Several of you have mentioned that you would like to hear an update about how my booth at the local antique mall is going. Since this was a new adventure for me, I wanted to wait until I had several months under my belt so I could give you an accurate picture of how it’s doing. I’m approaching the end of my six-month lease and am still by no means an expert. But, maybe my experience will help those of you who are also considering starting your own space.
The beginning of the booth was definitely where most of the hard work came into play. Once I decided it was a go, I spent a good three months shopping, cleaning up items, tagging and storing them (in our garage). My main concern was not having enough items. I didn’t want my booth to look half-done so I bought and then bought some more. I also wanted to make sure I had plenty of inventory-in-waiting in case things sold quickly.
As it turned out, I had plenty of stuff and ended up even bringing some pieces back home with me after I moved it all in. My booth is 10×10’, which holds several large pieces but isn’t all that hard to fill up quickly. My lesson learned: I didn’t need nearly as many pieces as I thought to get started. In fact, I probably had enough just in my attic, but felt it was important that it look a certain way when it opened.
Again, I spent a lot of time up front getting things ready and prepped for my move-in. For the first month or so, I took care of it like a baby, stopping by several times a week to check on things. Now, I may only stop in every two to three weeks for a half hour or so, just to move things around and place new items.
I’ve heard that it’s important change up the look of your booth on a semi-regular basis so that it always looks fresh and new to regular customers. I don’t know that I’ve necessarily seen a huge difference in sales after I’ve changed things up, but I do go and move the larger pieces from wall to wall every month or so. So, I’d say that the overall time commitment for me is maybe one good “fluffing session” per month and just quick stops in and out a few other times during the month.
I wasn’t sure how much furniture I would really need in the space, but it seems that the smaller, accessory items go more quickly. Lamps, mirrors, artwork, milk glass, vintage books, and bowls all seem to do well. This means that I’m usually better off shopping for smaller items than painting furniture in my garage—which is okay with me! I think most people that come through the mall are usually there to browse instead of on a mission for a specific item. So, the smaller, more inexpensive items are easy to pick up.
And, the question you’re probably wanting to ask but won’t because you’re too polite. . . Am I making any money? The good news is that I’ve yet to have a month where I didn’t make a profit. I’ve had a couple of really good months and the rest have been good enough to cover a couple of trips to the grocery. For me, making any money is a good thing because I can still justify shopping for more pretty things to put in the booth. :) On the other hand, I won’t be making a Forbes list anytime soon—or ever.
I chose to open my booth in the place that I did mostly because it was convenient. It’s located right in the town where I live—about a 10-minute drive for me. Being right outside of Charlotte (as opposed to in the middle of it) does affect what sells and how I can/should price items. If I’m unsure, I usually look at what items are going for on Ebay and Etsy and then mark mine a little lower than that.
The antique mall where I’m located is a new business—less than a year old—and word of mouth is still growing. And, with such a wide variety of vendors, I’m never going to completely draw in my target market (those that love my style of decorating) like I would with a stand-alone retail space. While there are other booth rental spots around the Charlotte area where I think I might be more successful, the convenience for me wins out at this point.
When you have 10×10’ and a lot of stuff, the name of the game is maximizing your space. I’ve learned the trick of stacking—chairs on tables, tables on tables, trunks under tables, etc. Upward seems to be the direction to go so that everything looks “grand” when a customer first spots your booth. I chose a corner spot where I would have one actual wall to hang things on and then the adjacent brick wall (mainly because I liked the character it gave the space). I try to keep the chalkboard wall pretty filled with artwork and mirrors, but have used it a few times for writing messages. I’ve also added and taken away seasonal pieces (like the flag sign I painted, branches from our yard, etc.) just to freshen it up a little.
To be honest, I’m in decision-making mode right now as to where this is going—if anywhere. Things I know for sure: I don’t want my own retail shop anytime in the near future. And, the booth is a great hobby but I wouldn’t be nearly as happy about it if it were a full-time gig. I do believe that I could probably sell more items and find more people who would appreciate my finds if I would ever open an Etsy shop. I’m still debating if I have the time to put into it. I’ve even gone as far as to list several items, but haven’t officially opened shop yet. We’ll see. . . I think it will probably be after the first of the year if it happens. For now, I’m going to keep my booth open and see how it goes. I’m interested to see what the winter months bring.
If you live around the Charlotte area, I’d love for you to visit my space. It’s located in the back room of the Catawba River Antique Mall (across from the cafe that just opened) in Belmont, exit 27 off of I-85.
I haven’t been there in a few months — I definitely need to head back. I really like Catawba…seems much fresher than many other antique malls in the area. Can’t wait to check out your booth.
