Lately we’ve been reading a lot about how antique malls around the country are struggling and some are having to close. For several years I maintained four booths in one antique mall, but I finally pulled out after failing to even make rent for several months. I don’t fault the mall owner. He advertised it and held various promotions to bring in people. It just didn’t work out for me. When I first went there I had one booth in the back and did almost as well as I did with the four booths in the front.
I have to admit part of the problem was me. Looking back, I bought things I liked, not necessarily things other people might like. For one thing, I was too heavy in glassware, and we know how the prices for glassware have softened in recent years. I also probably had too many smalls. It takes a lot of smalls to add up to significant money. I needed to balance them with more larger items for my totals to add up faster. There are still people who had booths in that mall when I did, and they are making money so I have to accept the blame for my own failure to do well there.
However, I want to point out some other problems that I have seen in many malls I’ve visited while traveling. I have to wonder if some of these problems were also found in those malls that have shut down.
Problem 1. – In many malls the booths are crammed so full you really can’t see what’s in them, and if you can see an item you’re interested in you can’t get to it. Some booths almost look like the inside of some storage units I’ve seen. Everything is just thrown in. In some cases, the entire mall is like that. I was in one mall that literally had paths rather than aisles, and the paths just meandered around the store. I saw several things I was interested in but didn’t try to fight through everything to get to them. Mall owners should insist on keeping their stores tidy and requiring those who have booths to do the same.
Problem 2. – Is it an antique mall or a flea market? Personally, I hate going into an antique mall and finding stacks of tee shirts, coloring books, and personal grooming items in the booths. My daughter once had a booth where she lived. It was a vintage shop, and everything in the store had to be within a certain age range that would qualify it as vintage. If the owners found an item they didn’t believe was within that range, they would ask the renter to remove it. If you want to own a flea market, fine. Just don’t call it an antique shop, and if you do don’t complain when it goes broke.
Problem 3. – In many malls there is often a shortage of help available. One person cannot watch the entire store, unlock lock boxes, and check out people ready to pay for their items. I was interested in an item in one mall, but when I tried to ask a question about it I found there were 3-4 people ahead of me requesting help from the one employee working that day. I just walked out. I realize many mall owners will say they can’t afford to hire extra employees. If that’s true, maybe they can’t afford to be in business.
Problem 4. – Some booths show evidence that no one has worked them in months. Dust bunnies are everywhere. The shelves are dirty, and the merchandise is covered with dust. You might be selling some old rusty primitives, but that doesn’t mean your shelves and floor has to be dirty. Clean the booth up. Stage your items to properly highlight what you’re trying to sell. Make sure there are tags on everything in your booth. Yes, I know people tear them off, but when that happens you need to replace them.
These are just some of the things I’ve seen. There’s not much we can do when we see the markets on some things begin to soften. But, there’s a lot that can be done by both mall owners and booth renters to ensure that when people enter your mall they have an enjoyable shopping experience. When people enjoy what they are doing, they are apt to buy your products. They will also tell their friends, and nothing is better than word of mouth. Many malls are doing quite well because they have focused on some of the things I’ve addressed. Instead of closing, some of them are expanding. Whether you are a mall operator or you rent a booth, there are things you can do to see your business expand. The choice is yours.