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The Biggest Savings Tip at Antique Malls!

by J. Money on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Antique mall sign

Over the weekend we went to a pretty killer antique mall party. As killer as those can be, anyways ;) As a thrift addict/antique fan my whole life, I’ve certainly been to my share of these (warehouses divided up into 50+ “stalls” with each one paying rent to hawk their own goods), but this one took the cake.

Not only did they have an unlimited supply of coins and paintings and all kinds of stuff I’m super into at the moment, but everything was decorated around the holidays! And there was free food, drinks, candies, and more importantly COOKIES! WOO!!!! I made it my mission to test out every single offering within the 45 mins I was there, which turned out to be not such a good idea ;)

Anywho, a friend of ours had invited us out for this special “midnight jamboree” or whatever they called it (they were literally open until midnight, which is crazy cuz it’s an ANTIQUE store!) and I got to chatting with her about business and how the whole thing is set up in the background. You know, in case I ever follow suit with my own similar place one day ;) And I learned a $hit ton in the process:

First off, you pay rent – that’s it. I couldn’t get a hard number out from my friend as I didn’t want to pry *too* much, but she did say it was “expensive” – at least in her eyes… I should have asked the front desk on my way out but I ended up forgetting :( Anyways, the deal is you pretty much cram as much as you can into your stall, and your rent is based on the size and location of it. My guess is anywhere from $500-$1,500/mo, but I could be way off.

Secondly, it’s up to you if you want to “show up.” You can come in every single day if you want to, or you can never do it and have the people at the front desk check out your customers for you as they’re all given instructions and keys to your units (glass cases, drawers, etc). This is included in your rent, and every time I’ve check out places like these it’s pretty much always a ghost town. So I assume most dealers just stay at home or wherever, except to re-stock up – which is pretty important as you always need a good inventory to keep attracting your customers.

I asked my friend if she finds she gets more deals if she’s there vs. when she’s not, and she said that almost every single time she sells more being in her stall. Mainly ‘cuz you can chat w/ people and cut deals if you need to, and it’s especially great when you can relay stories on where the item’s been for the past 100 years or how you were able to procure them. Making the sale much more personal!

(On a side-note, you also learn things about the seller too – like how my friend’s whole outfit that night was bought off a dead person for like $15! Haha… Something her and her husband tend to do a lot because it’s easier to get a deal when the other party can’t negotiate ;) Freaky!)

Also, there’s a lot of theft. It doesn’t matter which malls you set up shop in either – they’re all prone to it :( There’s cameras everywhere, but when sellers aren’t there to guard their items, there will always be more opportunities for asshats to walk away with your goods. (I was also told there are lots of cliques among dealers too, proving once again that high school will never be over! Haha…)

Needless to say I was learning a lot. But the BIGGEST tip I received throughout our whole conversation that night was this… And it’s a biggie!

Anytime you buy something over $20 at an antique mall, ALWAYS ask for a 10% discount! You will get it!!

I had no idea you could even negotiate there! But apparently it’s some unwritten rule between all dealers, and is pretty widespread across the industry. How awesome is that?? I’ll have to block out all those previous shopping trips I’ve had before knowing this secret existed! Haha… and hopefully none of you are dealers are reading this right now and getting mad at me for letting it out of the bag ;)

The whole adventure that night was a riot. I loved it. And so does Baby Money as I’ve never seen him smile so much and coo at all the different things stuffed into that place :) I’m pretty sure he has major A.D.D. like his dad.

In the end I did not leave the mall empty handed though. Right as we were walking out the door I spotted a few items that I thought were coins originally, but the gentleman who was moving things around told me they happened to be old “tokens” instead. Like from old subways or transit buses, etc. I was somewhat intrigued by them just ‘cuz they were something different from what I’d been collecting over the past few months (one of them was from the DC area too!) and when I learned they were only a buck 50 each, I told the guy I’d take all 3.

old subway metro tokens

He happily took them out of the case and told me I could get the “special” since he was in a good mood, giving me the whole lot for only $3 bucks :) Proving again that you DO make more deals when you’re physically in the store to greet your customers! And I walked away with a much better understanding of the items I bought as well, it was perfect.

Anyways, there you have it. A handful of tips for when you’re on either side of the transaction next time… Just don’t forget about that 10% discount one! It’s a helluva secret to know! :)

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Photo credit: urbanwoodchuck


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Verne Halom December 11, 2012 at 5:59 am

I read through this post and couldn’t understand why someone would want to set up a shop then hand the keys over to reception for them to look after business. Of course there will be better sales when you’re present; the whole sales process is getting to know the customer, understanding what makes them tick, what their requirements are and overcoming their objections. If you’re not there, there’s no opportunity for the sales process to take place, especially if ‘reception’ aren’t experts or know the goods.

