Where Yesterday Meets Tomorrow
"So, how come, if Christmas sales were so strong, Santa Claus didn't buy anything from me???!!?"
Well, Virginia, here are some clues: price, price, inventory, restocking, price, churning, presentation, price, paying attention, price, knowing when to take the loss, and especially, price.
The problem with price guides is that the prices are derived from high end dealers, collectors, and auctions. The "special advisor" for each category is invariably a high end dealer with a house full of stock or a major collector with a house full of the fine pieces. The dealer has a vested interest in keeping prices up so he can sell high; the collector has a vested interest in keeping prices up so he can protect his investment. If they report an actual sale price, it is one of the highest prices they can find for the item, bought by one of the tiny handful of major collectors operating at the very peak of the price pyramid. There might be hundreds of thousands of collectors for an item but only a dozen that are willing to pay huge prices. Nonetheless, that is the price that ends up in the price guide and on many of the items in antique shops. If you price your merchandise "at book", you're going to be waiting a long time for that one in a thousand high roller to walk in the door. And when he does walk in, he's already got the item you're selling because he was the buyer that established the record price. So you can't target your prices at the high rollers; you've got to target the lower and middle range collectors who are likely to appear at antique centers and still need the item for their collections.
Here's a second clue. We get 1,000 to 1,500 customers a month in the store. About a third of them are other dealers. Very few of them are the high rollers who help set the price guide prices. Many of them are "just folks" who like antiques but can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars on whimsies. If you fill your booth exclusively with $500 tables, you're cutting yourself off from most of the customers. The most successful dealers have a broad range of prices in their booths. You can buy the $500 table, or you can buy the $75 set of china, or the $20 Candle sticks or the $4 doily under the candle sticks. One of our dealers had only 10% of their sales from items priced under $10. Another dealer had 93% of their sales under $10. Our best selling dealers have a full spectrum of items and prices. Smalls are essential.
And a 3rd clue. The best selling dealers are the one's we see frequently. Fresh merchandise sells; stale merchandise just keeps getting staler. Probably 50% of the items sold at the center have been there less than a month. If you don't have new inventory, move everything around and make it look new.
Clue # 4. Take time to think about presentation. One dealer put an item under a table and piled other things on it. We finally pulled it all out, spread the stuff on it around the booth, and leaned the item up near the booth entrance. It sold two days later, and the piles are selling also. Another dealer has a very reasonably priced item but with the back facing the main part of the shop. We suggested moving it to the other side of the booth where it could be seen from all over. The dealer didn't want to do it because it meant rearranging the entire booth.
If you've got something that's not selling, ask yourself if the price is too high. If you don't think so, then is it placed where people can see it? Try repositioning it. If that doesn't do the trick, then it probably is priced too high. Remember that there are costs associated with every item in your booth. The item is costing money for booth space; it's tying up money you could be using for additional inventory, and it's preventing you from placing a different item that might sell. So the longer you hold an item, the more it costs you. If you paid too much at an auction, setting an even higher price at the center and waiting doesn't recoup the loss. Ask yourself how much you can lower the price. You're better off taking a loss on something and calling it a cheap lesson than you are tying up space in your booth on an item that doesn't want to sell.
© 1997-2002 Coxsackie Antique Center