Thursday, June 2, 2011

Antique Store Wisdom: The Vintage Cabin's Expert Selling Tips

 All photos are by Becke and are from her original post on having a small B&M.

I interviewed The Vintage Cabin's Becke a couple of weeks ago for the Thrifter's Around the World series. When I skimmed her archives and saw her beautifully staged booth in an Antique Shop, I knew I had to pick her brain on how she achieves success with sales in her Antique Store and her Etsy Shop!  

All of her tips are excellent, I will be applying these reselling strategies ASAP! You should, too!

1.    What is the antique reselling market like in Toronto?

Well, my booth is about an hour outside of the city in a small Ontario town so it's not really comparable to selling in a large city like Toronto. I would say that outside of the city, in the suburb areas, it is still a profitable market with high turnover MOST months but there are a few lulls in the year it seems, probably like most retail shops I would think.

2.    I'm envious of your "booth," you have so much space! (Mine is really just one bookshelf). What do you consider a fair price for an antique store booth, and what factors contribute to that price?

My booth consists of 3 shelves, 2 of them bookshelves and one is a low shelf that sits against a wall. It is tiny for the most part but if you can really make the most out of the space, you'd be surprised what you can cram in there and have it still look nice. The key is to use your angles and not just cram everything against a wall and leave it at that. It's hard to determine what a fair price should be, as it's based on so many things including the location of the market, foot traffic, parking, size of booth, etc etc. I think a fair price would really just be a cost you feel comfortable with - ie, if you KNOW you can only really make about $700 or so dollars in a month with your stock, turnover, booth size, etc, then you should factor in how much of that you could stand to lose out of that each month to pay for that space.

3.    What are your top three tips for staging your booth to make sales?

1. I know lighting is not always an option for booth spaces but, if it is take advantage! Plug in some of the lights you have for sale, try and reduce the amount of butt ugly fluorescent lighting which does NOTHING for your stuff.

2. Rotate your merchandise as often as possible. You'd be surprised how many things I have sold simply by moving it up one shelf or pairing it with similar objects. It's the oldest trick in the book (this works very well at yard sales as well!).

3. Try and add new stock as frequently as possible. I go in twice a week to add new items and I also take away a few things that have been sitting around for a while that are not selling. I either donate them and cut my losses or take them home and reintroduce them a few months down the road again. I would say this is the most important thing about running a booth. People will not bother looking at your stuff if it's always the same old crap sitting around week after week. You'd be surprised how many booths I see in markets that have been the same stuff for more than a couple of years! WTF!? That is insanity.

4.    What have you noticed is selling very well right now? Any predictions for the future?

For me and the area my booth is in, anything that is primitive, rustic modern, cabin style (ie wool blankets) and traditional seems to sell. There are a lot of historic and heritage homes in the area and many people seem to like that old world feel in their homes. I do sell some mid century items but strangely a lot of the really cool items that would fly off the shelves in the city sit for a while before they finally sell. As for predictions for the future, it's so hard to tell these days since every style has been regurgitated for the most part. All that is left is stuff from the 1980s and I can't think of one redeeming thing about 80s decor/collectibles other than a few goofy Alf lunchboxes! I think that the primitive and small decorative antique items, cottage and cabin style and classic country will always sell where I am so it's a safe bet for the future (and probably a safe bet almost anywhere on the east coast).

5.    What story are you trying to tell with your booth? 

For me I am not exclusive to themes, etc with my booth but I do try to evoke a casual, decor vibe rather than a stuffy high end collectible sort of feel. I price my items very reasonably and market it all as decorative pieces as I'm not selling expensive (or overpriced) relics from the past that some dealers feel are worth museum prices. I do go by the name Cabin there however, and with that I do try and sell items that would be great for cottages (lots of them around) or vintage minded decorators.

6.    Tell us a little bit about your reselling style, both for your B&M and your Etsy shop, and how it evolved.

I started selling random items on eBay many years ago which were random items I would come across that I just had a gut feeling about with regard to their worth. I sold anything from vintage fur coats to old eyeglass frames, mid century items and some vintage designer clothing like Burberry coats, etc. When I started Etsy, I sold clothes and home decor items and quickly realized I HATE selling clothes online. So, I decided to stick to decor and again, went with a casual, relaxed variety of items that were fun, sometimes unusual and always in great condition. I wouldn't say my items commit to any one style and my own personal style is a bit mixed up as well. I like so many eras that I think the mix of it all creates a casual vibe all by itself!  

7.    You're a dedicated collector with an Etsy Shop, Booth at a Brick and Mortar antique shop, and a blog! What keeps you so passionate for the hunt?

I do admit, the passion ebbs and flows at times but for the most part, it's in my blood. I've been on this hunt since I was a kid and I will never be able to rid myself of it I don't think. Even if I was wheelchair bound and blind, I think I'd still be out on the hunt! I'm not sure what I love the most, the feeling you get when you first walk into a thrift store or a yard sale and your mind races with possibility or actually finding great items and bringing them home. Sometimes I call it a sickness and a curse and other times I consider it some of the best times of my life (which may sound terribly depressing to people who don't get it!) but regardless, if it's a good or bad day, I will always love it.  

