Monday, June 30, 2014

Crazy is in the Air!

Crazy is in the air!  I thought maybe it was just in the air around the antique world in Georgia, but apparently, it's in the air all over.  The vintage business is hot and trendy.  Everybody and their brother thinks they need to open a shop, even if there are already 10 shops in the area, which is inconsiderate and just plain stupid. It's also asking for trouble.  With every new shop that opens, the competition gets a little harder, which is stressful.  The over-saturated market is bad enough, but what's worse is the witchy behavior.  I've come across some people lately who are racking up some major bad karma points with their ugly behavior.

My apologies to Veronica Lake, who played a very
nice witch in her 1942 movie, "I Married a Witch"

I've met loads of "fun-crazy" types since I've been in the business.  But 2014 seems to be the year of lunatic, watch-your-back, "OMG,-I-cannot-believe-they-did-that" kind of crazy.

I've seen a few crazy situations locally and have had quite a few Vintage Show Off fans message me privately for advice with truly insane situations. It's so sad.  We should all be having fun, right?

We all need to choose carefully who we associate with. We should all try to do what we love and surround ourselves with people who are supportive.

If you are in a bad situation, but desperately need the money, be very active in looking for a better situation, even if it's not selling vintage wares.  If you desperately need the money, you probably should be doing something a little more reliable.  There's not a lot of money in running a booth.  You know that, right?  

If having a booth is more about having a hobby you love and/or earning a little extra pocket money, then get the heck away from lunatics and go to a mall that's happy and "normal", even if it has less traffic.   Once you get to the happy mall, do what you can to make it more successful.  Pitch in a little!   Help them market. Help promote them on Facebook, even if it's just by leaving comments and sharing posts.  Help decorate now and then.  Be a friend to your fellow vendors.  If your help is valuable and goes beyond pitching in a little, maybe the nice owner will appreciate it enough to compensate you with reduced rent.

Mean behavior shouldn't be tolerated.  I don't think we should just stand by and keep quiet.  Isn't that enabling the bad behavior?  If you stay where things are bad and/or keep quiet when you see wrong being done, then you are pretty much saying you are OK with it.

If it's the store owner or manager who is bad news, keep in mind that as they go down, your booth will go down, too. They may go down swiftly (like in a lawsuit) or they may just see a steady decline, which they will conveniently blame on everything but themselves.

Thankfully, all the owners and most of the vendors I work with directly are good, decent people who try to do the right thing.  If they weren't, I promise, I'd be gone so fast, you'd think my super-hero power was speed.

One more thing just to clarify.  We can't demand perfection.  Pretty much every person on earth has their faults. (If you think a person has no faults, you probably just don't know them well enough.) Even a person who tries really hard to be good will have a lapse in judgement from time to time.  Don't expect your mall owner or fellow vendors to always do what you think is the perfect thing.    The behavior I'm referring to in this post is mean-spirited.  Stay far away from that!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dishonest Customers

Hopefully, the majority of your customers will be lovely.  Unfortunately, if you have a booth long enough, you will probably come in contact with some who are morally challenged.  There's no sense in getting angry or letting them spoil your day.  I always trust that karma would take care of them.  You reap what you sow.  Etc Etc.
My apologies to Carol, the woman in the photo.
This was taken a long time ago and I'm sure she has turned her life around.
This should be a warning to us all.  If you are arrested and your mug shot ends up on the internet,
many years later it could show up in the most unlikely places.

Just as there are things you can do to make your home a less attractive target for a burglar, there are things you can do to make your booth a less attractive target for dishonest customers.  Honestly, my suggestions aren't great ones.  They are just deterrents.  And I would be willing to bet that there are more helpful ideas on this topic.  Comments and suggestions are welcome!!!!

Price Changing
It's super easy for someone to come along with their own pen and mark through your price and write in a lower one. One solution - never slash your prices on the original tag.  Have a special tag that you ALWAYS use for sales rather than just crossing through a price on the original tag and writing in a new one. Let everyone who works the register know that.  Solution is actually not a good word choice.  Someone can still mark through it and unless you are working the register, it can still be rung up with the new "thieving customer" price.   Lets just say this idea is a decent deterrent.

