Have you wondered what you need to do to have a successful booth? In this post I share my top 10 tips for a successful vintage booth.
On occasion, some of you reach out and ask me questions about having a booth and how I run the business. You also ask me for advice on having a booth.
So the purpose of today’s post is to answer your questions and walk through 10 tips for having a successful vintage booth. These are my guidelines and takeaways after selling antiques over the course of 20 years. (I suddenly realize how old I am . . .)
Alright – so let’s go! Here are my top 10 tips.
10 Tips for a Successful Vintage Booth
1. Have a Curated Style
If I had to pick one tip to give you, it would be to have a curated style. Meaning, your booth and the items you sell should be cohesive and support an overall theme and look. Sometimes, people fall into the trap of buying something because they can make money on it even though it is not in keeping with their overall style. So, my first piece of advice, is define your overall curated look and stick to it.
For example, I offer a more casual farmhouse style with a bit of European wears included. This includes ironstone, painted furniture, raw wood furniture, antique textiles, stoneware from England, enamelware from France, some primitive items and anything with a white chippy patina. You will not find anything mid-century modern in my inventory even though that style is increasingly popular.
A consistent curated style will help you attract the right buyers and it will help to ensure that they keep coming back to visit your booth.
2. Buy Low
This can be tricky because if you have a curated style, then you are only looking for specific items. This in turn means that buying the items you are looking for at a low price can be a challenge. Generally speaking, when you purchase inventory, your goal is to sell it 2-3 times at the price you bought it. It sounds simple but it can be challenging.
For example, I used to find items on Facebook Marketplace and in Habitat for Humanity’s Re-stores. However, I have found in the last couple of years that the prices at these places have increased substantially. I have to continually remind myself that just because something is a “good price” doesn’t mean it is the right price to purchase it for the business. A bookcase might be a good price at $200 but then I have to ask myself if I could sell it for $400-$600. Sometimes, the honest answer is “No, I can’t resell it for that amount of money”.
In keeping with this principal, I am continually looking for inventory that fits the curated style I offer and that is priced in the right range. I go to estate sales, yard sales, other antique stores, auctions as well as visit private homes to look at potential items. It’s not unusual for Mr SLH and I to be out running an errand when I see a place that “we have to stop at, right now!”. Let me tell you, Mr. SLH is a good and patient man.
3. Be Prepared
So now that you have some inventory and a curated look, the next piece of advice I have is this – be prepared! That bookcase that you thought was charming, might not sell for 6 months. Although some months, sales will be great – inevitably there will be months where you won’t have enough sales to cover your rent. I really encourage you to build up a financial cushion that will help you get through the ups and downs of the business cycles.
Here is a real world example for you. When the pandemic first started, our Stone Soup Antiques Gallery was closed for 3 months. That meant, no income from sales for 3 months yet rent still needed to be paid. As a rule of thumb, I try to have 3 months of operating expenses set aside as a cushion.
4. Have an Accounting System
Let me be the first to say, I am knowledgeable about old things and about refurbishing furniture. Those are my strengths. Bookkeeping and accounting are NOT my strengths. However, good accounting is crucial to having a well run business. So, I use Quickbooks and I pay someone to do my monthly book keeping. It is an additional cost but I think it is worth the investment. Not being current on your bookkeeping can cause some major headaches! This is particularly true around tax time.
Which brings me to another point, if you can, outsource activities that are not your strengths!
5. Do the Math
This is crucial for pricing your items and knowing whether or not your business in profitable. Let’s take a basic example. Suppose you had $1,200 in take home sales for one month. It sounds like a lot! Right? $1,200 being deposited into your bank account, what could be wrong? Let’s walk through the math. If you double the price of your inventory (as mentioned under Tip 2)- then half of that $1,200 needs to go back into the “repay myself for money spent on inventory” pot. That leaves $600 from which you have to deduct your rent which let’s say is $300. Then you have to deduct any other expenses – such as the cost of tags, florals used for your booth, or your accounting fees, etc. After deducting all these other expenses, you will have your profit.
|Calculating Monthly Profit|
|Repaying yourself for money spent on inventory|
(Use this to buy new inventory)
|Bookkeeping fees and supplies||-$110|
Knowing your profit margin every month will help you decide how you should price your inventory and how much money to reinvest in new inventory.
