I'm an antiqude dealer with years of experience in selling from booths in antique malls, and I've worked behind the counter for 12 years.
Tips for a Fun and Profitable Antique Booth
I have had several booths at antique malls over a period of more than twenty-five years, and I have worked on the staff in an indoor flea market for the past twelve years, where I also have a booth of my own. During this time, I have observed several things that the most successful sellers have in common. I would like to pass them along to you here with a few tips of my own for making your booth attractive, fun, and, most of all, profitable.
An Attractive Booth Makes People Want to Buy
One of the most important things to remember is to make your booth inviting and attractive, or better yet, beautiful. Display your items in arrangements or settings that show them to their best advantage, and group items together that have a similar design, material, color, etc., for the most impact. If you have many items that are about the same size and shape, try elevating some of them by placing them on a stack of books, an inverted flowerpot, or a kitchen shelf rack to make them more interesting to look at.
You can place a picture, sheet music cover, or a piece of fabric-covered cardboard behind displays to give them an attractive background. Spend some time looking through books and magazines on interior design to get ideas on how to make attractive and interesting displays. These are wonderful sources of inspiration. Make sure everything is clean before you place it in your booth. A cluttered booth with dusty or dirty items in it does little to appeal to a buyer.
Do not place damaged items in your booth since this quickly gives the impression that everything you are selling is chipped or broken. If you do put something out that is damaged, be honest and say so on the tag. Never try to "cover-up" flaws or damage. Your reputation as an honest vendor is very important if you want returning customers.
Have a Wide Range of Prices
Try to have items with a wide range of prices in your booth. Having only very expensive items turns off shoppers who are looking for something they can buy for a few dollars, and they may come back later for a higher-priced item if they had fun shopping and found something inexpensive to take home.
The things that sell for a few dollars will fill in the gaps between the sales of your high-ticket items, and they add up fast. If you have something that you really don't want to sell, the best thing to do is to leave it at home instead of placing it in your booth with a ridiculously high price tag, or worse yet, with a tag that says "not for sale." This makes your customers angry and may turn them off on your whole booth. Don't price things at garage-sale prices, either. It cheapens your booth to put things out that are priced at fifty cents or anything less than a dollar. They take forever to add up and are a waste of your time to clean and tag them and a waste of the staff's time to ring them up and package them.
Display Quality Items
Try not to have items in your booth that are of inferior quality, unattractive, or just plain junk. If an item is not something you would buy yourself, then in all likelihood, no one else will either. If you have something you don't like, and you just want to get rid of it, donate it to a thrift store or throw it away, but don't put it in your booth. Doing this will lower the appeal of everything else you are selling.
Keep Your Booth Full and Fresh
Keep your booth well-stocked at all times. You should plan on spending at least one or two days every week bringing in new items and re-arranging the merchandise that is already there. One of the things I have noticed that never varies is that vendors who come in and work on their booths most often always do the best with their sales. A booth with the same items in the same places week after week stops drawing shoppers in to look.
They just walk right past it and go to the one that is always changing. Remember, the inventory in your booth must add up to several times the amount of the rent for your space. If your rent is $100 per month, you won't be able to pay it if your booth only has $75 worth of merchandise in it. As a general rule, your inventory should add up to at least four or five times the amount of your monthly rent.
Likable People Sell More
Smile. Be friendly to the staff and to the other vendors. If possible, learn the first names of everyone on the staff and greet them when you come into work on your booth. If you see another vendor working on their booth, introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. Vendors help each other make sales if they are on a friendly basis, and the staff will work harder to sell your items if they like you.
If a member of the staff or another vendor does something extra to help make a sale for you, or gives you special help with something, show your appreciation by bringing a treat for everyone to share or a small gift or thank-you card. This will take little in the way of cost or effort on your part but will go a long way with the person who helped you. Be considerate, and try to remember that the staff is not your enemy. If you have a problem or an issue of some kind, call the manager or owner aside and bring it to their attention discreetly and quietly.
Never make a scene at the counter with customers or other vendors present, and never push in to ask for a price tag, marker, tape, or other items when the staff is busy with customers and sales. If a customer stops by while you are working on your booth, say hello and be pleasant. Don't behave as if they are an annoyance or make them feel they are interrupting your work. If you see them showing interest in one of your items, offer to give them a slight discount on the price, and you will probably make a sale. (If you do this, be sure to let the cashiers know about it before the customer arrives at checkout.)
It Takes Money to Make Money
Selling from a booth in an antique mall can be a lot of fun and also very profitable. However, the sales are always unpredictable, even for the best vendors. You will have some months when your sales are fantastic, but there may be a few others when they are less than you hoped for. If you have a regular job that pays your bills and keeps food on the table, don't quit it and try to live on the sales from your booth just because you had a couple of good months.
You need a dependable income, not only to pay your bills but so that you can keep buying new merchandise for your booth. If your sales drop off for a month or two and you depend on the money for your living, you won't be able to buy new stock, and that will make your sales drop off even more. This can quickly become a vicious cycle that leads to a total collapse of your sales and your booth. The best plan is to use the profits from your booth for extra money, not as your primary income.
Stay Small, Keep It All
Often a vendor who is doing very well with one booth space will feel that they could do even better with two. This is rarely a good idea. When you move up to a larger booth or an additional one, you are doubling the amount of your rent. This means you have to sell twice as much just to start breaking even every month, and it also means you have to find and buy twice as much merchandise and work twice as hard and twice as long to keep your booths maintained and stocked. I have seen many vendors who were selling very well from a single booth take on an extra one or a larger one and end up having to give up both of them because they were unable to keep up with the extra expense and demand on their time.
If you have more stock than you can put in a single booth all at once, try rotating things by taking some home for a while and bringing in new items. This freshens your booth and makes it more interesting, and you can always bring the things back next month that you took out. If you do feel that you must have a second booth, it works better to take a booth in another mall instead of doubling your space in one. That way, you can alternate your merchandise back and forth from one location to the other, and it will keep both booths looking fresh and interesting. Sometimes sales will be better in the first location, and at other times in the second one. This is better than depending on increased sales from a larger space in one location.
If you follow most or all of the suggestions I have made, it should help to increase your sales and make your booth more profitable. Remember, though, that you are doing this to have fun, and try not to take it too seriously. Have fun looking for items to sell, have fun stocking and arranging your booth, and have fun making friends and sharing a few laughs with the staff, the customers, and the other vendors. A light heart, a laugh, and a cheerful smile are the best ingredients of all for success.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Stan Awbrey
New Guestbook Comments
Nanc on December 30, 2019:
Hi great advise thanks, just moving my spot to a better location in the antique mall and your info is gold
Diane on July 13, 2019:
Just started with a small booth and this information is a God send!
Thanks so much!
Tiffany on June 16, 2019:
Thank you so much for this article. It has been a true blessing to come across. Next month I plan to open my first booth and this information will help me greatly.
debra thornton on September 11, 2018:
i'd like to be involved.
Skeptical on August 02, 2018:
SG222 on May 24, 2015:
Ten Questions to ask before you become an antique mall tenant or if you chose the wrong mall, antique mall victim.