Tag Destroyers
When I had a booth, I would get calls at least once a month for a price on an item with a missing tag.  I knew I was great at putting on tags in such a way that they weren't going to fall off.  They were being pulled off deliberately.  At first, I would just go to my spreadsheet and look up the price.  But then, I got irritated.  I'd look on the spreadsheet and then quote a new price that was a little  HIGHER than what was on the tag.  If they really wanted the item, they might go back to the booth and miraculously FIND the missing tag.  Or, they'd pass, leaving the item to be purchased by someone more honest (after I'd made a new tag).  Making new tags is irritating.  Side note - whenever I rearranged my booth, I'd almost always find a tag on the floor behind and or under things.  The hole where the string had been was generally torn.

Another possible help is to use the tags that are hard to pull off.  Tags with reinforced holes require a bit more effort.  It can still be done, but again, it's a slight deterrent.

Tag Switchers
I am always amazed at how many vendors don't write enough info on their tags.  If you simply write your dealer number and a price without writing what the item is, you are begging for a switch.  A customer could grab a $9.99 tag and take it to the register with a $24.99 item.

Be sure the description on the tag is good.  One vendor friend had two windows for sale.  One window was plain and small.  Another was large and special.  A customer grabbed the tag from the cheaper plain one and used it to buy the much more expensive one.  Both tags said simply "Window".

There's no perfect way to prevent dishonest customers from pulling a fast one.Unfortunately, there are dishonest people out there and this is the kind of thing that you need to figure in when pricing.  Big stores know to expect theft and breakage and they price everything a tiny bit higher to offset those losses.   Unfortunately, a smart and determined scumbag will probably succeed somewhere in the store.    If this is a big problem at your mall, then the mall needs to step up security.  Having very visible security cameras is a good step in the right direction.  Having enough people working the floors is another.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Is it Better to Limit Colors in a Booth?

There has been quite a bit of discussion this week on booth colors.  I started it off by warning that the trend for the all neutral look may have peaked and it's definitely over-saturated.  In a sea of neutrals, anyone who uses color will stand out.  On the VSO Facebook page, I showed several booths using turquoise.  Some had red, white and turquoise and the one below was mainly turquoise and white.

I found this photo on Pinterest and it belongs to Mary at The White Barn.  Since I had been showing 3-color booths in the previous photos, I suggested that orange or red could be added to this booth to attract even more customers.  Mary wrote in and said she hates red and prefers the calm feeling of just turquoise and white.

Then, in another comment, Rhonda asked, "Can you have too many colors, even if you try to group and creatively arrange the items in a small booth? Or are the booths with more uniform colors, such as the one above more successful?"

First, for Rhonda, I really don't think it matters.  I have seen very successful neutral booths while other neutral booths bomb.  I can say the same for multi-color booths.  I wrote this post about how it's more important that your booth have great things that people want rather than a beautifully staged booth with few things people want to buy. I love love love a beautiful booth, but in the end, it's gotta have stuff people want to buy.

As for Mary's booth, it's beautiful just the way it is and as you can see by glancing in the booth, there are plenty of things people will want.  I see several items I'd want to go check out if I lived close by.

Restricting to two colors can be tricky.  The addition of a third color would likely increase sales.  I feel pretty sure that most every customer who sees this booth would love it, but many of those customers won't have turquoise in their decor.  They could still buy the neutrals in Mary's booth, so they'll still go in the booth.

Mary prefers calm colors.  So, no red.  No orange.  But, how about adding more green in various shades???  There's already bits of green.  Green is a popular decor color.  It looks great with turquoise - very ocean-y. The turquoise would provide the punch of color and turquoise seems to make everyone happy, even if they don't have it in their decor. The booth would have the soothing look that Mary wants.  BUT... it might increase her sales.  If a customer didn't have turquoise in their home, they might have green, which means they might see more that they would actually purchase.

