Monday, January 25, 2016

Why Does My Antique Booth Suck?

Yep! You read the title correctly. This blog post is all about assessing your booth. Have you found yourself asking:

Is it my merchandise? 
Is it my mall/store location? 
Is it my staging?
Is it my pricing? 

One of the most asked questions we get is: Why am I not making any money? This question is usually followed by: When should I throw in the towel? I shared the first question on our Facebook page earlier this year. Our dealers provided us with some very insightful feedback which I will share below.

But before I get started, I just want to say I have had booths in a smaller boutique - like settings and in big antique malls. There have been times in both situations where I have done great or I didn't make rent at all. During the times I barely covered or didn't make rent, I had a mental checklist I went over in my head. Here are some of the questions I would ask myself:


Is your booth clean? Is it warm and inviting? Is the pathway clear and easily accessible for wheelchairs? I have passed up many booths because there were so many things cluttering the walkway I couldn't maneuver without feeling like I was going to trip over something. Or everything was so jammed together I felt like if I moved the wrong way I would break something. I usually avoid those type booths. 

Some questions to ask yourself concerning inventory are: Do I have desirable merchandise? Do I have a variety? I think the more variety you have to offer the better your sales are going to be. I always try to have furniture, both vintage and painted, as well as smalls. 

If you are uncertain about your inventory you might want to spend some time at your store or booth and see what other dealers are selling. You could also talk to the store manager or owner and seek advice from them. Once you have established you have some good junk then try your best to work your booth at least once or twice a week. I understand not everyone can devote this kind of time to a booth. I know there have been times I could barely work mine twice a month. But I found the more I worked it, the more sales I made.

I always try to take new inventory in once a week. On those occasions I don't have new inventory, I still go in to clean and fluff and check for missing price tags. Little things like this seem to help. But regardless of whether my sales are soaring or plummeting I always rearrange my booth once a month. That way things always look fresh. You might not have anything new, but to the customer, you have a booth full of new things. So shake it up a bit, move things around. If my inventory is still sitting around three months later I usually mark it down or pull it out of the store and bring it back at a later date. 


The first three things to consider when renting a booth are, of course, location, location, location. Hopefully, you have already done your homework before signing the lease. But if you find your sales suffering after a few months you might want to examine the location of your booth within the store. There again, talk to the owner or manager. Sometimes a back room, downstairs or upstairs is not the best place to be. So ask if there is a better location you can move to. 


Displaying merchandise is so important. I can't stress this one enough. I have been doing the antique booth scene for more 20 years. At one time, I had my own store in Blue Ridge, GA. As long as I have been doing this, I still struggle with creative displays. I feel like I have a good eye, but pulling it all together can sometimes be a daunting task. With that said, I have gotten better over the years.  

Set aside some time to walk around different stores and see which booths pull you in. Take mental note or better yet, take a photo and study it. What do you like about it? Ask yourself how you could incorporate those ideas into your space. Do the same with your booth. Take a photo. Sometimes looking at the big picture can help you identify your weak spots. 

If you still find yourself struggling with this, seek out the guidance of a friend. There are people out there who do this for a living. You might want want to hire one or get their advice. 


One of the last questions to ask yourself is: Are my prices reasonable? Walk around your store and look to see what your fellow dealers are selling similar items for. Check around other stores in town. Ask your store owner or manager for advice. You can have the most beautiful booth in the store, but if your prices are too high, then chances are you are shooting yourself in the foot. 

Speaking of prices...Do you have price tags on all your items? This is one of my pet peeves. I seem to have a knack for picking out items with no price tag. I no longer ask how much an item is, I just keep moving. It has to be something I'm really interested in before I take the time to go ask someone. 

So ALWAYS make sure your items have been priced. You don't want to possibly miss a sale for this reason. Sometimes tags fall off or they are removed. So always double check when you can. 

What is even more irritating is picking up an item and the thrift store crayon price is still on the bottom. Ugh!! I raise my hand in shame. I, too have been guilty of this one. 

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. I am certainly no expert in this industry, but the things I have mentioned here have helped me and I hope they can help you as well. I'm going to share some quotes from some of our dealers below. We had a lot of feedback on this topic, so I can't share everyone's comment, but if you scroll down to Jan. 7, 2016 on our FB page you can read what everyone had to say. 

The Vintage Farmstead We are fairly new to the business of antique booth owning. I learned from an auction house that 3 things are important. : Product, Price, and Personality. Another dealer who has been in the Antique Mall that we are in,( who has been there and sustainable for the past 10 years now), said he moves things around once a week to get sales. And I have noticed that when I am working on our booth, adding and re-merchandising, folks walk in to talk with me and have actually taken items right out of my hand to purchase! Items that have been there for 3 months already. Normally I try and walk away from my space if people are coming by to look. I don't want to be in their way or hover. Yet, some shoppers like to chat with me and then end up buying things as we talk! ( the personality part that goes along with it all, I suppose). I do get tired of my things that have been hanging around too long. So I take them out or really rearrange to freshen up. I love doing displays and merchandising and I love to get ideas on decorating from other vendors! And being new to the biz, I work a few days a month for one of the vintage shops that I have another space in. Helps me to meet my rent, get to know who the customers are and to develop relationships with. I really love it all. 

Cindy S Center: I am the manager of a very large antique store ( 22 thousand square feet ) the dealers that don't sell well have high prices.. People don't care what your booth looks like, and the will dig through dealers booths.. I find it is ALWAYS the pricing ..
Just my opinion of course ..

Julianne Blandford: I agree with most of what everyone else has said. Another suggestion - If your shop/ mall allows vendors to work the desk, I would recommend doing it at least once per month. It's a good way to see what customers are buying from other vendors and it gives you a chance to interact with the customers.

Cindy BaileyI have found that location within the mall will help.. But what helps me the most is to have a clean, organized, not too much stuff in the booth, and rotate the inventory. I have never had to pay rent, but if you don't have at least one or two higher priced sales, it is hard to make rent. so I have at least two items with higher prices, then the small stuff I put around those items, or on a shelving unit. If an item does not sell in a month, I lower the price, if not selling in two months, take it out and replace it. then you can put it back in a couple of months later and it will sell.! but I have found also that if I put something of a bright color, usually red, near the back or top - it catches their eye, and then they really start looking.

Beth Nelson: As hard as it is I look at my profits in 3 month blocks to average. I do go in,weekly. To fluff and take in something new even,if it's just one thing.I try to keep just ahead of stores for holidays and including Valentine's day. Our store does an annual Spring fest so I make sure it's done the week before. It's hard to get feedback unless you have a close friend, to see how they're doing month to month. If there's a high turnover with dealers that's a good clue as to how activity has been.

Morgantown Market: First, I suggest a 10% sale to see if its a pricing issue. Then we look at lists of the goods that sold out of the booth in the past, has your focus changed? Third, time for a redo. After all that, we can determine if its the mall/location. Remember the secret of selling from multiple locations is treating each booth like it's your only one. The more time you spend the better your sales.

1 comment:

Cheryl Weltha said...

All great advice! I have a very large booth in Branson, Mo. which keeps me hopping during the tourist season. I sell vintage items only and price them reasonably. I've actually 'hung out' at my booth, or near it, to see how customers interact within it. I hang a lot of things across the rafters for visual interest and I stock 'rare/unusual' type things to draw in customers. Use varying price points for sure. Will share this post, thanks!!