10 tips for the first time antique mall seller

I’ve been selling in a local antique mall for a couple years now and have learned a few lessons so I figure I’ll make a quick list in the hopes that it might help someone in the same spot I was 3 years ago. These are in no particular order.

  1. Lighting
    • I’ve seen it time and time again people walk right past dimly lit booths, it’s uninviting and hard on the eyes
  2. Shelving
    • The plain fact is that the more you have in your booth the more you will sell. The boxes in your basement, garage or worse a paid storage space aren’t making you money. Put in a ton of shelving first thing because it’s a real pain to work around your products and put them in later.
      BONUS TIP: many cities have a used building supplies store and mine always has tons of wood shelving for way less than a hardware store.
  3. Access
    • Yes, the more you can stuff in your booth the more you’ll sell BUT people have to be able to get to the things they’re interested. Dangling chandeliers, large awkward items at the front of your booth will keep people from entering “the buying zone”. I’ve had weeks where I review my sales online and can just tell something isn’t right and then when I get to the mall I find someone has moved a piece of luggage and it obstructs people from taking that one step inside the booth. That’s all it takes.
  4. It’s not a show room
    • Keep it tidy, sure but people who are looking for art don’t need every piece displayed on the wall, you can put 20 framed pieces in a box and the people who are looking for art will flip through them all and you still have. Don’t be afraid of making junk piles. Stacks of merch/junk piles are a sign of a successful booth, seriously.
  5. Smalls will make or break you
    • This might be a bit rent dependent or even location dependent but if your banking on the sale of that one big item your going to be in for a rough time. I’d rather spend $100 on a hundred $1 items that I can sell for $4 each than $100 on one item I can sell for $400 because in my experience the amount of people who walk into a antique mall ready to spend $10-$50 are far far faaaar more common than those looking to spend over $100. You’ll make money faster with the hundred $1 items.
  6. Be there
    • Customers will completely re-arrange your boothI go to my booth once a week, every week. I go on friday during the day because the majority of sales are on the weekend so I want it to be in the best shape it can be for the weekend. When you go isn’t that important, that you go is. I’ve seen other vendors from far out of town who try to come once a month and after a couple weeks their booths look pretty rough and I’m sure are making them less money.
  7. Look at the veterans
    • I’ve seen beautiful booths decked out in barn board or chalk painted everything, people have told me they really like the look of that booth and wish there were more like that. Don’t confuse a nice looking booth with a successful booth. The best way to get idea’s for ways to improve is to look at what the people who have been doing it forever are doing. I’m not saying you need to befriend people and ask advice on your first day selling in a mall. Walk through the mall look at the booths if you see a dealer tag in more than one space it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ve been selling antiques in a antique mall long enough and well enough to expand…when in doubt do what they do.
  8. Know your break even
    • This is a bit business school-y, sorry. You need to have a really good idea of how much you need to sell to cover your booth rent and the cost of your inventory.
    • Ready for some math?! The way I do it is a little rough but it works for me, whenever I buy something I know what multiple  I’ll price it at (so twice or three times or ten times, whatever) and so I know more or less what my average multiple is, lets say for example it’s 3X, for the example we’ll say rent is $200. So in this example we know that on average 2/3 of every sale is profit so the simple formula would be:
      BOOTH RENT = (PROFIT FRACTION x SALES)
      and so we’re solving for sales
      ($200) = ( [2/3] x SALES )
      SALES = $200 / (2/3)
      SALES = $300
      So there you go, you need to sell $300 worth of stuff before you start making any take home pay.
  9. Have a pricing plan
    • There’s no right or wrong plan here, just have one as it will make picking a price a lot less agonizing. Do you want to price things to move and make a lot of sales or do you want to price things at their top end and get fewer sales but for more profit on average.
  10. Tagging and displaying to sell
    • The harder it is for a customer to see a price the slower it will sell, that means putting tags in logical places, putting prices on both sides of paper tags.
    • Do you REALLY need a display case? Display cases are a hassle and hassles cost you sales. I have vintage zippo and other small pocketable lighters loose in my booth and haven’t had one stolen yet, I’m sure it will happen some day but the increase in sales is by far worth the loss of a stolen item here and there in my opinion, if I had a $100 lighter yes a display case makes sense. If it’s not super valuable or super breakable don’t bother with a display case.

Grinds my Gears: Reasonable Offers

I am still at it and have a bit of a blog jam of posts to get up here. But first I’d like to complain about people.

You know what really grinds my gears?

When people ask for offers on things they’re selling and then act aghast when the offer isn’t to their satisfaction. Even worse is the combo “reasonable offers”. It’s the online equivalent of a garage sale with no prices and then you ask about something and it’s not a garage sale price at all. Ugh just put a price on it, even a price +20-30% and or best offer.

Personally I just pick a price I’m comfortable with and then as time goes by I may drop it a bit. I never put “or best offer” because I don’t want offers I want my price or as close to it as I can get if someone wants to make an offer they’re going to be more hesitant/realistic if it’s not something that’s listed as accepting offers.

I also had a ebay seller who had a $20 listing that allowed making offers who came back at my offer of $17 with a price of $19.95…why on earth would you have the option of making offers if you clearly don’t want them?

In The Tool Box: Bar Keepers Friend

I recently picked up a stainless steel Ever New camp cook set at a garage sale for $3 while I was on vacation. They’re in great shape save for the largest pot having a ton of scorching and burnt on splotches.

Seems like a good opportunity to show the effects of Bar Keepers Friend.

Here’s the before shot:

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And here’s the after with about five minutes of elbow grease.

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I just wet the sponge a bit, sprinkle some of the bar keepers friend and scrub the pot for 30 seconds and then rinse the area and repeat.

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This size of shaker can was $2 at Canadian tire, I’m super happy with it.