6. Have Pieces Waiting in the Wings
I have learned the hard way, it’s always good to have backup inventory that is ready to be out on to the floor. This is particularly true is you sell some big pieces. There is nothing worse than having a giant gaping hole in your booth where a substantial piece of furniture once stood while you run around trying to find a new piece. As a rule of thumb, I usually keep at least one large piece of furniture in storage – such as a step-back cupboard or hutch. Then I keep 2-3 medium sized pieces of furniture, such as refurbished dressers, in storage too. That way, if one of the existing larger pieces of furniture sells from my booth, within 24 hours, a new piece can be moved in.
This also holds true for small items. I prefer to have collections of items on display because it’s visually more appealing. Collections of ironstone, enamelware, paint brushes, and linens are examples. I keep some additional pieces of these smaller pieces in storage for the same reason. If a piece of ironstone, enamelware etc sells, then within 24 hours I can restock that item.
7. Booth Re-Sets Are Your Friend
Yes, redecorating or “re-setting” your booth can be a lot of work. It usually takes me the better part of a day. However, it is worth the effort! I try to re-set my booth every 3 months to keep up with the seasons. I can’t tell you how important it is to refresh and revive inventory in your booth. Customers want to see your inventory displayed differently when they visit the store over a period of time.
For example, with spring’s arrival, I added some faux florals and gardening themed items to my booth. During the summer, I stock my booth with my collection of old American flags. For the fall, I tend to use warmer tones such as wood, stone and metal.
More often than not, when I re-set my booth, something that didn’t sell previously will be seen anew by a customer and purchased. Keeping the inventory in your booth fresh and new ensures customers will have a new experience the next time they stop by.
8. Make Shopping Easy
You might be tempted to stuff your booth to the brim with all your finds since it will maximize your ratio of inventory to floor space. My advice is – DON”T DO IT. Most customers need a place to rest their eyes and don’t want to be in a space that is packed full of inventory. They want to see little vignettes and styled cupboards. Making your space easy to shop and approachable for customers is important. So some simple tips include, ensuring you have wide enough paths for people to use, making sure items are not out of reach, ensuring that items are not buried amongst other items, and making sure all of your items have price tags.
9. Have a Variety of Price Points
I always want to have inventory that appeals to all buyers. So while there are some expensive cupboards or sideboards, I also like to sell small antique bottles for a few dollars. Having a wide range of items and prices means you can appeal to customers at all price points. Also, its worth noting, that some of my favorite items are the most affordable things I sell. For example, I have some ironstone soap dishes that are $15 each. Last summer, I sold some vintage enamel American Flag pins for $5 each. (They all sold) So, yes while having a $1,200 cupboard is important, try to provide items at a variety of price points.
10. Use Social Media
Can I tell you how many lovely people I have met through social media? I have customers who are friends. I follow other dealers and we consult one another and help one another. Because of my social media accounts I have met people and become friends with people that I would have never met in the real world. I have found social media to be invaluable! I can reach thousands of people on a daily basis with social media whereas only a handful of people may walk through my booth on any given day. There have been times where I posted a photo of an item on social media and it sold within 30 minutes!! (Hello, my friends, old butter pats!) The best part about social media – the platforms are totally free. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, You Tube and TicToc are some of the platforms that I am referring to. This is like free advertising. It’s mind blowing!
Thank you for stopping by the blog today. I hope you found some useful information and if you don’t already sell vintage items – definitely consider doing so! Selling vintage and antique items is a great source of inspiration and I have met some of the best people in this line of work.
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I’ve been to your booth several times and every time I am amazed at all the talent you have Anna. Your booth always inspires me.
Hi James! Why thank you so much! I am so glad my booth inspires you!
I’ve found in the last couple of years prices have jumped at thrift stores as well. You have a gorgeous style, I’d love to see your booth in person.
Hi Maria! Thank you for the compliment. I love reading your blog and seeing the projects you work on.
So many helpful tips in the post, Anna! I appreciate how honest it is too because running a booth is no joke. There is a lot more work that happens behind the scenes no one ever sees. Cheering you on as you continue to live a creative life you love, CoCo
Thank you for the kind words Coco! I always appreciate your words of encouragement.