Should you open an antique mall booth? The answer to that question will vary according to who you ask. Folks who have opened a booth and failed will, of course, tell you “no”. Many antique dealers will tell you “no” as well, citing the fact that their sales are getting lower every year. Operators who run successful booths will always encourage you to open one, because they realize that, in the antiques business, customers are attracted to the varied inventories of multi-dealer malls. Rather than competition, more dealers grouped together means more sales for all.
I subscribe to weekly auction sales results from all over the country. Auction sales are setting records; average prices have never been higher if you are offering the right kind of merchandise.
I also visit antique mall booths, shops, and shows regularly, and speak with dealers often. What is true for auctions has proven true for antique shops as well: Dealers who offer collectible and noteworthy merchandise are making sales; dealers who offer vintage but nondescript, easily obtainable merchandise are struggling.
Old-time, well-established dealers are stuck in a rut. They don’t have websites, they don’t advertise, they don’t participate in social media. Their stores are a theme-less cornucopia of poorly displayed, poorly lit merchandise. Back in the 1980s, all they had to do to run a successful antique business was rent space, fill it with products, and wait for the customers to come in and spend money. They haven’t kept up with the times, and all they do about it is whine. Today, running a successful antique business takes a bit more work.
Operating an antique mall booth
How can you determine what merchandise is selling, and what you should stock? Easy. Follow the sales trends on eBay and furnishing/fashion trends online and in magazines.
How should you set up your antique mall booth displays? Here’s Gary Stover’s take on what a good booth looks like. Gary is the owner of The Brass Armadillo antique mall in Denver, CO. He’s right on the money here, so (if you’re seriously considering opening a booth) it’s worth 30 minutes of your time to give it a listen.
But, having a successful booth is more than merchandising and inventory: you have to manage your money well or you’ll find yourself out of business within the first year. Remember: most companies that go out of business are profitable, they just run out of cash. Don’t let that happen to you. It’s imperative that you understand the relationship between your money, your inventory, and your expenses before you even consider signing a booth lease.
To get a handle on financial matters, have a look at my best-selling Kindle book “Antique Mall Profits for Dealers and Dabblers”. You can get a free Kindle reader for PCs and mobile devices at Amazon. Frankly, new dealers can’t afford to be without it.
This book is designed with one purpose in mind: to help antique dealers make the connection between their inventory and their money. Inventory – buying it, pricing it, displaying it, and selling it – is at the core of a dealers “business puzzle”. Dealers who fail to grasp inventory essentials will struggle and risk failure, and it won’t be because they can’t make a profit. Forty percent of all small businesses that declare bankruptcy are profitable; they just run out of cash.
In Antique Mall Profits, I’ll point out a few of the common traps that startup retailers – and some old-timers – fall into. Once you know what the traps look like, you’ll be able to avoid them. If you already find yourself in a financial tight spot, you’ll learn a few tactics that will put you back on solid ground. Here’s a small sample of what you’ll learn in this book:
- How to make money with an antique mall booth
- How to make your booth stand out from the competition
- Eight tactics that will turn your booth into a selling powerhouse
- Five tips for buying right: practice these techniques and you’ll seldom overpay for inventory
- A simple formula for knowing how much inventory you’ll need. Never be stuck with dead inventory again!
- How much you’ll have to charge to make a profit
- Ten pricing tactics that will keep your inventory moving
- Five strategies to sell more without taking markdowns
- When – and how much – to take markdowns; timing is everything
This book presupposes that you already know something about antiques. I don’t tell you which items you should stock or what items are hot-sellers; all that information is available elsewhere. My purpose is to present the basics of running a profitable mall booth. Although my focus is Antique Mall dealers, the principles apply to retail stores of any type or size.
Should you open a mall booth? Only you can answer that question. But before you do, do some research and make sure you know what’s involved. Done right, you can set yourself up with a nice, steady second (or primary!) income for the rest of your life.
Best of luck…