Do you have an antique booth that maybe started as a hobby, but now you would like to see it produce more profit?
I’ve been running an antique booth business now for 12 years and it’s provided me with so many amazing financial benefits! I would love to share with you today some ideas for how you can make more money in your own antique booth business.
Basic Tips for Starting an Antique Booth
Before we dive into my profit tips, let’s take just a minute and talk about what it looks like to start a vintage booth or antique mall booth.
First, you will need to find a location that has an open space to rent. Most malls will charge you a monthly rent price based on the square footage of the available spot.
Some malls also charge a percent commission on your purchases and may require you to sign a 6-month lease as a new booth renter. Be sure to clarify those facts before you sign anything.
You also need to start gathering inventory to fill your space. I recommend starting by “shopping your house” first, then try popping into some garage sales and local thrift stores to find some treasures.
The less you can spend at the start the better! It’s okay to build your inventory as you go.
What Licenses Do I Need to Start an Antique Booth?
This varies from state to state, and mall to mall. Start first by asking your mall management what they recommend.
Some malls will require you to get a “sales and use” license from your state, which is a certificate that allows you to purchase items for your business sales tax-exempt.
This is essentially a way to register your business with your state, which will benefit you when you’re out shopping, but may also require you to file a sales report with your state every year.
Current federal law also states that if your business generates more than $400 in net sales in a given year, you are required to report that as self-employment income on your taxes.
So it’s a good idea to keep track of all business receipts–both on inventory you buy and items you use to run your booth (tags, tape, ribbon, etc). Your accountant will need that during tax time to figure out if you owe any money to the IRS.
5 Ways to Boost Your Antique Booth Profit
If you’ve taken the step to open a booth, then it’s time to talk about how to put more money in your pocket this year. These following tips can help you see not only better sales, but also a stronger business overall.
1. Stay on Top of Trends
The decorating world, like the fashion world, is constantly changing. Items that are hot one year may be ice cold the next.
For example, when I first started my antique booth, I could easily find old brass candlesticks for pennies at the flea market. Even though I priced them super cheap in my booth, nobody would buy them!
Fast-forward a couple of years, and now I can’t keep brass candlesticks in stock, much less find them for pennies.
The same can be said for all sorts of inventory items–silverplate, glassware, galvanized buckets, sheet music, architectural salvage . . . I could go on!
Not only do specific inventory items get hot and cool off, but general decor trends change as well.
For several years shabby chic was the going look, then it shifted to a modern boho esthetic, and now I see primitive decor coming back.
If you can stay on top of the current trends, that means your booth will appeal to a broader audience of shoppers.
Many of today’s antique mall shoppers are looking to outfit their homes with the same trendy decor they see influencers using on Instagram or TV designers using on popular makeover shows.
Take advantage of those primed shoppers by providing inventory that fits their wants, even if it’s not your taste or style.
Where Can I Find What’s Trending?
To stay on top of current trends, I suggest a little online research. Head over to Pinterest and search “vintage decor,” whatever the first pins are that pop up are the most popular and probably show trending items.
Instagram is another great place to spot current vintage decor trends. There is a vibrant vintage loving community on Instagram, including many vintage sellers. If you pay attention to the items they are regularly posting, you will likely notice some trends.
Lastly, there are several great home decor magazines, Flea Market Decor being one of my favorites. A peek at their current magazine issues will give you a great idea of what’s currently hot.
2. Nail Your Location
You know what they say in real estate, right? It’s all about location, location, location?
I think the same is true for your antique booth!
Not all locations are the same, and your booth deserves a spot in the best.
I have personally experienced it myself and seen it with many other vintage booth owners I’ve worked with– your location can make or break your booth business.
I’ve had booths in 7 different locations in my 12 years of selling. 3 of those were amazing, 2 were so-so, and 2 were flat-out terrible.
What makes for a good location?
Several things go into it, but you want to look not only for a location that gets great foot traffic and has a solid customer base but also a location that fits with what you sell.
Just recently I switched my booth from one location to another shop that was just across the street.
Even though these two malls were right next to each other, they attracted different customers, and my sales soared when I moved into the new spot.
Nothing about what I sold or how I arranged my booth changed, I just was able to get in front of more customers who wanted what I sold.
If you’re stuck in a rut with slumped sales, considering a location change could be a major boost for your business this year.
3. Cut your Inventory Spending
Sometimes making more money in your antique booth is as easy as buying less inventory. If you buy more inventory every month than what you need to stock your booth, you’re wasting your hard-earned money.
I believe this is one of the biggest reasons why many vintage booth owners don’t feel like they see a real profit from their booths.
