Feb 7, 2014

Pinning Down Pinterest Marketing Basics

As a small businessman, I’m very conservative (read: cheap) with my resources. I’m tight with my money and even tighter with my time, because I don’t have an excess of either to squander. Consequently, I’m very reluctant to jump onto the latest bandwagon because I’ve found that too often those wagons don’t go anywhere.

Remember Friendster? How about Yahoo 360? SixDegrees? Pownce? They, along with a host of other websites poised to “dominate social media” came, went and are no more. I’ve found that being a late-adopter saves me a lot of time. So, I no longer sign up for every new social and/or marketing gimmick that comes down the Google pike. My attitude is wait and see.

Well, I’ve waited and watched Pinterest for some time now. For those of you who have been using the site, I confirm your good decision. To those of you who are not yet initiated into the Pinterest fold, I’ll say this: It’s not going anywhere, and it’s time for you to take a closer look.

My mother used to tell me: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” What I’ve discovered over the years is that it gets really hard to keep track of all your eggs if you’ve got too many baskets in play. So this year I’m going to limit myself to just three social media “baskets”: Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest (my “big three”). As far as I’m concerned, these three social networks are the most useful to antiques and vintage dealers. I’ll keep my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, but I don’t intend to visit them too often. Any time spent there is time not spent on my big three. When it comes to social engagement, I’d rather go deep than wide. Read More...

Feb 5, 2014

QR Codes Help Turn Mall Browsers into Buyers

A friend who is an antique dealer says he likes to visit antiques malls so that he can see how much other dealers are getting for their wares. I pointed out that what he was actually seeing was the prices that dealers weren’t getting, since all the items he would view were unsold. “Yeah,” he replied, “but I consider it market research. I can look around for an hour or so without anyone bothering me or trying to sell me something.”

Such is the world of antique mall retailing. Customers can browse booths without fear of being “sold” anything. They are welcome to buy, of course. But in general, customer service in antique malls is lacking. In an antique mall there is no “show and sell;” there is no “show and tell.” There’s just “display, and hope someone buys.” An antiques mall is staffed primarily to ring up sales and keep the place tidy. If a customer has questions about certain items or wants to haggle over price, a staff member may or may not be able to help them. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are rare. If your antiques mall doesn’t fit this description, I salute you.

I recently spent the better part of a day browsing the antique malls in the town of Berlin, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Berlin is a lovely town, and its quaint setting has served as the backdrop for the feature films Tuck Everlasting and Runaway Bride. The mall booths were well stocked and the prices seemed reasonable for the area. But if a customer wanted a question answered, they had to stand in line at the register to ask it. If there were other employees around, they weren’t obvious to me. Read More...

Feb 3, 2014

Consignors: Proceed at Your Own Risk

The couple had such high hopes when they opened their consignment shop. They got their inventory for free, they reasoned and since the real estate turnover in their upscale neighborhood was brisk, they should have a steady supply of both consignors and customers.

The neighborhood, too, welcomed the new business enthusiastically. Within a few months the couple had more than 800 consignors of antiques, collectibles, furniture and home decor. Sales were steady, but near the end of their second year, the shop went bankrupt and the consignors lost all of their property.

The shop owners had signed a triple-net lease, which required them to pay a pro-rata share of the taxes, maintenance and insurance for the shopping center they were in. When the center decided to re-pave the parking lot, the expense was passed on to the lessees, and the consignment shop couldn’t keep up with the lease payments. Behind in the rent, the landlord locked out the shop owners, and they declared bankruptcy. The shop’s consignments became the property of the landlord, in partial payment for back rent.

It’s a common tale, repeated all over the country. Consignment seems like such a straightforward business: Rent a storefront, advertise, take some consignments, sell them and give a percentage to the consignors.

What could be easier?

Generally, it’s what the consignment shop owner doesn’t know that gets them into trouble. They don’t know about sophisticated retail leases, inventory turnover and tracking, accounting, merchandising or the legal implications of consignment contracts. Read More...