Your booth is so lovely! If I ever get to Charlotte (and I hope that I do!) I intend to come shop there! :)
[email protected] says
Your booth is lovely! I would most certainly shop there if I lived closer! Thanks for the candid thoughts on having and running it. It’s been something I’ve considered, but never have take the leap of faith to do it!
Megan @ Our PInteresting Family says
Loved reading about your booth. I wish I could shop at it. :)
Mary Jean says
I visited your booth a few months ago and bought a large glass float that I’ve wanted for awhile. I think you’re right about people mostly browsing, and because of that your items are fun and reasonably priced for them. You’re in a good location within the building, so I wish you good future sales! I’ll be in Charlotte in a few weeks, so I hope to make a return trip to the mall.
Emily Clark says
Thanks, Mary Jean!
Alison Militello says
I live in South Park and Lake Norman I have a lot of items like yourself and I also refurbish furniture,I am desperately trying to find the most economical spaces. I am getting numbers 150$ to 250$ for 10x10s .I am on a low budget really need a place that has a lot of traffic and would like to have a booth in both areas. Please help I need to move fast I have ran out of room.I need help if you can give me any advice i would appreciate it more than you know.
you may not want to give away your secrets..but where do you get the items you place in the booth? mainly yard sales? thrift stores? clearance from stores? do you feel you spend a lot of time searching for stuff? i LOVE your booth and wish i lived closer! :(
Emily Clark says
I look everywhere! Thrift stores, yard sales, my attic :)
Ashley Gonzales says
Love hearing about your booth! Thank you so much for the update! Is the flower picture that is in the last pic still available at your booth? If so, could you email me the price? Thanks again for your wonderful blog and time. You are amazing!
Emily Clark says
I’ll be glad to check next week when I stop by. I should be able to stop in on Monday.
Ashley Gonzales says
Thank you so much! I live about an hour away and have been wanting to come visit your booth!
Thank you for the update on the booth! I’ve been wondering how it’s doing. You inspired me to open a booth at a local store in my area (Indianapolis, IN). I’ve loved it for the most part, but man, getting the booth up and running felt like a full-time job at first! I love finding treasures at estate sales and garage sales, and now I have an outlet for my purchases. Thanks for the inspiration and update! Love your blog and style.
Emily Clark says
Oh good! Hope yours is doing well. The amount of work has definitely leveled off now that I’m settled in.
Beth Barden says
I am dying to get there! I’d love to catch you on one of your stop-ins and grab a coffee…you did pick a spot by the cafe after all :)
Emily Clark says
Yes! Let’s do it. Email me if you’re headed this way.
Heidi @ Decor & More says
I’ve had a booth space for about 3 years now and you’ve summed up my experience here just as well as your own! It’s mostly a hobby that makes a little money for me, but there are times when it becomes that “one. more. thing.” I think I can do without.
I’m sticking it out through the holidays since that’s usually a fruitful time and will decide whether to continue later in the spring… love your chalkboard wall — genius idea!
live your blog- but your font is so light- very difficult to see in an iPhone!
Love your booth Emily, and thank you for your update. I have some experience although half a world away, and maybe useful to any readers who are doing similar to you;
I had a very similar shop in the UK – not a booth, but a store selling a mixture of new & old, high & low end pieces. I found that the trick with older ‘antique’ pieces was that people bought things that they could easily carry home. When it came to bigger pieces they tended to buy new and have pieces delivered, or from specialist antique or second hand stores – again, those places could offer delivery.
Additionally, I found it easier to sell things that I could make look different: so things like your trunks. One month they’d be styled as coffee tables, the next as end of bed tables, or linen stores. It kept things interesting for me but also meant each piece could potentially apply to multiple customers.
Maybe that’s something that you’re finding too. It is fun, although I’m with you – full on retail is not for the feint-hearted, and is actually deadly dull. It’s divine to meet people – and it definitely propelled me straight into the heart of my community – but day to day it’s like being a housekeeper chained in one place and one place only. I definitely recommend a booth!
Nicole Penalva says
I love your booth!! I stop in almost weekly to visit and see if you have anything new. Most recently I bought the gray dresser that was in your front hall. It has become a bathroom vanity in a house I’m working on in Dilworth. I will make sure to send you a picture when it’s finished.
Emily Clark says
Can’t wait to see!
Your booth looks great…but I think an etsy shop would be fantastic for those of us that live far, far away! ;)
Julie @Creating This Life says
I’ve really enjoyed following your booth experience on the blog. Every time I shop an antique mall I wonder what it would be like to have a booth. I think if I ever take the leap it will be an Etsy shop, but I appreciate you sharing the behinds the scenes of a booth.