Does Mary really need to do this?  Absolutely not!  If her sales are good and she's happy with her bottom line, then she doesn't need to change a thing.  But if her sales ever start to drop, she might try adding another color to the mix and see what happens.

A point that I wanted to make this week in talking about color was the wish for booths to not be so similar to others in the mall.  Several of my favorite booths are all neutrals.  Even though this trend has peaked, it's far from over and I hope these booths keep on going for a lot longer.  But, I see far more neutral booths that are just sad copies of the trend.  I'd love to see those dealers try something else.  Something more unique.  The trick for vendors is to put their own stamp on their booth.  I'm actually delighted that Mary wants to stand firm on her look.  She has a clear idea of what her booth is about and I'd be willing to bet it's quite popular.  If it weren't, I doubt she's be so set on it, right?

But if another booth in her mall decided to go with a turquoise and white booth, that would be a shame.  So, what's the difference when too many booths in a mall are all neutral?

For that matter, do booths really have to have a limited color palette?  Heck no!!!  You can get great stuff in as many colors as you like and create vignettes.  When you pull a vignette together, you can think about color.  You can have many different vignettes with different color palettes in your booth at one time.  There are many fabulous, very successful booths that do that.  They have every color in the crayon box, but they arrange it artfully.

The Bottom Line - 
There's no one road to success when it comes to booths. There are many different roads. You might as well look for the road that makes you happiest and gives you sales you are comfortable with.

Update: The following comment was left on Facebook by Mary at The White Barn.  It's her booth that's featured in the photo in this post.  The comment had so many good points that I thought it should be included in this post.

Since I tend to sell mostly vintage, I work with what I find. This will dictate the color scheme and sometimes my "look" isn't necessarily what I WANT because my finds aren't my favorites, and when they ARE my favorites and I get the "look" I want, customers carry them off immediately...sigh. The woes of good pieces-they don't last long. But I do confine my purchases to colors I don't mind in my booth, and if I HAVE to buy something red, it will go in the corner at the back, or in a buddy's booth.  My best booth looks usually last about one DAY. It is bittersweet-yay, the product sells, but bummer, I have to go rework the whole thing again. I do like to mix in some new market items to keep my booth fresh. One hundred percent vintage can be hard to display if you don't have some florals or textiles to break up the hard surfaces. Vignettes attract customers-I think they LIKE to see good ideas for decorating, but they must be changed often so your booth stays fresh and they keep coming back to see what you have done. Selling merchandise helps this a lot, but if sales are slow, go turn your booth upside down and change everything. Usually sales are much better when you move things around. Sometimes an item just doesn't SHOW UP until you move it. This happens at garage sales all the time. Move an item and it sells immediately. Thank you for the attention. I enjoy this topic-retail sales are fascinating. We humans are funny creatures!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I See The Same Booth Looks Everywhere

This is something that has been on my mind for awhile.  I have a feeling that things are starting to shift.  I have no idea what they are shifting to, but I think I know what they are shifting away from.

No matter what nice mall you walk into, you'll see several booths that look the same as several booths you recently saw at another nice mall.  The arrangement and merchandise is a bit different in each booth but the look is the same. I would love to insert a great photo of a pretty booth in neutrals, but since this article is about the market being over-saturated with them, I won't do that. 

We saw the all white look for a long, long time.  All white started to transition over to white mixed with lots of neutrals and burlap and iron.  That really caught on and for the past few years, those booths have ruled.  I think that look may have peaked. It's not over by any means.   It will likely still do well for a bit more time, but I'm not sure how long.

Even style names are changing. Fewer and fewer vendors are using the words "Shabby Chic" to describe their furniture on their tags.  I still see it some, but I wince because it's seems too passe.  The upscale neutral booth vendors never use those words anymore.  My, my.  I feel like such a snob.  :-D

Retro was hot for awhile and vintage kitchenware sold like hotcakes.  Not so much now. Those fabulous retro tables with enamel tops used to sell like hotcakes.  Now they sell a bit slower and for less money.

Industrial was hot for several years.  Now it sells a bit slower.

