Friday, February 6, 2015

Why I Quit My Antique Mall Booth - Final Report

As I mentioned in my post last weekend, I quit my antique mall booth at the end of January. I'm a little sad about it - I really did like having it, but in the end once I crunched the numbers, I just couldn't justify keeping it up.

I'll get into all that in a minute, but first let me get my January numbers out of the way. All but 3 of the items on the list I sold in the last week I was open, when I ran a 75% off sale...

January 2015

Vintage Cookbook $5.00
Wire Egg Basket $18.00
Electric Skillet $31.50
Vintage Tricycle $7.50
Lustro Ware Crisper $1.75
Paper Mache Planter $3.75
Pyrex Measuring Cup $5.00
Magazine Rack $5.00
Vintage Baby Scale $10.00
3 Occupied Japan Figurines $5.25
Floor Globe $7.50
Table Globe $6.25
Deer Milk Cup $3.00
Vintage Bottles $10.00
Set of Soda Glasses $7.50
Hall Teapot $6.25
Pyrex Measuring Cup $3.75
Hazel Atlas Measuring Cup $4.00
Hazel Atlas Juice Set $5.00
Tupperware Relish Tray $2.50

Plus, I sold a chair, two wire shelves, and some thermoses to a fellow dealer as I was moving out, for $25.00.

Total Sales:  $176.50
-Commission & Email Fee: $15.86

Total Profit - not including cost of items sold:  $160.64
(if I would have stayed, my $85 rent would have come out of this for February, which would have made my profit $75.64.)

Interesting to note - I would say about 75% of the sales I got at the end were to other dealers. (There is the note "wholesale" next to those sales on my monthly report, meaning that the buyer didn't have to pay sales tax.)

Why I Quit

I sat down and did my numbers for the booth for 2014 - including what I paid for the items I sold, which is a number I haven't included in my monthly blog post reports. My profit averaged out to $45 a month. So, I wasn't losing money, but I wasn't making much either... If you factor in the time it took to run - including the hour it took to drive there and back from my house, the time cleaning items up and tagging them, and arranging them in the booth - I was basically making minimum wage, if I was being paid by the hour.

I was in the booth for 15 months, including 2 holiday seasons. My sales were almost never consistent - one month would be ok, the next would be terrible and I would owe rent. It was a total roller coaster! So instead of looking at the booth as a source of income, in reality I kind of looked at it as another monthly bill - will I make enough to pay rent this month? Or will I owe? If I could have counted on always making rent, I might have given it a bit more time to see if I could improve my numbers...

What I Learned

1. A half size booth makes it difficult to have enough inventory to make a profit. The few dealers that I talked to that seem to be doing well in the mall actually had multiple full size booths - anywhere from 2 to 5 of them. My rent on a half size booth was $85, so full size booth rent is $170. Let's average it out and say the large dealers in the mall have 3 booths - that is a $510 dollar rent commitment they are making every month! That's no small commitment... But, that's also a ton of space to fill up with inventory, and just like online, the more you have up for sale, the more money you can make.

2. I don't think most of the large mall dealers also sell online. If you only have a booth (or booths), you can focus 100% on sourcing for them. Because I was doing both, I found it difficult to decide what to do with my inventory - put it online, or put it in the booth. And because the booth profits were so inconsistent, I also found it difficult to put out much money for inventory specifically for it, when I could take that same money and buy something that I knew would probably sell online.

3. Sourcing for the booth was a challenge - while some of my mid-century items sold, I don't think the majority of the mall customers were looking for those types of items. The mall owner was actually sad to see me go, because I was one of the few dealers who offered items from that era - most of the dealers had more traditional "antiques" and primitives. I think this is because they have figured out that is what the customers want, so that is what they offer for sale!

I did try to find more of those types of items when I was out shopping - but the world of "antiques" is pretty different than the world of "vintage". Asking prices tend to be higher for one thing, at least in my area. So you have to take a larger risk when buying than what I am used to taking, and I had trouble with that. And when I did find something more traditional to put in the booth, it wouldn't necessarily sell - I think because my entire booth didn't have that "look". And I never felt comfortable in my ability to find enough of that type of inventory to keep my booth filled up, to make the switch away from my "vintage" items completely.

4. One of the things I thought when I got the booth was that it would be good to have a way to sell larger items - art, side tables, chairs, lamps... I did sell some of those things (except lamps, I never had much luck with those), but I actually didn't find a lot of larger items when I was out sourcing - again, prices would be too high on them to give me room to make a profit, or they wouldn't fit in my booth at all, because I only had a half size booth instead of a full size one. I think if you really want to deal in larger items like furniture, you have to go all in and have a couple of the larger size booths - and you have to be willing to buy high and wait for the right buyer to come along who is willing to pay the big bucks for what you've got.

In conclusion...

Overall, having the booth was a good learning experience, and I will miss having it. What I really wish is that there was a mid-century focused mall in my area - if there was, I would probably give a full size booth a try, if the rent wasn't too crazy, of course. Maybe someday! :)


Margaret @ Live Like No One Else said...

As least you tried it and know that it is not for you. If you hadn't tried, you'd always be wanting to.

Mitzi Swisher said...

That's true Margaret! I definitely don't regret it, it was fun while it lasted ;)

Mom Wald said...

How smart of you to keep records, and use common sense. Yay for you! Thanks for sharing.

Jeanne-stuart road vintage said...

Thanks for this post Mitzi. I've been thinking about renting space for larger items that I'd like to buy, but wasn't sure it was worth it. I still like to go to the malls though, so I hope they don't all disappear forever!

Anonymous said...

I had a bad experience with an antique mall. Here are fifteen questions to ask before you open an antique mall booth:

I really hope this helps other potential vendors.

Andrew Boehmer said...

Very interesting post. I was at an antique mall in Louisville with my girlfriend and we enjoyed walking and viewing the items. I wondered how much effort these booths/rooms/cabinets take to break even or make money. I'm sure it's its own world.