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What Sells at Antique Malls?

back cornerThat depends.  It depends on what part of the country you’re selling in, what state, what city and even what part of a large city.

It also depends on the shop and/or mall that you sell in, current trends and which shelter magazines ran which stories on what collectibles. It depends on what Martha Stewart collects and whether she mentioned that on her show or in her magazine.

It depends on the economy and the demos of the area. It depends on the time of year and the weather.

Does that clear it up for you? No? :)  Well, welcome to the life of an antique mall dealer. Dealers continually modify what they sell based on all those conditions.

What sold well in Kansas City last week bombed in D.C., and what sold in D.C. couldn’t be given away free in Seattle.  Historic western gear may sell well in Aspen, but not at all in Denver. What sells in huge malls like The Brass Armadillos across the country, collects dust in upscale shops like Old Glory in Littleton.

Sometimes, though, demand for certain items goes national. Good dealers stay on top of what trendsetters like Rachel Ashwell and Martha Stewart are selling/promoting/collecting. Dealers also pay attention to the stories in shelter magazines.  Decorating trends are as important as collecting trends. Since magazines and trendsetters like Ashwell and Stewart have national audiences, their trends tend to be national, too.

About – oh – a decade or so ago, Martha Stewart’s obsession with jadeite exploded the market. No matter what price I put on ANY piece of jadeite, it sold before I finished stocking my space. While jadeite still sells, it no longer commands the highest prices and no longer flies off the the shelves. Jadeite will always have a core group of collectors, but the heyday is over.

The state of the economy makes a difference. I happen to live in an area of the country that boasts 5 military installations within 20 miles of one another. There are a lot of government paychecks and our economy is doing better than most. Ah, but the network news stories about a down economy causes even those with steady incomes to be more cautious.

For antique dealers, it means that perhaps the big ticket items won’t sell as quickly as once they may have. That $6,000 hand-carved armoire may sit for a while. However, people LOVE nostalgia when times are tough. Surrounding ourselves with things from our childhood give us comfort.  That doesn’t hold true, though, for retirement communities in, say, Arizona or Florida. Retirees, generally, are trying to get rid of stuff and down size.

Keeping abreast of local and national trends is only a small part of the business. Only time as a dealer will give you the knowledge you need to be successful in your specific location.  Paying attention is a dealer’s best strategy.

Here in Colorado, the cities of Denver, Colorado Springs and several of the mountain towns like Winter Park have annual Parade of Homes where custom home builders build their best and put it on display for the public. And, the designers staging those homes look for unique items to furnish those gorgeous houses.  A few years ago my booth was nearly cleaned out by one such designer.  I can only surmise that she chatted with her colleagues, because every year around Parade time, model home designers descend on our mall.  I make sure to stock my booth with my best merchandise – stuff it full and bring more on a daily basis. Parade time gives me the opportunity to sell high dollar pieces.

Typically upscale antiques do the best in towns like Aspen, Telluride, Steamboat and Vail.  Those communities have populations with a higher per capita income and cookie cutter, Ethan Allen interiors just won’t do.  Catch the eyes of the professional decorators who design for such clients and you’ll be in tall cotton.

Catch the attention of the dealers who have shops in those resort towns and you’ll do almost as well. What?  You didn’t know that other dealers can be a big market for you?  Yes, yes, they can be.  I’ll show you how and why you should take advantage of that market next time.

Want more tips like this? Consider buying our ebook Selling in an Antique Mall: A Beginner’s Guide.

  1. Lovely10-21-2009

    You have to be flexible in this business. I’d love to hear your experiences, Sue. Feel free to post :)
    .-= Lovely´s last blog ..De-sick-en-ing My Thyroid =-.

  2. Sue10-19-2009

    I’ve been meaning to do a post like this for a loooong time; so glad you beat me to it! It always amazes me that certain dealers will stick to their guns and then moan about not selling anything. Thanks!
    .-= Sue´s last blog ..Let the Craziness Begin =-.

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