Buying and Selling Antiques| Antique Dealer with 25 years experience reveals insider secrets of buying and selling antiques and collectibles

Selling Antiques Successfully In an Antique Mall II

 As you can see this is the second part in this series of selling antiques successfully in an antique mall. We left off in the last article trying to decide which antique mall you should choose for your first booth, even if you have to drive some distance to find it. There are advantages in being in a large antique mall and also advantages for being in a small one. Traffic and sales are obviously the most important factors. But you want the average sales per booth or square foot, not total sales. Small antique malls will sometimes give better customer service than large malls. This depends on a lot of factors. You want to feel comfortable with the people running and working in the mall. If you don’t like going there because it is not a comfortable environment, your chances of being successful in that antique mall are diminished. The days of setting up your booth and forgetting it are over. You need to visit it regularly, at least twice a month. It needs to be dusted and things moved around. If people come in regularly and see everything the same, they will stop shopping your booth. And people definitely have favorite booths, The cost of renting a booth is relative to your sales. Booth rent may be cheap because sales are low. My last store was 2,800 square feet and it cost more per month than the 10,000 square feet store where I was before.

Your booth location in an antique mall DOES make a difference. You might think most shoppers are going to look at all the booths. They may look at all of them, but they usually pay more attention to certain booths based on a few different things. Traffic patterns of shoppers are very important. The closer you can be to where shoppers go first, the better the location. So watch where shoppers go when they come into the mall. Generally large booths draw more attention than smaller ones. Things just display better in larger booths, especially if you are trying to sell antique furniture. Too many people think, I will start small and then get a larger booth when I start doing well. It is hard to be successful in a 10 feet by 10 feet space, and nearly impossible with furniture. Try to get a 10 X 15 or larger space. Resist the temptation of cramming you booth with too much stuff. It needs to be displayed neatly and kept tidy. You want it to be inviting.

Be sure and place like items together. When we fist started trying to sell antique ink well sets, we had no luck. But when we had about six or seven sets, we started selling them regularly. It helps to have several similar items. Shoppers will not overlook them with all of the things to see in an antique mall. Secondly, it gives you the look of an authority or specialist if you have ten different Staffordshire figures, rather than just one or two.

What do you think is the single most important thing you can do to attract attention to your booth? Add more lighting to your booth. Unfortunately, in this tough economy, some malls are limiting the amount of lamps you can have, even giving total watts per booth. But with the low wattage, long life new bulbs, you can make it go farther. But the more lamps and chandeliers you have, the more shoppers will be drawn to your booth. Some malls have track lighting and this helps also. But the soft indirect light of lamps works best. So always be on the lookout for good lighting to resell. Be original and look at things that can be made into lamps. Different architectural elements make excellent and unusual lamps. Check me out on this. Just walk around a few malls and see if the booths with the most lighting don’t draw your attention. A store down the street from ours became know for their lamps and they started at about $395. But they were all custom made and most were unique and had very nice shades.

Have someone look at you booth space and make recommendations. Tell them to be brutally honest. The manager of the mall would be a good person. Some antique dealers complain about their sales and all you have to do is look at their booth. I constantly ask the manager what is selling. We always told our dealers what was selling and what people wanted because we wanted them to be successful. You have to be ready to change with the times. Because dark Victorian antique furniture sold two years ago doesn’t mean it will sell now, even if you still love it. Keep up with new trends by going to markets and reading the trade magazines. Attend antique shows and see what booths are full of shoppers and which ones are drawing little or no interest. If you want to sell only what you want to sell, make it a hobby. If you want to be a successful antique dealer, treat it like a business.

Pricing your items is one of the most difficult decisions to make. When we semi retired and sold much of our inventory to move to a different part of the country, we had a dealer only sale for 50% off. It was amazing how much we sold in four hours, and we still had so much left, you really couldn’t tell we sold that much. Most malls will have at least a couple of sales a year. It is important to turn your inventory and get new things. And buying and shopping for antiques is what we enjoy the most. So getting rid of old inventory, even at cost and investing in new inventory will keep your booths looking fresh with new inventory. I have had many discussions with friends about how to price things, and there does not seem to be a “right” way. I will just say, you have to sell in order to stay in business. We will be discussing other ways to sell antiques successfully besides a mall, but pricing is important where ever you sell. If I need to give a rule of thumb, price the more unusual things higher and the more usual things very competitively. Nearly 50% of our sales were to the antiques trade, designers and other antique dealers. This can be a large source for sales, but you have to have what they are seeking and at the right price.

It sometimes helps to have a space in more than one mall. One mall might have your better things. The other one might have things that are not quite as nice and where you want to mark things down to move them. It also allows you to trade merchandise out between the two booths. Even two booths in the same mall can accomplish the same results. Sometimes it is just not a good fit, between you and that particular antique mall. Or it might start out a good fit, but is no longer that. It is a pain to move, but you need to be able to admit when it is not working.

The antiques business can be a fun and rewarding one. Some of my best friends have come from people I have met in the antique business. Hopefully some of the tips I have given in these two articles will help you sell antiques successfully in an antique mall.



16 Responses to “Selling Antiques Successfully In an Antique Mall II”

  1. Chuck says:

    Glad you enjoyed the articles. Where do you live, maybe I can make some suggestions to help you sell your things.

    • Barbara says:

      hi I live in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and I am thinking of renting a case in a antique store that is inside a regular mall. They charge 100 dollars a month and 10% of your profit
      Do you think this is reasonable?

      • carolyn says:

        i have a 12 X 12 booth in Lincoln,ne. 120 a month and 10% commission. its reasonable as long as items are priced low enough to sell so you begin to pay for your booth AND make some profit. for me its definitely a sideline, not anything that would be considered a bill paying job.

