Jan 18, 2014

Building your own ‘Robo Picker’

The show promoter’s message to dealers was quite clear: “WARNING !!!! DO NOT EMBARRASS YOURSELF BY TRYING TO SNEAK IN PICKERS TO BUY DURING SETUP. BUYING, HOLDING, AND SELLING IS NOT PERMITTED BEFORE 7:00 A.M. ON FRIDAY. YOUR COOPERATION IS EXPECTED. Violators will forfeit their space(s) and will be asked to leave the show.” (sic: http://www.rileyhorne.com/rentalspaces.asp)

Seems the promoter knows us antiques dealers pretty well. On the whole, we spend more time scouting for inventory than we do selling it. Unlike sellers of new consumer goods, we don’t have the luxury of picking up a catalog and ordering another dozen thingamajigs or two gross whatchamacallits. For the most part, we buy our inventory items one at a time.

Consequently, we spend a lot of time at auctions, estate sales, yard sales, scouring the Internet and networking with other dealers and pickers. From time to time, we are tempted to “jump the gate” at shows to beat the public to the best deals. Read More

Jan 17, 2014

Business Do’s and Don’ts for 2013

Motivational speakers come and go, and much of what today’s “gurus” claim as truth is gone and forgotten as soon as the next guru comes along. A few speakers, though, speak truth so universal that their speeches are heard over and over, fresh to each new generation. One such speech is known as “Acres of Diamonds,” written by Russell Conwell, the founder of Philadelphia’s Temple University, and delivered by him hundreds of times between 1900 and 1925.

In his speech, Conwell tells several stories, all with the same theme: A landowner, seeking riches, sells his property for a pittance and goes off in search of great wealth. When all their money is spent through futile searching, each dies broken and penniless. The irony in each story is that the land sold by the wealth-seekers already contained what they were looking for: The diamond-seeker sold what turned out to be Africa’s Golconda diamond mine, one of the world’s richest. The gold-seeker sold his land to Col. Sutter, on whose land the gold was discovered that started the California Gold Rush. Oil was discovered flowing freely on the land of the Pennsylvania farmer who sold his farm and ventured out to strike it rich in the oil fields of Texas. Read More

Jan 16, 2014

Customers Are Looking for a Reason to Buy From You

Back in 1897, it was rumored that Mark Twain had died. Twain was unaware of the rumor until a reporter showed up at his door inquiring about his health. The reporter, disappointed that he missed a big story, went on his way. Twain was amused by the incident and later recounted the tale for the New York Journal, stating that he was not, in fact, dead. Twain’s famous words, “The report of my death was an exaggeration,” came from the Journal article.

Today, rumors abound that traditional brick-and-mortar retailing is dead. I’m here to tell you that’s not true. As Twain said, these reports are an exaggeration. Naysayers, in an attempt to prove that traditional retail is dead, point to dozens of famous-name retailers that have gone under in the past five years. They claim that brick-and-mortar stores are nothing more than museums, where tech-savvy customers go to touch, feel and test products before buying them online (a practice called “showrooming”).

Bullhockey. That’s not the case, especially in the antiques business. Losing business to showrooming is an excuse, not a reason. Read More

Jan 15, 2014

Flea Market Vendors Show Why Price Matters

The entire town was swallowed whole!

Was it Hurricane Isaac? Nope. Sink hole? Nope. Flea market? Yep. For the 45th year, the tiny Blue Ridge Mountain burg of Hillsville, Va., (population 2,600) was engulfed by a half-million visitors to the annual Labor Day Flea Market and Gun Show. More than 2,000 vendors stretched for more than a mile along Route 58 through the center of town, spilling from the sidewalk onto adjacent fields for a quarter-mile on both sides of the road. Except for the Flea Market and a few essential services, the town was shut down beginning Friday morning. The schools were closed, the library was closed and offices were closed.

Dozens of business parking lots and residential yards were rented out for parking and camping. From the hill at the southeastern corner of Main Street, the view was a sea of plastic tarps, tents, RVs and signs. Shoppers pulling carts, baskets and children jostled each other as they struggled unsuccessfully to stay out of the street. The air was filled with the scent of french fries, kettle corn and impending rain. Sounds of Bluegrass music segued into beach music, and both were accompanied by the rhythm of feet shuffling on the sidewalk. Read More

Jan 14, 2014

Four Ways to Dispose of Dead Antiques Inventory

In my last column, we developed a definition of dead inventory. I promised you then that this time we would discuss how to get rid of dead inventory in a manner that didn’t involve giving it away to the local thrift shop or carrying it to a flea market. So, here are four easy ways to dispose of dead inventory. These methods will move merchandise and leave you with some cash, if not profits.

Join a Barter Exchange

Here’s how a barter exchange works: You list the inventory you want to move with a barter exchange. When an item sells, you don’t get cash; you get electronic “credits” with the exchange you can use to purchase items that are listed for sale in the exchange marketplace.

Buyers in a barter exchange are always looking for ways to spend their credits, and your antiques and collectibles will provide them with a good value. For years, I moved my slow merchandise through a barter exchange in the Washington, D.C., area. In return, I bought items that I needed to run my business that I would have paid cash for elsewhere: office supplies, printing and payroll services. Read More

Jan 13, 2014

Why Dead Inventory Can Kill Your Antiques Business

Not too long ago in an online antiques forum, a dealer posed this question to other dealers: “What do you consider dead inventory and what do you do with it?” It was a lively discussion, with 69 comments in the thread.

The forums definitions of dead inventory included:

Stuff nobody wants
Anything over 10 months old
Anything over a year old
Inventory that remains unsold way too long

Responses to “What do you do with it” included attempts to sell the inventory at:

Flea markets
Live auctions
Yard sales
Consignment shops
Parking lot/sidewalk sales

Some dealers had no plan at all for dealing with dead inventory. One dealer admitted that she had reached a “tipping point” where half her inventory consisted of dead items. When most of one’s inventory is unsalable, profits plummet and customers begin to shop elsewhere. Unless a quick remedy is found, such shops face inevitable bankruptcy.

All retailers, regardless of their line of business, face dead inventory issues. The good news is that dead inventory can be dealt with effectively once one has discovered firm and fast answers to the original questions: What is dead inventory and what to you do with it? Read More

Jan 12, 2014

Surveillance Tools Should Be on Everyone’s Radar

It was just after 7 a.m., and the Mountain Top Antique Mall in Hillsville, Va., hadn’t opened yet. A late-model black pickup truck pulled into the mall’s lot and parked. An older man got out of the truck, walked up to the porch and tried the door; it was locked. No one was around and the location wasn’t easily visible from the road. The man helped himself to about $150 worth of the hanging flower baskets that decorated the mall’s front porch, loaded them into his truck and drove away. There were no witnesses.

Two days later, the police arrested the man responsible for the robbery.


The entire incident was recorded on video by one of Mountain Top’s three security systems. After reporting the incident to the police, Travis Griffin, the store manager, and Jonathan Dillman, the store’s information technology specialist, assembled a video of the robbery and posted it to YouTube and the store’s Facebook page. The video was picked up by the local newspaper, The Galax Gazette, (security camera footage and narration can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/MountainTopTheft) which reported the robbery and asked for help identifying the thief. Readers responded, and a suspect was arrested. Read More