Chalk painted furniture is everywhere, but now, unpainted furniture sales are starting to rise - or at least a mix of painted and natural.  Tables that are painted on bottom and wood on top do just a little better than the solid color tables.

I have no idea what's the next big thing.  I'm not seeing any clear ideas from magazines, but one of these days, some new design star is going to show us something amazing and people will start jumping off the neutrals bandwagon and head onto another path.

So, my advice for vendors - think about diversifying.  If everything you have is chalk painted, add in some wood.  If everything you have is white and/or neutral, add in a little bit of color.  Watch magazines.  Watch Pinterest.  Watch what sells.  Get ready for styles to change.  You don't have to go overboard.  Just a little bit of a change can make a difference.

Luckily, in most markets, the local consumers are usually just a tad behind the styles.  Once a new trend gets started, it takes them a little while to decide they like it enough to start redecorating.  Many will hang onto the old looks for a while.

I am keeping my eye out for new ideas and new styles.  I'm keeping my eye out, too, for booth looks that don't feel like every other booth I see.  I'll post those photos over on the VSO Facebook page whenever I come across them.

The photos I posted this morning are a good start.  Here's one of them.  When I first spotted this, I got excited.  After seeing photo after photo of neutrals, this one was like a breath of fresh air.

Source - My Desert Cottge

I'm not suggesting that this red-white-and-turquoise look is the next new thing, but at least it doesn't look like every other booth.

If you have one of those fabulous neutral booths, I'm not at all suggesting you toss everything and start over.  But you could add a little bit of color here and there.  You could keep plenty of neutral things to catch the eye of neutral-seeking shoppers.  But now, you'd also catch the eye of people tiring of neutrals.  Plus, your booth would be more memorable.  Your booth wouldn't be confused with several others in the store.  I'm really craving something different.  Am I alone?

I admit that this post is heavy with personal opinions.  But, boy do I feel it - change is in the air.  I have seen changes in sales to back up my feelings and my personal opinions, so I don't think I'm alone.  

Also, let me clarify - there will ALWAYS be a place for neutrals.  No matter what style becomes popular, people are more apt to buy large pieces that work with many color schemes and styles.  Neutrals are safe.  Few of us can afford to buy something large in a crazy color we'll tire of in a couple of years. The smaller things around those large neutral pieces are the things we are a little more adventurous with and I, for one, am ready for an adventure. :-D

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Slow Times During the Year

You may be feeling a bit down in the dumps about your booth sales these last couple of months.   Don't worry.   Things should pick up for you.  This is a typically slow time of year.

Booth vendors would do well to keep the ebb of flow of the year in mind.

During the slow furniture months, you may not sell many large items, but smaller items will get you through.  It's a good idea to plan for that.  If you are very willing to have occasional months when you don't even make your rent, then it's fine to specialize in only large pieces.  It's possible that the sales of your other months will compensate for the off times.

If your booth business is more of a month to month thing and when you don't make a profit, you have little in reserve for finding deals, then you need a back up plan.

The thing is, even though April and May may not be great for sales, they are fantastic months for yard sales. If you don't take advantage of the peak yard sale months (Spring and Fall), you'll be scrambling at other parts of the year to keep your booth full.  And you'll pay higher prices during the off months, too.  You need to save up for the months when there are plenty of good deals.

Even though your big furniture sales may slow down, it's not an entirely dead time of year.  Smaller things do OK.  The things that sell are mostly items that people don't have to think too hard about.  Impulse purchases. 

You've probably made plenty of purchases like this yourself...   You see a cute little table.  It's around $50, give or take.  You think it'll work well in one spot.  If it doesn't, you have a feeling you could use it somewhere else.  If you change your mind about it down the road, you could get rid of it without too much regret.  You make a snap decision to get it.   Those snap decision purchases will sell!

During the slower times,
it's great to have plenty 
of nice things in your booth
that sell for $75 or less.  

Meanwhile, try to resist the urge to slash prices on your large furniture.  Better times are coming!  It's wise to keep the big picture in mind.