I read a post on a blog a few years ago that detailed all of the expenses that go along with renting a booth space to sell at an antique mall. According to this blogger, it was not good news–most people who sell at an antique mall rarely, if ever, actually make any money! She made the point that once you factor in costs most people forget about, like gas, wear and tear on your car, sales tags and packaging, as well as the cost of your time, the average seller sees very little profit.
Maybe you’ve tried selling at antique mall before and it was a bust, or maybe you are considering giving it a go and wondering if it could actually be worth it . . . Well, I am here to say you can make money selling at antique mall!
I have had my space at Antique Company Mall for over 4 years now and have made money since the first day. There has not been a single month where I haven’t sold enough inventory to cover my rent, costs, and have a little to set back for re-investment or to spend.
I have talked with some antique mall sellers who consider it a good month when they sell enough to cover their rent–as opposed to most of the months when they don’t. I honestly can’t understand why anyone would continue selling at an antique mall if they are regularly losing money!
I think for some of those sellers it’s a hobby, and they are willing to have it not be profitable just so they can enjoy hunting for things to sell. I respect that, but that’s not my story. For me, as stay-at-home mom to 3 small children, if I’m not making some amount of money doing it, it’s not worth the investment of my time.
Everybody’s market is different and the antique malls available in you area may not be of the same quality as what is available to me here, so please take that into consideration. But with that said, my experience has shown me that it is completely possible to make a nice little amount of money through this avenue. It takes hard work and some savvy business skills to pull it off, but you can do it!
So how do you actually turn a profit in this little side business? Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me in my antique mall business.
Stock a Few Big Items, Several Middle-Priced Items, and Lots and Lots of Small, Inexpensive Items
The successful mall sellers all will tell you it’s the “smalls” that make up the bulk of their paychecks. You would think the dealers that have the large furniture pieces or big, expensive sets of things would be the ones making the most money, but typically they aren’t. If you only sell large, expensive items, it’s either feast or famine.
The most profitable dealer in my mall stocks tons and tons of small items–old keys, photographs, faucet handles, scrabble tiles–you name it! Those types of items typically sell between $.25-$3.00 a piece, but she sells such high volume that the numbers quickly add up!
If you rely on your big ticket items to make your money, you will likely have to go a few months without turning a profit. Big ticket items take longer to sell, so stock up on the smalls and medium sized items to keep you going in the meantime.
Buy in Bulk, Divide, then Re-Sell
This strategy has worked well for me and for several other sellers in my mall.
Think through what craft supplies or decorative items you see others using and what kinds of materials you may be able to find in bulk for cheap (note–if you have a State Sales Tax ID there are online wholesale websites you can access!). Here are a few ideas:
- Sheet music–buy old sets at estate and garage sales, divide up into packs of 3-4 sheets and re-sell
- Rolls of cute craft ribbon (like the burlap ribbon pictured above)
- Vintage fabric that you cut up and bundle together for quilt squares
- Small clothespins or magnets that you paint or make cute some other way then package together
- Vase filler items, like pinecones, potpourri, acorns etc. (I have gathered some of these things from my yard and packaged them up to sell!)
You get the idea! There are crafty people out there that will notice your ready-made craft supplies and happily buy them so they don’t have to hunt them down themselves.
Pay Attention to Trends and Provide Items that Fit Them
Do you watch Fixer Upper? If not, you should–or at least go online and look at some photos from the show. Everybody wants to decorate like Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper!
So what types of items does she use? Lots and lots of old books, galvanized metal, empty picture frames, etc. If you can stock these trendy items, they will sell. I have literally heard customers walking through booth at my mall saying “would Joanna use this?”
It may not be Fixer Upper style you try to copy, but other trends you see on Pinterest, in decor magazines, or as you’re out shopping retail spaces. Bottom line–you’re not trying to stock items you like and would decorate with, but rather items that are popular in the general public.
Get to Know your Mall Managers
This may seem silly to say, but it’s worth a mention–be respectful, kind, and friendly to the managers of your mall! Let them know you are invested in the success of your booth space as well as the success of the mall overall. If possible, volunteer to help work at the mall during busy holidays or special events, and promote the mall in general on your own social media accounts along with your own specific booth. Basically, be a considerate and pleasant person to work with!