Their sales are good, but every penny they get from their check goes straight back into buying more stuff, instead of paying themselves a paycheck.
My booth spaces have never been packed to the brim. I have always run a little lean on inventory, and it has never hurt my business.
Rather than having 200 items that sit for months and months, I aim for only purchasing what I need to fill the holes I have.
Especially if you are buying items that you don’t even have room for in your booth, so they sit in a tub in your garage for a few months . . . you are buying too much.
If you’re guilty of having tubs and tubs worth of extra inventory on hand, try this instead:
Set a budget for the next month that factors in any holes you have in your booth to fill and any new display ideas you want to implement. Then stick to it–take it out in cash, and when the cash is gone, stop shopping.
Not only will this allow you to pay yourself a paycheck from your earnings, it will also help you to only buy the best stuff you can find. No more buying cheap stuff to throw in your booth just because it’s cheap.
You may also find that you have new creative ideas for how to display your older inventory! If you limit yourself to how much more “new” you can add, that means selling the “old” is where you will need to put your energy.
It’s time to sell off all that overstock! Go through your back storage bins, mark down items you’ve had too long, get rid of your older inventory and commit from this point forward to shop on a budget each month.
4. Consider Setting Up At a Vintage Show
Vintage market shows are growing in popularity year after year. In many areas, vintage shows draw thousands of shoppers annually and have become a must-do event for vintage and antique lovers.
This phenomenon has helped not only excite regular shoppers but also has drawn tons of new customers into the vintage shopping fold.
Because these are occasional events, they come with a lot of fanfare! Food trucks, giveaways, concerts, t-shirts–you name it. And the crowds pour in, ready to shop because they have been waiting all year.
I know one antique dealer who started doing a local show twice a year, and at one recent show sold $16,000 worth of items! Her show sales were so good she decided to move out of her leased booth space and only do shows from this point forward.
That may not be the plan for everyone, but imagine if you could supplement your regular booth sales with one or two great weekend show sales?
Another benefit of setting up at a vintage show is that you can talk with your customers, something you can’t often do at your booth. When you get to know your customers, that helps build customer loyalty and new opportunities for custom shopping or projects may come from those relationships.
A few great shows to consider:
- Vintage Market Days (franchised around the country)
- The Junk Ranch
- Vintage Pickin
- The Market Beautiful
- Farm Chicks Vintage Fair
If none of the above are in your area, take a look through Facebook around the early fall and early spring to search for other pop-up shows in your area, often advertised as Facebook Events.
5. Offer Online Sales
This is often the suggestion that gets the most pushback from antique dealers I talk with! I realize that it can feel overwhelming to sell and ship an item online, but I promise it’s not as hard as you may think.
Whether it’s an idea that excites or terrifies you, it’s worth considering if you want to see more profit in your business this year.
The online vintage selling world is booming, so why not step in? By offering some of your finds online, you can reach a broader customer base and often nab a higher price.
If you aren’t sure where to start, opening an Etsy shop is a great first step to take.
All of the hard work of building a website and collecting payment is done for you. All you have to do is list your items and link a bank account so you can get paid.
If that feels like too much though, there’s an even easier option–try selling an item off your social media accounts.
This can be in the form of a live sale you do on Facebook, or as easy as posting a picture on your Instagram feed and asking if anybody wants it.
This video walks you through all the basics of selling items off your social media accounts, including all the details on how to accept payment and get your items shipped. It’s a must-watch!
A Few Things To Consider When Starting to Sell Online
- Start by offering small, unbreakable objects that are easy to ship–books, pillows, wooden items, etc
- Save sturdy boxes and shipping supplies to reuse, avoid buying a ton of supplies to get started
- Open a Business PayPal account as the way to collect payment
- Use PirateShip.com to weigh your box and purchase your shipping label
- Consistency will build more sales. Post items or host live sales regularly so your social media fans will learn this is now something you plan to offer.
Of course, building a successful, growing online business takes more work than that, but I’m trying to help you take the first step.
I’ve found that once resellers get that first online sale, they catch the excitement of selling online and are hooked.
If your booth is in a lower-income area or somewhere with only seasonal customers, you may be surprised by the new customer base you can find online.
Final Thoughts on Boosting Your Vintage Booth Profit
There you have it! Five ways you can see more overall money in your pocket this year with your antique booth business.
I always say that if you treat your booth like a hobby, it will produce for you hobby-level income. If you can make the mental switch to treating it like a business, you may be surprised at what it can produce for you.
Not every antique booth is of course going to perform the same–different parts of the country have different economic realities and different customer bases.
But wherever you find yourself selling, trying out at least one of these tips should help you see more dollars in your bank account this year.