Cash Cow can now buy a box from 30% new users within six weeks. And it has no plans to slow down. The brand now predicts a turnover of around £15-20 million in 2021, aiming to grow its team to 100 people and buy in excess of 5,000 boxes per month before the end of next year.

The Leeds-based start-up, backed by Dutch investors including Laurens Groenendijk, founder of JustEat and Treatwell, Bas Beerens of WeTransfer and Daan Donders of So Connect, was co-founded by antique trader Antony Charman and marketing specialist David Weaver.

Antony Charman had been travelling up and down the country running popular stalls at antique shows and running his own “roadshow” events, but knew he could have a larger impact if the business would be marketed online. This is how the two began disrupting the traditional antique and vintage market and sites such as eBay and Gumtree, where people need to sell their items one by one by taking photos, writing descriptions, dealing with questions and non paying buyers, all of which can make for a slow and cumbersome process.

Antony Charman, Vintage Cash Cow co-founder, says, “This year has been a rollercoaster ride for us and we’re extremely grateful to end it on a high note. The improvements put in place have allowed us to help more people than ever before, bringing space, calm and extra income to our customers, who are now even more interested in exploring the option of making money online in a hassle-free way, with no hidden costs and fees. The majority of people don’t even realise the value of the items they might have inherited, purchased or received in the past and are currently not using, but our experts can appraise them fairly and put them to good use.”

David Weaver, co-founder, adds, “The pandemic challenged us to turn our customer journey into a far better experience to deliver significant growth – something we hadn’t had an opportunity to do before. Reaching more customers means more people will get cash for their valuable clutter, bringing us closer to our goal of recycling the world. This way, we can contribute to encouraging second-hand consumption as a lifestyle choice and continue lowering CO2 emissions every month.”

Vintage Cash Cow has a 10,000+m2 facility in the heart of the city with 52 employees, including a team of experts in all things vintage to assess the products that arrive. Part of the family is also David Hakeney, previously an antique dealer expert on Dickinson’s Real Deal TV show, who has an experience of over 50 years.

Another important division of the business are the charity partnerships (with over 1,700 shops to date), to which the company offers the opportunity to trade unsold and non-saleable donations. For example, the Vintage Cash Cow team learned that shop owners typically sell their copper, pewter, silver plate and other items for as little as 5p a kilo, with many preferring to give them away at no cost just to free up space. The Vintage Cash Cow Charity team now provide a £1 per kilo minimum for all non-precious scrap metals.

Vintage Cash Cow currently operates in the UK, but is working towards expanding to the US, with the .com website now live and generating a waiting list. The company already has over 15,000 US visitors to its .co.uk site each month, so it’s confident it can build a waiting list of over 50,000 before the end of 2021.