Considering opening an antique mall? Here is a brief guide on How to Start an Antique Mall based on our 25+years of being antique mall dealers and antique mall owners.
A recent reader of this site emailed me and asked about a building they found and wondered if it could possible be a successful antique mall. I thought others might have the same question, so I thought I would give a more complete answer here. Before I forget, all of the photos are my own of different booths in antique malls.
There are a ton of factors that will determine whether an antique mall will be successful or not. The old adage in real estate is important in the antique business now also. Location, location, location is now more important than ever. Gone are the days where people will drive 5 miles out of the way to find an antique store or mall. It needs to be convenient and easy to find.
The building the man found was 10,000 square feet. Size is important for several different reasons. It needs to be large enough that you can have enough space for booths that will give you the potential to generate the necessary income to cover all of your expenses and the amount of profit you need.
The larger the mall is, the more employees you will need, which will of course add to the overhead. Unless it is real small, you need to have two people most of the time, although we got by with one sometimes. If you are helping someone you want to make sure the cash is safe and another customer will not walk off with something. I may not talk about security later, but it a very important consideration. Make sure to have all dealers write a description to help prevent ticket switching.
There are several things you need to do before you even consider a location. Check other malls in the vicinity to see how much they are charging per square foot for booth rent. Also are they full or do they have empty booths. You may have to ask are there booths available because many malls fill up empty booths to make the mall look full. Also talk to dealers in the area to see if there is enough demand to make another mall viable. This is easier said than done. But it helps to have several dealers committed before you make a commitment on a building. The larger the building, the more difficult it will be to fill it up with dealers. Empty booths will not generate any income unless you have your own merchandise to fill these until you can rent them.
I need to add an insight from our own experience here. We wanted to have a large portion of our mall to be our own merchandise, which turned out to be a mistake when the economy went in the tank in 2008. If I had more spaces rented, it would have been income during the slow economy. By 2009 most antique businesses had lost about 50% of their income through sales. Of course many dealers either pulled out of malls or cut down the size of their spaces, so you have to always remember there will be turnover. But the better the mall, the lower the turnover, however there will always be turnover. Screening new dealers will help, but it takes a while to figure this out.
You need to have knowledge of the antique business. I know you think that might be a silly statement, but some people just think having an antique business will be fun (and it should be). People will ask all sorts of questions and the more knowledge you have the more helpful you can be. Many customers think if say you don’t know, you are really hiding something until they get to know you. You want your customers to become friends. Normally there re other places they can shop, and if the consider you a friend they will be much more likely to be regular returning customers.
While talking about your own merchandise, you have the right to put your merchandise anywhere. But you will create goodwill with the dealers if you don’t take the prime locations, or at least most of them. There are so many different variables to consider. I’m sure I will forget some of them. But please don’t hesitate to send me and email or comment at the end of the article and I will respond there.
When laying out the mall, be sure and put the checkout stand where you can view the most booths. It doesn’t have to be close to the front door, but you should be able to easily see the door so you can greet people and keep an eye on people leaving (for security purposes).
Also be sure your aisles are wide enough to easily move furniture in and out. You don’t want to break expensive items while you are moving furniture. And your dealers will always try to fudge on booth space by using some of the aisle space if you don’t enforce this.
Most malls have standard size booths. I prefer a 10’ X 12’ booth rather than a 10’ X 10’ myself. Not only does this provide extra rent income it also looks better. A 10’ depth is the ideal. Encourage people wanting to display furniture to get larger booths. You could keep every booth on the 12’ intervals but a 10’ X 20’ is a nice booth size for furniture.
Figuring out the how much to charge per square booth is critical. You don’t want to be charging more than other malls in the area unless you can offer a compelling reason like the best location. Dealers shop for the best deals. The rent charged varies widely depending on location. When we were in Dallas, we charged $4 a square foot. But we were paying over $4000 a month for a little less than 3000 square foot building plus utilities which were over $1000 a month. Here the standard rent is more like a $1 a square foot.
Then on top of the rent, you have to charge a percentage of each sale, usually 10% in many places. The credit card charges come out of this. These can run as high as 4% on some corporate cards. So you will not make 10% on each sale. People are paying with cash much less often now. Finding the best deal on credit card processing is very important, there are many companies, get several quotes.
If you are not familiar with promoting your business on the internet, you need to find someone that is. You need your own site, a Facebook page, and a listing on Google Places as well as many other local directories as possible. This is getting more crucial all of the time. If you don’t have a presence on the web, you have two strikes against you. It is important to do these right and not just have a web site. You can read other articles on this site about owning your own antique store and all of that will apply to owning an antique mall.
One other thing you need to know. You will need some time off. Close one day a week. Monday is the day many antique stores and malls close. Most are only open from 1-5 on Sunday, others choose to close on Sundays. But don’t think you can work 7 days a week. And what happens if you have to miss work for illness or vacations. You will need some time off. So you will either have to have regular employees or one of your dealers who can fill in for you. This is very important. You will get burned out, even if you love the business, unless you have some time away from the business. It is nice if you can afford a full time employee that you can count on for these days.
This information does not include everything. But it will give you a good start on deciding if owning an antique mall is right for you.