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.