    • Charles Taylor says:

      I enjoyed .reading your articles. I in Memphis Tn

  2. Kai says:

    Hi -

    I live in Las Vegas, NV (actually Henderson area) and am thinking of selling antiques in a local antiques mall. I have some of my own mostly glass and china ware but was wondering what you thought would sell well in this part of the world.

    • Chuck says:

      Hi Kai,
      As I have mentioned in a few of the articles, what sells in one part of the country, does not necessarily in other parts of the country. I spent most of my life in dallas and recently moved to Alabama. My suggestion is to visit several of the malls in the area and try to talk to as many dealers as possible. If the mall manager will give honest opinions and not try to just sell you on the mall, they are a good source of information. When we had our small mall we would discourage dealers who we didn’t think would be successsful because we didn’t want unhappy dealers.
      But to be successful as a mall dealer, you will have to be able to change. We learned that just because we liked something didn’t mean customers would also. Also check out how your things might sell online. I have a few articles about selling online. Just do as much research as you can. Good Luck!

  3. Doug says:

    Your article makes alot of sense.
    I sold at one antique mall on the south side of Houston for a year and it was slow for most people. Left there a year ago.
    One week ago I Joined a different antique mall in Pasadena, texas. Wanted to start selling again and thought a different location might help.
    Packed it in with 100 items in a small space. Mostly pottery and glass. Van Briggle, McCoy, etc. 1 piece furniture.
    My biggest problem is pricing and keeping up with the trends.
    What I am going to change this time around is:
    1. Talk to store owners about what sells best.
    2. Keeping up with the trends
    3. Better pricing.
    This is my hobby but would like to take it to the next level.
    Any ideas would be appreciated

    Again, great article.

    • Chuck says:

      Hi Doug,
      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you were able to take some things from the article. One thing you might consider, I know Houston (like Dallas) is a very European town, not sure about Pasadena. The pottery you mentioned is all American makers, as you well know. That doesn’t mean it will not sell there, but try to find out if there is a market for it. If not, there is always the internet.
      Now that we have moved to northern Alabama from Dallas, the American pottery and glass is very popular here. I am having to relearn the American antiques and collectibles market, because we specialized in English.Different parts of the country like different things. I still sell some English here, but not near the way I did in Dallas. But when I find English here, it is usually much cheaper than around Dllas, supply and demand.
      Comeback and comment and let us know how you are doing.
      Best Wishes!

  4. TM says:

    I started with furniture in a 10×4 space and I have done extremely well. I’m still in my smaller space, and sales continue to go up as I continue to get a better understanding of my market and items I can display other than furniture.

    I would encourage others reading this, and any online advice, to take it all with a grain of salt and try what you can and see if it works. There’s no harm in trying, no shame in small failures, but there can be harm in not trying because you are discouraged.

    Take heart and have faith in your desire to do well. Those will take you far!


    • Chuck says:

      Nothing is set in stone. The information I provided was based on my 25+ years of being and antique mall dealer as well as owner. What I suggested about the size of a booth will give you the best chance of success. I am happy for you that you have been successful with that size of space. But that is not rue for most people. But as you said, if you want to try something different, it is your money and time to do with as you want. My question would be, “How much better could you do with a larger space?” I chose to pay it forward for all of the help I received through the years from others and wanted to do the same. So please feel free to take my advice or ignore it. I only hope to help you be more successful.

  5. Jan says:

    I am in the process of reading several articles and just had to stop and say “thank you” for taking the time to do this one. I started out in a small mall many years ago and was fortunate to create friends in the business with great ideas for advancement and improvement. As we lived close to Canton Texas, I did several years at the Canton Flea Market. Eventually I got back into another mall and did some managing as well, which was very rewarding. I am now moved to south Louisiana and have recently gotten a space in a local fairly large antique mall. It’s a small room, approx 8×8, with a niche area just outside the door, and will do until a larger room becomes available. Super excited to get back into the business after a years absence. It’s good after all these years to read these articles and refresh my own thinking about what makes sense. Thank you again. Jan ~~ The Bayou Country Antiques and Collectibles

  6. Jan says:

    Sorry… I meant to ask, if you think having a webpage, outside of the Facebook one, is necessary or even a good thing. And, if so, why. Thanks again.

    • Chuck says:

      Jan, I think it is important to have both. When people are searching in Google to find antiques in your area, you want them to be able to find your store. A well optimized web site that will rank well in Google will do that for you. Also having the listing in Google Places will help. The more ways people can find you, the better. A site is a way to attract new customers, while the Facebook page is a great way to keep them by showing new inventory, announcing sales and just staying engaged with your customers. But you have to get your customers to like your page to make it effective.

      • Chuck says:

        Jan, it’s a small world. I don’t know if you read my post on Canton. We set up there for many, many years. We were one of the original dealers in the antique pavilion right in front of the salad bar. That was before the Arbors and all of construction of so many different pavilions. We set up on the grounds before that. We had stores in Sunnyvale and had one of the many antique stores on HWY 80 in Forney for over 10 years before moving to Dallas.

  7. I own a antique/vintage stire in the heart of historic Downtown Upland,foot traffic is good,but comperitiin is fierce,since there ar quite a few antiques stores ariubf here,but my store carries a little bit of everything,but my best seller is vintage costume jewelry anf furniture,is a lot of hard work because I Don’t have any employees,we put in long hours but id a lot of fun and very rewarding,I was in a space at a mall before but my sales would nust barely cover my rent,then I moved to a different mall and sometimes I would make a little extra,I wish I had come across your article earlier!

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