Often opportunities are out there to lower your rent through working extra days at the mall, doing some light janitorial work, or some other administrative work. But guess what–the mall managers typically offer those deals to the people they know and the people who are nice to be around!
If you can get to know your managers and show them you’re a hard worker whose presence is good for the mall, they will be more likely to work with you when it’s time to renegotiate your lease rates or when you want to move to a better location in the mall, etc.
Antique malls can be gossipy type places too, and trust me–you don’t want to be the inconsiderate or rude person that gets talked about while you’re not there. So just be nice!
Restock and Rearrange your Booth Often
I am not as good at this as I used to be, but I try to remind myself to work on this when my sales start to dip.
Most antique mall customers are repeat ones, and they don’t want to keep seeing the same stuff, arranged in the same way, every time they walk by your space. They lose interest quickly, and often won’t even stop to look in your space if it looks like you haven’t put anything new in there for awhile.
Aim to completely rearrange your booth once every 2 weeks, more often if possible. If a large piece isn’t selling, move it to a new spot, stage it with new decor, or take it home. Quite often right after I move a piece to a new spot it sells within the next few days!
I know some very successful mall sellers who aim to have 40 new items stocked in their space every 2 weeks! They are committed to giving their customers fresh inventory to dig through, and their strategy works! Things fly out of their booth.
Take the Ordinary and Make it Special
Much like the buy in bulk, divide, and re-sell strategy, this strategy involves finding regular things for cheap, giving them a little bit of a facelift, and then selling them for 4 to 5 times more than what you paid.
For example–old pictures frames are in abundance at garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets. You can buy them for a couple of bucks a piece. On their own, most frames aren’t much to write home about, but if you take a collection of frames, paint them all white, then stage them together in your space, they become a trendy decorative statement!
I’ve done something similar with scrap wood. Whenever I see old wood sitting out on the curb or in a dumpster, I toss it in my car. Then I can use either a stencil or a Sharpie and make a cute sign! Free wood + a little craftiness = $$ in my pocket.
I’ve also copied an idea I saw in a Pottery Barn magazine by creating my own used book bundles. I take a few old books (typically ones that are falling apart), rip off the covers, stack a few together, and tie them up with twine. You can read full book stack how-to here.
If you can find a certain “trash to treasure” niche inventory that sells well for you, you will become known for that in the mall, and customers will come back time and time again whenever they’re looking for more white frames, book stacks, wood signs, stenciled wood crates, etc.
Rent a Spot Only in the Best Mall
I saved this for my last tip because I think it’s the most important. You can sell great, trendy inventory, keep it regularly shuffled, and get to know your mall managers as best as you can . . . But ultimately none of that will matter if you sell in a so-so or bad mall.
I’ve sold in a not-so-great mall and in a fantastic mall, and the difference is like night and day! The so-so malls just aren’t going to attract the customers you need to sell enough inventory to make money.
Here is the type of mall you want to look for:
- Malls that are large, with every dealer spot full
- Malls with high quality, large dealer spaces up front that are beautiful, trendy, and have higher dollar inventory.
- Malls in retail areas that have lots of regular foot traffic
- Malls that are open every day, even Sunday
- Malls that have a waiting list to get in (that’s a great sign!)
If the mall closest and most convenient to you isn’t great, don’t rent a spot there! I honestly think it’s worth driving a ways to get a spot in a great, heavy-traffic mall than settle for a space in so-so mall that’s right around the corner from your. Or if you can only get a small space in the great mall, but the so-so mall has a bigger space open–don’t do it! The small space in the great mall will make you more money and it will allow you to get your foot in the door so that one day you may can move to a better space in the great mall.
Just like the old real estate line, it’s Location, Location, Location!! Don’t sell your inventory at any place but the best location–trust me, anything else and you’re not going to see the income you would like to see. I have been there and done that.
So, can you make money selling in an antique mall? I hope you see that the answer is yes! It takes hard work, creativity, and some business sense, but it’s possible!
If I’ve talked you into jumping into the world of selling at an antique mall, you may find these other posts helpful!
And if you really wanna up your antique booth game, you should definitely join me for our next Booth Seller Bootcamp Session!
This 4-week online course has everything you need for how to take your booth from hobby to business. You can see all the details and join the waiting list here–course opens in May 2021!
Thanks for letting me share!