Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Booth Update: Change Ahead

I made a quick run today to check on one of our booths. The booth looked great--too good, actually. That's because sales are not going well there. I hoped that business would pick up with the fall months when people were done with school shopping and vacations. But after a few months of poor sales, we've decided to downsize our space. We actually have two booths, one larger and one smaller; we've decided that December will be our last month in the smaller booth. I don't mind breaking even but I do mind losing money.

There are several reasons, I think, for slow sales:

1. Poor signage at the location. There is a lovely big sign on the front of the building but it's unreadable unless you are directly in front of the place--and who can look at it like that while driving by? There is an OPEN sign, but unless you know it's an antique mall, you'd be clueless.

2. No good signage yet on the 4-lane highway. Apparently permits are required and there are all sorts of regulations for erecting a sign on a limited-access highway. It might have been a good idea to clear that hurdle before opening for business but that might not have been feasible if, like so many other regulations, the process takes forever to complete. There are some small, stick-in-the-ground kind of signs at the end of the exit ramp, but anyone passing by on the four-lane has no idea there's an antique mall nearby.

3. Little or no paid advertising. An established business might be able to get by on reputation and word-of-mouth, but a new business needs to build awareness and visibility and that takes investment in advertising. Considering that the bulk of antiques buyers are baby boomers and older, then radio and print ads are still viable ways to reach that target audience. Ads on swap-and-shop radio shows or in Buy/Sell/Trade newspapers, and even in the conventional newspapers are likely to reach people who like flea markets, yard sales, auctions and antiques. Currently this mall is relying on Facebook and LinkedIn for advertising. Those are both fine but will reach only people who "like" or "join" the sites. That's a very limited audience.

4. I have to look at myself too, to see what I might be doing or not doing to spur sales. It might just be that my stock isn't what is in demand in the local community. I am confident that my booth arrangement is attractive and inviting as I have been told as much by other vendors and mall customers. My prices are in line with other booths for similar merchandise so over-pricing isn't the problem. It may be that we have too many big furniture items and should move some of these out and add more shelving. More items=more sales, maybe?

We will be downsizing in December so that by January we'll have just one nice-sized space. And then we'll see how things go. I've watched what's selling, and while it's generally across the board as far as types of merchandise, a few things stand out:

*vintage clothing sells fairly well here. My prices are low so that might account for the good sales. Vintage jewelry does okay too.
*lamps sell. I've sold several lamps here, very few at my other booths. Go figure.
*furniture rarely sells. We've sold some small tables, a chair or two and one wardrobe at this location, but that's all. While selling a lot of smalls is fine and can certainly add up, furniture is what makes the big bump in the sales figures, and furniture sales are flat.

I suppose every seller must look at numbers and evaluate where they stand at any given time. While I don't expect every month to be excellent, I like to see my costs covered and a little over. It's time to cut and run and hope that the booth we keep will pick up enough to make keeping a presence in this new mall viable.

All that said, here's a peek at how the booths looked today:

The kitchen table and chairs are set with green and red dishes for a subtle holiday touch. I love the blue striping in the enamel on the edge of this table.

The Hoosier style cabinet looks dressed up with the red canisters. That's a half-round window at lower left in the photo.

One of my best sellers--vintage clothes! I've had fun finding them, I admit.

Don't you love this clear red lamp? If it doesn't sell soon, it might just come home with me.

I found a few pretty child's dresses lately. Most of these are handmade; the little pink hat and sweater is handknit. I always wonder who could possibly part with something that took so long to make.

This little dresser could use some work; I may bring it home for the log room we're building and fix it up for us to use, or I might mark it down and see if it moves.
 I like the lines of this cabinet, and it's art deco designs on the windows.

This bachelor's chest might also come home for use in our new room. While it's not perfect, it's in pretty good shape and I can see the right person doing a stunning paint job on it. I considered painting it before putting it in the booth, but had no time for a new project.

More red and green. I did not bring any Christmas decor to this booth, preferring to rely on using color to give the festive look.

That's a look at just a part of what we have in this mall. I'll post photos of my other booths soon.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Joy@aVintageGreen said...

I agree that advertising and visibility are very important. Your booth has great stock and it easy to see/navigate. Great furniture too. I move very little in the way of furniture in my booth, mostly smalls especially vintage kitchen.

annie said...

I enjoyed seeing your photos, you have some nice pieces. I think the economy is hurting everyone. Hoping sales pick up for you. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

warren said...

I love that sea green cabinet with the cane hanging off of it! It looks beautiful!

storytellermary said...


storytellermary said...

Looks as if my comment got eaten up in cyber-space. I was wondering if you could add photos of off-site items, and possibly even photos suggesting possible refinishing of items (as inspiration or to invite custom work). This might allow smaller space to still display more items -- maybe a photo album or one of those electronic photo displays I've seen, usually with grandchildren's photos. Just a thought.

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