I recently took my obsession of antiques from consumer and ogler to wheeler and dealer. If you missed my announcement you can catch up here. But before I was a shop owner I had to consider a few very important things. I wanted to mention 5 of those important things so that if you’re thinking of taking the plunge you can do so with a little extra information. Of course, I by no means believe I know everything about this and welcome your insights in the comments section.

Let’s get started.

1. How much inventory do I have?

Before you sign any contract in an antique mall, ask yourself, “do I have 3 months worth of inventory?” The type of space you have and the type of items you choose to sell will change the answer for each of us. For instance, I wanted to sell furniture and smaller items (referred to as “smalls”) such as home decor and I opened my booth with just under 200 items. Of those couple of hundred items I had 2 tall bookcases, 1 china cabinet, 6 side tables, 1 credenza, and 2 multi-drawer cabinets. Remember my space is 10ft x 20ft and I still needed to make my booth feel full so I had to scout out an additional 160+ items. That can be a lot of junkin’, antiquin’, and estate sale buyin’.  I have about a dozen large scale items on display but it’s important to have pieces in similar sizes waiting in the wings to take the place of those sold. On the other hand, if you’re into selling vintage and antique tea cups then your inventory might be much much larger than someone selling larger pieces of furniture.

Distressed Apothecary Cabinet

2. Do I want to run my antique booth as a hobby or as a business?

For me, this answer is fluid. I’m not really sure yet how far I want to take this. I do know that I want to at least break even. And how do you break even? This is one that alludes many dealers because of poorly executed income and expense trackers. First of all have a plan. How much is your rent and other expenses? How much would it cost to set up the booth? I’ve spent money on hooks and other hardware as well as 4 large 9 pane windows and I’ll be spending money on paint for some of the walls. This is my setup cost. Because I’m selling furniture I have plenty of space to display my smalls. But what if, like in the example above, you’re selling teacups, how will you display them? Will you need to purchase displays, tables, or shelves? Your set up cost will definitely impact your bottom line and can impact when you actually start making a profit.

I want this to be enough of a business that I committed to a booth name, “The Hunter’s Alley”, and a way to obtain customers via a website. I’ll continue to develop my brand with business cards and newsletters announcing new inventory.

3. How much time do I have to dedicate to buying, selling, tagging, and installing?

Here are a few time commitments that are unavoidable:

1. Set up.

Big Daddy and I spent a total of 2 and 1/2 days loading, transporting, unloading, staging, hanging, and tagging for my booth. That doesn’t include all the remaining set up that still needs to be done such has hanging windows, painting a wall, hanging/installing more lighting. I’d say another full weekend is needed for those to-dos.

2. Pricing.

Seriously, this takes forever. I had to source chalkboard pricing tags and I ended up driving to multiple Targets to score some from the Dollar Spot. Of course, I’m completely out and I need more…the hunt continues. My strategy was to write down every item with an item number, description, and price to then transfer the full inventory to a spreadsheet. I take my notebook with me to the booth and it’s very helpful to have it handy. The other day I went to the store and I thought I had sold a globe. Double checking my inventory checklist is really helpful before claiming someone stole something from my booth. 🙂 Bottom line is that writing out price tags for a couple hundred items will take you hours. Get your Netflicks on.

3. Buying Inventory

This is a biggie. I run through several local thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, and the clearance aisle of several retail stores each week. It’s a lot of driving too.

4. Advertising

I don’t rely solely on foot traffic. I want to push buyers from online to in store. I write and post ads in Craigslist and will soon post to The Hunter’s Alley website.


4. What percent do I need to give up to the owner of the mall?

In the Atlanta area, the industry standard of mall owners is 13%. In other words, each item you sell, the mall will take 13% of that sale and the remaining amount is how much you earned by selling that item. Typically this will include merchant fees for credit card processing and cost associated with employing folks to work the store and sell your wares. In my case, I give up 10%, a much lower rate then some of the larger malls in the area. You should also be aware that many mall owners will include a negotiation percent in the contract. If the employee who is trying to sell an item believes that a discount will persuade the customer into buying then they are authorized to discount an item on the spot without your approval. My contract says that any item over $50 can be discounted up to 10%. When I buy items I have to consider this potential 20% loss and decide if I can buy and sell the item at a profit with those parameters.

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5. Is my contract month to month?

This is tricky. I’d never tried this before and I was really afraid that I would suck at it. The thought of a 6 month contract was too much for me. So some of the more popular malls that I wanted to be in I had to eliminate right from the start. One antique space in particular required a 6 month lease and still others require 3 months. What if I was loosing my shirt in this little business? 6 months just seemed like an eternity. So I opted for a month to month that required a 30 day advance notice of vacate.

5 Things To Ask Yourself Before Renting An Antique Booth

Final Thoughts

There are other incentives that can help you make the decision easier for you, for instance I received the first month free. Another important item to consider is the rent. This is usually calcualed by square feet. I pay well below the area standard at $1 per foot while many others in the area are paying $2 or $3 per foot. There is usually a reason for this difference. Ben’s is new to the antiques scene while other malls are well known and have dealer waiting lists. High demand equals higher cost of rent. I took a risk on a new market but it was the lowest overall risk with cheapest rent, lowest percent lost per item, and flexible contract.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list and I welcome comments from any experienced dealers who can help drive this conversation. For those who are considering it, good luck! If you want more information about Ben’s please email me at ccleahy@bravehearts.net.



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2 Responses

  1. Shannon

    Thanks for the info. I really want to do something like this.

    Shannon – bohemianjunktion.com


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