NR Designs says
Your booth is lovely, Emily. You always have it merchandised so nicely. Retail is certainly a different type of venture (what will sell, what won’t – ugh! — I know from having a store-front space in a little downtown area over 20 years ago. You really have a pulse on what’s trending — I think you will do very well.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your booth in Catawba…I was an antique dealer in Atlanta for 15 years & loved every minute of the constant shopping, repurposing, painting & doing before to after furniture pieces. Every mall is different & big items or small can be popular with the clientele….I preferred to do a major portion of inventory in painted or distressed furniture pieces with smalls to infill around them. It worked for me in that place at that time.
I did not get rich :) but had a ton of fun & met nice people… I desperately wanted to stop in to see your booth on our last trip to Raleigh to visit family, but hubby did not want to extend the trip any longer….:( our next trip I will take the time to visit! Your stuff looks fantastic, as always!!
Elizabeth @ The Little Black Door says
I love that you shared the ‘state of the booth’ as I’ve often wondered about what really goes into this. Thanks for this post.
I am interested I the head bust you have in your booth. How much is it and will you ship to me. I would pay shipping. Please let me know, thank you.
Katherines Corner says
you have some lovely things for sale. Wishing you every success. Hugs!
Alyssa Roper says
I was just thinking about your booth so I was so glad to read the update before bed last night.. I am opening up a store in 13 days and your blog/website is one of the barometers I use when coming up with design ideas. I love how you push the limits on what will work in a room made up of eclectic style. I consider myself to be an eclectic designer and its clear that you are too – well at least I think you are. Anyway Thanks!
shari mcniff says
I am fortunate enough to get to visit the mill occasionally. With time and patience I have found some great things. I am refinishing an antique farm table right now. AND yesterday I snagged the sweet lamps from your booth! They are exactly what my dining room needed on the buffet to add richer lighting and a great accent color. Thanks you!
Emily Clark says
I’m so glad they worked for your dining room (and thank you!).
Helen Allen says
Thanks for an honest assessment of renting a space in an antique mall. I don’t know that we are ever going to give it a try, but you did provide food for thought. Right now, we just enjoy hunting for things that appeal to us. Of course, our kids hope that we plan on doing something with our treasures so they don’t wind up with them. We can’t wait to try out the new cafe.
Emily Clark says
At this rate, my kids might be stuck with my stuff too. Ha!
[email protected] says
Thank you for sharing this, Emily! I am contemplating booth space at a local antique mall but have nobody to ask questions about it. I really found this informative. And thank you for sharing your personal finance part of it. That’s kind of a big deal if you are headed down the path. You don’t want to lose money!! Could you share where you find a lot of your items? I know that you are a busy mom and can’t spent every single weekend scouring yard sales all day. I am too, so I’d love to know some better places to ensure that it is time well spent.
Finally had a chance to stop in on my way from Chapel Hill, NC to my hometown in SC. I was headed to where I thought your booth would be (based on pics) when I spotted a booth that just looked like “you.” It was! Looked like you’ve sold a lot lately! Good for you. Hope to stop by again when you have more. What an awesome location. I wanted to look for hours.
Emily Clark says
I’ll bet you caught me in the middle of my move. I’m now on the main floor on “Route 66”.
Yep, that’s where I found you! :) That little chair is awesome.
I had a booth about 12 years ago and only closed it down when I moved out East. I’ve toyed with the idea of opening another though. One thing that is very important is to do your own marketing (much of it can be free) which in turn, helps the mall. Oftentimes if you pitch your marketing strategy to the mall owners, they may give a price break on the booth rental. It’s kind of a win win!
Mary Clark says
Thank you for sharing, I too just opened a spot, very small, after rent made 20.00 my first month, probably a bust this month! It’s a lot more work than I imagined in my retirement! I too decided to give it 6 months and evaluate. Very interesting what sells!
Best of wishes!
Your booth is darling by the way
Great little read! Thank you for sharing. The past few months I’ve been thinking about having a booth but I’m hesitant. Your experience is making me lean towards it a little more. I know I need inventory but I’m nervous to invest. Gosh I just need ro do it already. So scared to fail bc I can’t a afford to lose money but then again I’ll never know if I do dont try. Sorry maybe I’m venting lol.
I’m very grateful for your thoughts, as I’m just starting to think about getting a booth. It sounds like exactly the time commitment I need right now. I got halfway through your post and realized we’re neighbors! (Kind of). I live in Denver NC, which is adjacent to Cornelius. Can I ask what the Cawtawba antique mall rents out for?
This was just what I needed to hear.
I’ve always loved antique/vintage things.
I’m totally in overload with mirrors and more goodies I’ve collect between my hair studio and my home.
Ive owned my own studio for almost 30 years and am thinking of a little extra avenue for myself. I feel like 200$-300$ may be more then I want to take on .
Maybe I could team up with a friend.
What are your thoughts on any of this?