Most malls have contracts or leases. Mine, American Classics Marketplace in Colorado Springs, asks for a 4 month commitment at the start of the lease — and month to month with a 30 day notice after that. At $1.50 per sq. ft. and 10% commission on all sales, it’s very, very reasonable.
When you consider the credit card fees (some can be quite high – 7% or more), salaries for employees, building maintenance, utilities, advertising, insurance, etc., all those things that go into a brick and mortar store, I find it to be quite a deal.
Some malls have restrictions in terms of painting and attaching items to walls. So be sure and ask upfront if you have a desire to personalize your space.
It’s important to look into what you’re getting for your money. Things you should consider and ask about before signing on the dotted line:
- Waiting lists – sometimes it can take time to get a space, especially in highly desirable malls.
- Price per sq. ft. – the mall I’m in is $1.50 no matter where in the main area you are. Some, I’ve heard, charge a premium for heavy traffic areas like in front or the main aisle.
- Length of commitment – how long is the lease? Is there an “out”?
- Sub-lease – Some of the bigger malls allow you to lease a portion of your space to others.
- Working the store – some smaller operations allow you to work in exchange for a reduced rent. Some MAKE IT A REQUIREMENT that you put in a certain number of hours each month — or find someone who will work for you.
- Inventory Restrictions – Are there rules as to what can and cannot be sold in the mall? For instance, one mall I know of demands that 80% of a dealer’s inventory be AT LEAST 50 years old. Some do not allow new items at all. Crafts, sometimes arent’ allowed or are restricted to certain areas.
- Cases – most malls have cases that you can rent for less. Some are locked, some are open. If locked, look into how difficult it is for customers to find someone with a key. Do they have to go to the front and ask? Or is an employee right there to assist customers? Some dealers have a space AND a locked case that protects smaller items from theft.
- Electricity – is electricity available to your space? What is the cost? Lighting can draw attention to objects and displays.
- Security Devices – do you have access to devices that attach to extremely valuable items? You know those little thingys that trip a door alarm if not taken off at the register? My mall, unfortunately, does not have such devices.
I advise you to take all the information home. Read over the lease and the rules to be absolutely clear. If you need clarification, ask before you sign. And, as always, GET IT IN WRITING. Staff can turn over quickly. The verbal agreement you had with the manager can be gone when she leaves the job.
If you’re fortunate to have several malls in your area, check on all of them. Compare rates, but also compare traffic and advertising. Low rent with no traffic can put you out of business very, very quickly.
Want more tips like this? Consider buying our ebook Selling in an Antique Mall: A Beginner’s Guide.