With regards to the 10% discount, I try this even in some of the chain stores. Believe it or not, it has worked several times in the past!!! :-)

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2 Lance @ Money Life and More December 11, 2012 at 7:14 am

You never know if you can get something or not unless you ask. Even some bigger stores have employees that will give you discounts at the register and the worst thing that can happen is the person says no and you have to pay full price. Can’t hurt to ask :)

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3 Sense December 11, 2012 at 7:20 am

My parents tried out having a stall in an antiques/woodworking market like that (they are really into making $hit out of wood). This place had lots of vintage items but a few stalls with handmade stuff like my parents’. They didn’t have to be there at all, just like the place you went to. My parents ended up selling zero items so they got rid of it! I can’t remember what their rent was, but I remember thinking it was a total rip off (maybe $150 a month or something, with a 3 or 6 month minimum contract?!).

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4 Budget & the Beach December 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

That buying clothes off the dead person’s back gave me chills. ha ha! I don’t think I could do it. I’ve never been an antique shopping fan, but people who love it really love it.

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5 Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget December 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

I wonder if that discount works at flea markets as well… we have a great one in our area, and I’ll give it a try next time we go! What kind of crowds frequent antique malls? Our flea market draws in this huge gathering of e-cigarette smokers.

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6 daveM December 11, 2012 at 11:20 am

This is marketing at it’s finest. Strike up a conversation, get rapport, listen, and close a sale. Probably the persuasive and skilled merchants do quite well there. The drawback is being unsure if there is traffic for your niche.
The mall you visited did a nice job of having the refreshments and cookies, you will think of that mall for years to come.
The point about the discount is well taken. Many people are reluctant to make an offer and will pay full sticker price. We have to keep in mind that the merchant may have no sales that day and will accept a sharp reduction so as to increase his sales.

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7 Jacob @ iheartbudgets December 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I love perusing antique stores, and have always wondered what it would cost to run a place like that. The one time I asked about running an antique mall, they owner told me I had to be willing to give up all the days of the week, because basically they work 7 days and week and don’t net a ton of cash.

I think you should get into one, though, so I can live vicariously through you! ;)

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8 J. Money December 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

@Verne Halom – You don’t know why people would leave their goods to be sold on their own? Just think about all that free time you’d have to then make more money or do as you please elsewhere! :) You just wouldn’t make *as much* that route, but you’d probably more than make up for it in these other areas you’d be dabbling in…

Cool about asking 10% EVERYWHERE though! I’d never thought of that either really, just assumed it wouldn’t work? Unless the item was damaged or a display model or something – in those cases I ask all the time and usually win :)

@Lance @ Money Life and More – Apparently not! Both you and Verne up there must get everything cheap! Though I highly doubt you guys ask every time you check out at Target or Best Buy, I’d like to see proof of that in person ;)

@Sense – Hah! At least they tried it out – I give them mad credit for that :) But you think $150 or so is a rip off? That sounds cheap to me!! But then again I don’t really know what’s normal out there… and/or outside the DC market which is all kinds of jacked up.

@Budget & the Beach – Yeah, I don’t think so either :) But I’d be fine with used clothes that came from them if no one told me they were dead! Haha…

@Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget – What? Really? E-cigs?? Haha.. the only time I’ve ever even HEARD of those was when I visited my friend up in Wisconsin… Is that near where you live? I don’t think they’re popular here on the East coast but I could be wrong…

As far as testing out this trick at flea markets though, OF COURSE!! You can get way more than that off though – flea markets are all about haggling :) I typically always start my bargaining at 25-30% off no matter what it is (unless it’s like a dollar or .50). But you don’t physically say 10 or 25%, you just throw out a lower number that’s roughly around there, and they 8 out of 10 times will accept it, and the other 2 times come back with something in the middle. So most def. give it a shot!

Oh, and regarding antique mall clientele – it’s typically your older crowds who collect more high-end things. Or rare things. There’s hardly any young people there (like in their 20s/30s/etc), unless they’re just coming with their parents or something. But some are more “hipper” than others which would change things.

@daveM – Yup! Or the thing has sat here for 2-3 years on end and they finally have a living breathing buyer for it! Haha… Actually my same friend up there just started selling on eBay too and got rid of something that’s been in her stall for 3 years. It took 24 hours online to do it! So now she’s gonna start listing more and be “passively” selling on both sides of the game, which I think is smart… The more people you put in front of your items the better odds of offloading quicker!

@Jacob @ iheartbudgets – Haha… well I’d NEVER own or run an entire mall I don’t think, but I’d certainly rent a small portion out if I think there were some bucks to be made ;) And/or I struck it rich off this blog and didn’t have to worry about money any more, haha… cuz I’d set up shop just for the fun of it! Especially one that had lots of foot traffic so I could meet a lot of people all day long :) Totally cool!

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