Millennials aren't buying fine china — and they don't want to inherit it, either

We all remember those family dinners growing up, the ones important enough that your parents or grandparents brought out the good china.

Set of Royal Crown Derby would have retailed for over $500 in its heyday but now you'd be lucky to get $75

Fine china was once a staple in most homes, but interest is waning among the millennial generation. (Shannon Scott/CBC)

We all remember those family dinners growing up, the ones important enough that your parents or grandparents brought out the good china.

But those days appear to be waning.

As the Calgary Eyeopener's Paul Karchut found out this week, young people just aren't buying china the way they used to.

And many aren't interested in inheriting their parents' stuff, either.

"There's still a demand for it, but it's not to the same level it once was, where every young girl at the age of 13 chose her china pattern and got a piece for every special occasion until she got married, and by then she had a complete set of dinnerware," said Jannie Stoodley, an appraiser with Brian Lehman Evaluations at a recent estate sale in Calgary.

"But unfortunately, the world has become more casual."

The Eyeopener's Paul Karchut wonders why young people aren't buying fine china anymore. 8:15

Stoodley knows a few things about porcelain, having previously sold Royal Doulton china in Calgary for 28 years.

Over that time, though, she saw big changes in the industry.

"When I started … there were six stores in the city [and] there was a number of other china stores," she said.

"And now, currently there are zero."

Jannie Stoodley, an appraiser with Brian Lehman Evaluations in Calgary, says she has seen a decrease in the popularity of fine china in recent years. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

In its heyday, Stoodley says, a set of Royal Crown Derby — which is famously beautiful china — would have retailed for more than $500. But now you'd be lucky to get $75 for it.

And even when the family china does get inherited, it often winds up sitting in a box in a basement corner rather than being used, or even displayed.

Shelly Sochr-Joyce has five boxes of china at her townhouse in Bowness, along with a box of crystal glassware, which was bequeathed by her husband's great uncle.

Shelly Sochr-Joyce has five boxes of china at her townhouse in Bowness, along with a box of crystal glassware, which was bequeathed by her husband’s great uncle. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

"I would like it gone, just because it's taking so much space," she said with a laugh.

"In theory, I wish I actually liked the pattern. I like the idea of using these old dishes as everyday dishes instead of saving them for special occasions, but it's just not practical.

"Even the dinner plates are huge. I don't even know if they would fit in our dishwasher. And the bowls are beautiful, but they're small and they all have really ornate handles. You couldn't stack them in the cupboards to store them, you'd need a huge china cabinet."

Karchut's mom, Evol Karchut, is in the process of downsizing and wondering what to do with her large collection of crystal and china dishes.

While Paul plans to eventually take some of that collection, his mom has a theory as to why many young people aren't keen to do the same — and it boils down to time, space and priorities.

"I've always said that things changed because of the cost of housing," she said. "That's where the time comes in. It's two income families and you've got child care and commuting."

Marina Cooke, who runs A Little Forked Up in Bragg Creek, turns silverware and china into jewellery. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

Some fine china and flatware will see new life, thanks to people like Marina Cooke, who runs A Little Forked Up in Bragg Creek, turning silverware and china into things like jewellery, coat racks and pens.

"Everybody's got it and they don't know what to do with it," she said. "So I would say, get a hold of me, I'm interested. Then they're happy it's being used for something and they don't have to feel the guilt.

"They're not going to use it but they know it was turned into something people are going to wear and cherish and it's a happy ending."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener