Everyone that considers being an antique dealer wants to know how to make money selling antiques. If you asked ten successful antique dealers what was the most important thing to do to make money selling antiques, you might get ten different answers. But I will share a few of the things we learned in owning our own antiques stores for over twenty years.
Make Money Selling Antiques By Buying Correctly
There is a saying in the antique business, “You make money when you buy an antique, not when you sell it.” That seems so simple and obvious, but it causes so many antique dealers to not be successful. A reader just recently asked how can you make money buying from antiques stores and antique malls. I gave her two answers to that question. You need to have many different sources where you find antiques to continually replenish your inventory. I have written several articles on this blog about buying antiques, as well as selling antiques, so I will not repeat them here. But I also told the reader that nearly half of our sales in our store were to the antique trade, which included designers. So you can find “buys” in other antiques stores and malls. This is especially true if you travel around the country.
For example, Dallas is a very European city when it comes to their antiques. But in Alabama where I am living now, American antiques are preferred. So it is much easier to find bargains on English and French antiques here than it is in Dallas. So when you are traveling, look for bargains that you might not find in your city.
The next problem nearly all dealers have is buying things they fall in love with, no matter what the cost. When we fall in love with a piece, we tend to talk ourselves into buying it. If you love it so much, buy it for yourself, but NOT for resale. Some of the dealers in our little all were guilty of this. Because they loved a piece so much, they figured they could sell it, no matter what the price. You have to be realistic and ask yourself. “Will someone be willing to pay this price for this?” That is why in some malls, you will find so many different prices on the same item, dealers paid different amounts. So remember , by learning to buy intelligently, you will definitely sell more.
Also it is important to learn the art of negotiating. Everyone knows that you can haggle when buying antiques. But some of us just aren’t comfortable in trying to get the best price. You can always be polite and ask, “Is this your best dealer price?” If others are around, be sure and do this discretely. I have had dealers shout out across the store with several other people in the store, “What is my price on this?” Even though many customers know that we give better prices to the trade because they will come back often if they like our prices, we don’t want to broadcast it across the store. But back to negotiating, it takes practice to find a way to come back and give a better price. Here is an example of something marked $97. The dealer might say that $90 is the best they can do. My wife was very good at this without making the dealer mad, which is the secret. If she thought she could get it for $75, she would say, “I was thinking more like $60.” She knew they would not do that, but that would many times get the price down close to the $75 she really wanted. Remember you make the money when buying and not selling. So every dollar you save when buying will mean more money in your pocket. This takes practice to do it tactfully without offending the dealer, but this is practice that will pay dividends and might determine whether you are successful.
Make Money Selling Antiques by Knowing Your Market
This might be the most important thing you can do to help you make money selling antiques. This again might seem so obvious, but it is much more difficult than you might think. Now what exactly do you mean by knowing your market. I will give you a real life example of two dealers in our mall. Even though our store was in Dallas and named London Market Antiques, both of these dealers lived in London. We actually had as many dealers living in England as we did in Dallas. However that is another story, but you see where we got our name. Here is a little background on both of these young ladies.
Both of them went to England initially to study antiques. They loved it so much there that they decided to stay. Initially they were both from Texas. I met them when they found out we were shipping containers from England back to Dallas. We took others on buying trips and then they shared our containers coming back from England to our warehouse in Dallas. They both had spaces at another mall in Dallas. When they heard about London Market, they wanted to have a space there.
One of these dealers was very successful and the other was not. The photo abobe is the booth of the very successful dealer. What was the main difference between the two. One of them knew the Dallas market much better than the other one. Both of these ladies were extremely knowledgeable about antiques. And that is another important thing in being a successful antique dealer, keep learning and studying. But one of these ladies figured out what was selling in Dallas and the other one didn’t. Even though their booths were right next to each other and I tried to share with all of the dealers what was selling and what wasn’t. But he one who was not nearly as successful, she still made money, just didn’t understand our market and wasn’t willing to change. But again this is not as easy as you might expect.
It took us nearly two years to figure the market out where London Market was located, in a very upscale part of Dallas. We had previously been located just out side of Dallas where there was a group of about twenty stores within a mile of each other. Even though we had sold to dealers within a block of where London Market would be eventually located. And two of our dealers from the old location also had booths just down the street from London Market and they had shipped with us for years, it still took us a while to learn this new market. We should have learned faster, even with twenty years experience in the antiques business. But again, it is not easy to change what you have been doing.
Turn Inventory Regularly to Make Money Selling Antiques
It is really important to turn you inventory regularly to make money selling antiques. Nothing will hurt sales more than not having fresh inventory. Even if you just take things out of the store for a while and bring new things in. If nothing else just completely rearranging can help. This is recommended even if things are selling well. My wife was always moving things around to keep a fresh look.
Even if you have to hold a big sale and just get your money back, it will allow you to go out and buy new things. And be honest, the shopping is what we all love the most. But I strongly recommend on holding these really big sales once a year. I’m talking 50% off type of sales. It is OK to run smaller sales a few times. But a dealer in the building next to us in Forney created a monster by running 50% off sales too often. It got to the point that customers wouldn’t buy unless they were running a 50% sale.
There is a lot more advice in the other articles on this site on the articles about selling antiques. Hopefully these tips will help you to make money selling antiques.