This article offers tips for opening and operating a booth in an antiques mall.
You love antiques and collectables. Perhaps the sight of a gleaming 19th-century mahogany china closet makes your heart beat faster, or maybe you have an impressive collection of cookie jars from the 1950s. You’ve often daydreamed of owning a quaint little antique shop that’s overflowing with beautiful items full of character and patina, but concerns about the time commitment, start-up costs and risks involved have prevented you from pursuing that dream. Why not open a booth in an antique mall instead?
In an antique mall, antique dealers rent space from the mall owner to sell their wares. The dealers purchase inventory, create their displays and decide upon pricing. There are much lower start-up costs and risks, dealers do not need to man the shop at all hours, and they can take advantage of a large number of customers attracted to the variety of antiques available from the many different booths.
If you are interested in opening a booth, begin by visiting the antique malls in your area. Browse around the stalls to get a feel for the place. Do you like what you see? Is it busy? Would the antiques you want to sell fit in at this mall? For example, if you plan to sell old farm tools, you probably shouldn’t start out at a mall that primarily carries antique furniture and draws customers looking for home furnishings.
Once you’ve found a few malls that you like, ask to talk to the owner or manager and inquire about the conditions for owning a booth. Be sure to ask about the amount of notice needed if you choose to leave the mall and carefully read over any contracts before signing. Different malls will have different requirements. Many will have a price per square foot of rented space. Also, many require a percentage of any sales. Some will request that you work one day a month, helping customers and watching out for shoplifters. Some will require a security deposit, perhaps one month’s rent. The owner may also be able to tell you how to obtain a sales tax id number if it is necessary where you live.
Before opening the booth, make sure you have enough inventory to fill it. You might want to start with a smaller space and move up to a larger one as your business grows. Don’t rely on just a few high-priced items. They could sit for months, and in the meantime, you’ll have rent to pay. Make sure your antiques and collectables span a wide range of prices.
Where should you acquire the antiques? Try the following:
- Auctions – You can find remarkable antiques in beautiful condition at antique auctions. If you’ve never been to an auction before, attend one or two to see how things work before you start bidding. Most auction houses will let prospective buyers inspect the antiques before the sale, and you should always take advantage of this opportunity. Auctioneers will not necessarily disclose the rip in an antique christening gown or the chip in the flow blue china platter. Set a maximum price you’re willing to bid for an item and don’t go over that limit. It is easy to get caught in a bidding war and end up paying too much for an antique, leaving no room to mark up the price for a profit. Auction houses don’t usually supply boxes or packing materials, so bring your own, as well as a hand truck or an extra set of hands if you’re planning to purchase large or bulky items.
- Estate Sales – Dealers know to arrive at the estate sales early to secure the best deals. Often numbers are given out in an hour or so before the sale opens to determine the order that people can enter the auction.
- Garage and Yard Sales – Check the newspapers for sales advertising antiques and plan your route accordingly. Again, the best deals you find early. Some dealers even drive by ahead of the advertised starting time to get a jump on the competition.
- Flea Markets – Visit the flea markets in your area to see what types of wares are available. Some flea markets are excellent sources for antiques and vintage items, while others have very little of interest to antique dealers.
- Advertise – Place a classified ad in your local newspaper stating that you buy antiques. People often have a piece of antique furniture that they’d like to sell, but don’t know where to take it.
- Online Auctions – A variety of great antiques are available through online auctions. Unfortunately, shipping fees often eat a significant portion of potential profits, but there are still good deals to be had. Some dealers like to pick up antiques from online auctions on holidays such as Christmas or Easter when there are fewer last minute bidders.
Setting Up and Maintaining the Antiques Booth
Once you have found a booth and have an adequate amount of stock to begin your business, you’ll need to build or purchase display shelves. You can also display smaller items on larger items, such as a vase on an antique dresser. Most dealers have a lockable display case for valuable things that are small enough to be slipped into a pocket or purse.
The mall may have requirements for what the price tags must look. Tags usually include your booth number, a brief description of the antique or vintage collectable, an inventory number that you assign and the price of the item.
After the booth is open, try to add new merchandise every week. Antique malls tend to see many repeat customers who are attracted to items they haven’t seen before. Also, be sure to rearrange the old inventory periodically. Merely moving a pretty teacup from a hidden corner of a shelf to the top of an antique nightstand where people can easily notice it can lead to a sale.
Whether you use a computer accounting program or a spiral notebook, it is essential to keep careful financial records of your transactions. The mall should provide you with an accounting of items sold, fees incurred and sales tax collected. Keep track of each item you purchase for the booth, how much it cost, how much you’re charging for it, when you place it in the booth and when it sold. Record the amount spent on supplies for your business, such as price tags and silver tarnish remover; keep track of mileage when using your car for your antique booth business. You will be happy you did at tax time.
Finally, review your records at regular intervals to determine where to put your money. Like anything else, the antique business experiences sales trends. Things that were so hot you couldn’t keep them in the booth one year might sit the next. If you love oil paintings and have several in your booth but never sell any of them, it’s time to stop buying them for your business. On the other hand, you might have a group of cake platters that you only bought because they were part of a larger lot won at auction and find they’re selling like crazy. Get your hands on more of them. With time you’ll develop a feel for what sells and what doesn’t.
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Jail & bail fundraisers can be a fun and entertaining way to raise money for a non-profit organization. There are a few different permutations on the idea, but essentially people volunteer to be “arrested” and placed in “jail” and then have to go before a “judge” who sets the “bail” amount. The volunteer “jailbird” must then raise the “bail” money to be released. A jail & bail fundraiser can be done by a non-profit organization staff, or it can be done by a volunteer who then donates the proceeds to the non-profit organization.
Select a time, date and location where the jail & bail fundraiser will be held. This can be done at a restaurant, school cafeteria, church activity hall or even a person’s home. The location will need to have a telephone or cell phone and a place for a “judge” to sit as well as room for the “accused” and observers.
The most important thing is to entice supporters who are willing to be “arrested” so that they can then be “bailed out.” Some jail & bail fundraisers offer the opportunity to pay a small fee to issue an “arrest warrant” for somebody who they want to see “arrested.” Sometimes the “arrest warrant” is used as an opportunity to make up outlandish and humorous charges such as “wouldn’t smile” or “talked back to her mother as a teenager.”
Once a person agrees to be arrested, volunteers can pick him up and take him to the event location. There, the volunteer judge will set the bail amount, which the volunteer will have to raise in order to be released. This can be done through phone calls to friends and family who pledge to donate either the whole bail amount or a portion of it. Bail can also be raised by begging the people who are attending the event.
Once the volunteer has raised the “bail” amount, he should be released. You will then need to follow up with the person or people who pledged the donations in order to secure his release.