At least once a week (and sometimes more), someone asks us if we have any space available in our little log cabin. Most of these inquiries are from customers who are inspired by what they see, and dream of having their own space in a shop...someday. If you're dreaming of having a vintage business, here are a few tips we've learned along the way.
1. Before you start picking, pick a style.
You may already have a garage, storage unit, barn, shed or house full of items. But if you're not already a serious collector, step back and think about what you are passionate about. Is it...
You'll notice we didn't list "vintage" as a style....because it's not. It's really not even an era - it's kind of a catch-all for anything and everything that isn't new and isn't antique. Don't get us wrong - we love vintage as much as sunshine, puppies, and chocolate chip cookies ... but it's not a style.
While we're on the subject of styles, eclectic isn't a style either. That's simply a polite euphemism for inconsistent. And inconsistent is not a good look for a vintage booth.
And we didn't limit this to collections of items (painted furniture, antique signs, teacups, linens, etc.) Because a successful booth is going to need a mix of items, from big to small, with lots of in-between.
2. Pick your selling style.
Do you want to focus your attention on....
1. Markets? Vintage Market Days and Country Living Shows are a fairly recent phenomenon with circuits of 2- and 3-day events throughout the country. These are juried markets, meaning you'll have to supply some photos and credentials to be considered. And they generally have rules for your merchandise mix (new reproductions vs. true vintage/antiques.)
Flea markets like the NashFlea, Scotts in Atlanta, Brimfield, Round Top and others are great for getting lots of people in the gate. Be prepared to return multiple times to earn a reputation and following among customers. Smaller pop-up markets like our Spring and Fall Pop-up Market Days can be an excellent way to try your hand at selling from a booth.
Be prepared to collect and curate a lot of inventory before each market, and have a way to haul them to the market (and haul home whatever doesn't sell.)
Also be prepared to be very engaged with your customers at the market. The best mousetrap in the world still needs a smiling, energetic and warm person to sell it.
We did a few markets when we started, but they really weren't something we loved doing, mainly due to the work involved in hauling it in and packing up and storing the inventory in between shows. But we are VERY glad for the pickers and vendors who set up at markets, and make it possible for us to browse hundreds of collections in a single day.
2. A booth? We found ourselves on multiple waiting lists for a booth space in shops in Murfreesboro, Franklin, and Nolensville. Our first venture was in Franklin, and we quickly learned that what we thought was enough to fill a booth barely made a dent in the available space. So if a booth is your ultimate target, you'll need to have enough inventory (in your style) amassed to fill and stage the space.
If you need an idea of how much that is, take the rent, multiply it by at least 3, 5 or more. That's your monthly sales goal. Now double or triple that and you'll have a ballpark of how much inventory (in retail dollars) you need to have in it to make it a success. We encourage our vendors to have a mix of about 20-30% large items, 40-50% mediums, and 20-30% smalls. Too many big pieces and your space will feel hollow. Too many smalls, and it can feel claustrophobic. It'll take a while to get the right balance.
3. Consignment? This is where the majority of our vendors start. Ours isn't a traditional consignment shop, where customers drop off random items they're ready to sell, and the store sells them and splits the proceeds with you.
We interview and will only accept new consignors who commit to consistently bring in a specific type/style of goods. Our consigned items range from industrial carts and furniture pieces to hand-lettered signs, linens, artwork, candles, and jewelry. Our point-of-sale system allows our vendors and consignors to see at a glance what has sold, so they know when to bring in more.
We have found consignment is the best starting point for most of our vendors - you will quickly get an idea of whether your tastes are shared by customers, what the appropriate price range is for the items you love to collect or create, without investing in massive amounts of inventory to start out.
Consignment works well for those in a "busy season" of life - you aren't tied down to a market schedule, or constantly maintaining a booth space.
In our shop, active consignors are given first consideration when a booth space does open up.
3. Ready? Set? Go!
What's holding you back from starting your own fledgling vintage vendor journey? If you know your style and know what type of venue you want to try, start filling out applications. The best markets, antique malls and shops all have waiting lists and applications.
If you don't take the first step and fill out (and return) the application, it's highly unlikely you're going to "luck out" and find yourself invited to have a space anywhere, let alone in the market or venue your heart truly desires.
Email us if you'd like to apply for a spot in our fall or spring Pop-up Market Day or in our shop. And for more reading, we suggest joining the following Facebook groups:
Vintage Market Tips & Tricks/Curate Hive
Dare to dream big, vintage-lovers!
Terry & Sherri
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!