Having had booths in antique malls for fifteen years and doing shows for almost that long, I've noticed some practices, both good and bad, of dealers that add to a successful and happy selling experience. These are just some random observations and opinions.
- Like any other place that has walking, talking, functioning human beings, antique malls and shows have lots of strains of gossip. While it's always a good idea to keep your ear to the ground, it's also a good idea to keep your mouth shut. In other words, repeating stories, whether true or implied, may be fun, but it doesn't improve your sales or reputation, so be careful what you say.
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- It goes without saying that if you want to increase sales, you need to keep your area shopable, neat, and interesting with rotating merchandise. You also have a responsibility to other dealers. No one wants to have a booth next to a messy booth, a nearly empty booth or a booth that never changes. Bad unshopable booths create "dead zones", and if enough of that type of booth are close to each other, some shoppers will just skip the entire area.
(Image from here)
- Along with keeping your booth neat, if you have time, it doesn't hurt to do a little tidying in other dealers' booths. If you see that chairs have been moved in such a way that they're blocking the entrance to a booth, or a stack of books has fallen onto the floor, make it right.
This can be a little tricky. You do need to make sure that anything you're relocating wasn't intentionally placed the way you found it.
Once upon a time I had a couple of garden urns for sale. They were on a table as the centerpiece of a display. One was sitting upright, and the other was "artistically displayed" on its side, with vintage seed packets spilling from it. A gentleman who was a dealer and also worked at the antique mall kept turning the urn upright and putting the seed packs back in it. He just didn't understand why you'd try to sell an urn that was lying down.
(image from here)
Those are some "do's". These are some "don'ts".
- Other dealers are some of my favorite customers, because they keep coming back to buy more. Generally, I'm happy to give other dealer's discounts. My prices are very fair to start with, but if I can encourage repeat business and good will with a discount, I do.
What I don't like is when another dealer wants to dicker on prices, rejects my discount offer and keeps asking for a lower price. I don't like to haggle, and I don't like to "reward" someone who's being obnoxious with a lower price.
On occasion, it happens and I give in. And when I give in, that's on me, it was my choice to lower my price to get someone to stop bothering me. But what's even more irritating is when I see that the dealer has the item in their booth in the same mall that I'm in and has priced the item they bought from me at ten times what they paid me.
If a dealer wants to buy something at full price and is able to resell at that kind of mark-up, more power to them. That's really good business.
But it's bad karma to make money at another dealer's expense, especially on shared turf.
- This may come more under the category of pet peeves than actual etiquette.
When a dealer is setting up for a show, or bringing new merchandise to their booth, and they're surrounded by boxes and tubs of what might be wonderful treasures, it's tempting to want to dive in and get first "dibs".
I'm happy to sell my inventory right off the cart, but I don't appreciate other dealers or customers digging through yet to be unpacked boxes. They don't know what delicate items are wrapped in the newspapers in the boxes, or what boxes are packed with jewelry that's been carefully sorted so it won't tangle.
Along the same lines, be considerate of a dealer's personal space when they are setting up and rearranging their booth. I welcome company and conversation when I'm working in my booth, but I need a little space to move around.
Once when I was setting up for a show, the dealer couple next to me hung out in my booth for about half the time I was unpacking. I had to keep saying "excuse me", or "could I just reach over so I can put this on this shelf", but they were either oblivious or just didn't care. As I got toward the end, where I had everything unpacked, but I still needed to put out about 100 small items. I tried to arrange around them, but it just wasn't working. I tried not to show my exasperation and in my nicest voice said "I've got just a little bit of set up left, could you step out for a few moments while I finish?" They took the few trinkets they had in their hands that they were planning on buying, threw them on the table in front of me, stormed out of the booth and didn't talk to me for the rest of the show. I felt bad at the time, but looking back, it was probably just as well that they didn't have the chance to "hang out" in my booth for the rest of the show.
- You only have to search Pinterest with the words "antique booth" or page through a couple of "decorating with vintage style" magazines to realize that there are definite trends in styles and goods. A lot of homes and booths decorated in a vintage style look quite a bit alike. In a sense, we all copy or imitate what we see other places, and put our own spin on it.
So when are you trendy and when are you copying?
Imagine I bring in a collection of vintage 1950s TV trays or 1970s crewel floral pictures (or anything I don't normally sell in my booth), and they sell like crazy. If my neighbor at the antique mall brings in a similiar collection, they aren't copying me, that's just good business.
(Image from here)
If someone decides to display their jewelry in bowls of rice, and the next week their neighbor at the antique mall does the same thing, is it copying? Is it wrong? No doubt it's copying, but I don't know that I'd get too upset about it. It isn't going to hurt my sales and I think I'd look at it as flattery that someone liked my idea.
If a dealer takes a piece of vintage ephemera to Kinko's and has it copied on poster size paper and sells the posters, and then another dealer does the same thing with a very similar image, it's definitely copying. Is it wrong? I think so, because it could negatively affect the sales of the original dealer.
This list certainly isn't all inclusive, it's just little bits and pieces of my observations. I don't mean for this post to scare anyone. If you see me in my booth, please feel free to stop by, stay hi, shop, buy all the new (old) things I'm bringing in. You know this post isn't referring to YOU.