8.    What are three quick tips you can provide for being successful with our own antique store booths?

1. Don't price too high! Be reasonable with your markup and focus on high turnover on many lower priced items rather than low turnover on a few high priced items (ie, "Walmart strategy" - evil I know but we are in a recession after all).

2. Clean your items so they show well. So many people just take their items straight from the thrift store and stick it on the shelf in their booth and it's dusty and dirty. Kind of depressing, no? You need to set your items apart from what many see as "thrift store crap"!

3. Make nice price tags! Don't use just any old white sticker - it looks like a yard sale and doesn't make people think that there is any reason to pay a bit extra for your items. Print off some paper tags, punch a hole in them and use some string to tie them onto items nicely. Do you just have a booth number? Why not print the number on one side in a cool font and then write your prices, info on the back? I use my Cabin name on one side, punch a hole in them, write stuff on the other side and use some thrift store yarn to tie them on.


9.    How about three more quick tips for being successful with our Etsy stores and online sales?

1. Online can be a bit tricky, as postage costs, etc can make or break sales for you and unfortunately those are the things you can't control. What you can do though, is price your items a bit higher or lower to factor in the shipping costs someone might have to pay. How often do you buy items online and factor in the shipping cost into the cost of the item to make your decision on whether to buy or not? I know I do! In Canada, shipping costs are high so I have to lower prices a bit to offset that. In the US, shipping costs are lower than a lot of places so it may not be as much of a concern there.

2. Make sure your items are in very good to excellent condition and clearly describe your items. Don't worry if you think you're being anal with the details, it's better than having to answer 65 questions about the item if you leave out too much important info. Also, people don't like surprises so don't leave out important flaws like chips or stains or rancid smells!

3. Photos - this is the #1 thing you need to work on. Good photos = good sales. Etsy has a huge treasure trove of info on the site about how to take proper photos, edit them, etc.

10.    You're always hunting, yet your home, online store, and booth are clean and well-edited. What boundaries do you set to keep things uncluttered?

Well, I do have a barn...have you seen pictures of the inside of my barn!? No? Well, there is a reason for that!!! Naw, it's not THAT bad out there. I am a very organized person and I also am not afraid to let things go. I purge a lot in order to rid myself of junk. My biggest nightmare is having my house become a storage locker for all of this stuff. I know so many sellers who live that way and I would rather take a job at McDonald's and not have any thrift finds whatsoever than live like a hoarder. I used to buy a lot more when I went out on junk runs, I would come home with a car load almost every time. Well, I have changed my ways and have become a LOT pickier with my finds so that also helps. Editing and staying on top of your vintage addictions is crucial in this business.

Past Antique Store Wisdom Posts:

[2/02/2011] Don't Underprice Your Items
[2/10/2011] Should You Rent a Booth at the Antique Store?
[2/16/2011] Stage Your Booth Like a Pro and Increase Sales 
[3/03/2011] The Answers to Your Antique Store Booth Questions
[5/03/2011] The Four Month Update (A Candid look at my Sales)
[5/11/2011]Finding the Best Antique Store

How do you consistently hit your reselling numbers?
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. What perfect timing! I was working my booth yesterday and feeling a little discouraged at my slow sales. Then I read this article and now I feel renewed with new ideas and a new determination. Thank you so much for the wonderful insights and inspiration.


  2. Interesting, and I love her cute setting

  3. Please please please do an interview with Dee Adams of deedee9:14. She's taken thrifting and selling to a whole new level by turning her house into an actual store! I gotta know how she does it! Guess it doesn't hurt she's an interior designer too.

  4. Diana: Me too. I took notes and have a long list of things I'm going to apply to my booth ASAP. I'm sure we'll see sales increase if we apply all of these tips!

    Sandy B: Fascinating! I will research this and inquire about an interview. Thanks for sharing this with me!

  5. Good interview!

    It's refreshing to know what and how others works their booth. I posted some stuff on Craigslist and it sold.

    Here is an example of one of my CL postings:

    I was scolded by another Dealer for selling a beat-up cardboard chest for $12 (I paid $1) and another Dealer told me that I am ruining it for others for offering things so cheap...(of course, I prefer cash-flow over running a "museum booth"...)

    I don't get attached to things either, I get tired of looking at the same things after a few weeks. I know many Dealers who are hoarders.


  6. I wish I had a big booth like yours, and note merely a bookshelf ;) Thank you for sharing your antique store booth experiences too. I'm the same way, I prefer for things to sell rather than just SIT THERE. Markdowns, here we come..

  7. I love your idea's and the time you took to share them with us. I like using the closet door shutter in my booth as well. I mount It upside down so that that you can hook a "S" shaped wire or shower curtain hook into the slat and hang picture from it or purses or what ever fits on a hook. Adds to selling space and charm to your space. Thanks again! Nita


I love reading your comments. Thank you for adding to the discussion! I always reply to any and all questions.

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