Antique Group Shop Checklist for antique sales

Antique Group shop rocket ship lampTen things to consider before joining an antique group shop

We created the Antique Group Shop Checklist because single purpose antique shops are all but extinct. Most Antique sellers have discovered that it has become impossible to keep a shop going without taking on “boarders”. Because of this (and a few other reasons) most antique stores that you shop at today are now antique co-ops or antique group shops.

Financial impediments aside, a group shop allows the owner to leverage his tenant dealers in a number of ways. From collecting their rent, to sharing counter time and hosting a more diverse buyers experience through the better quality/quantity inventory of the group.

If you are looking to rent space in an antiques group shop there are a number of items for you to consider. The quality of the shop and your ability to move product will be shaped by how the shop is run. Here are ten things you should consider prior to joining a group shop:

Does the owner of the group shop sell antiques too?

In our humble opinion, the group shop owner needs to choose a business. Either they are in the antique selling business or they are in the antique mall business. Trying to do both will inevitably create conflicts between the tenant and the group shop owner. Most of the really great antique malls have very strict separation of business ideals.

A group shop owner cannot focus on promoting the shop and his or her tenants if they are hustling for inventory and pushing their own product. There are exceptions to this but they are far and few between. Sorry this is just how we feel based on our experiences in antique group shops.

If the owner does also sell antiques you need to take a look at precisely what they sell. If they sell items like yours there may be a conflict. If the owner of the shop works the counter you need to be assured that no steering will take place.

Our advice is to shop the co-op before you sign a lease. Spend some time looking around and ask a lot of questions. Ask for specific types of items (that you would plan to sell) and see what booth the counter-person sends you to. Before you sign up study the shops rules to see if there is anything about these topics covered or discussed.

Does the shop have a computerized system?

Seems that nowadays everyone should have an antique mall computer system. There are more than a few companies that specialize and sell software for group shops. Some are better than others but there is really no good reason for a shop to operate without a modern computer system.

We have been in shops where the owner still fills out and tickets and then batches them into a spreadsheet. We have also been in shops where the owner still does everything by hand. This approach is prone to error and does not create useful data for the shops tenants.

Antique group shop computer systems have evolved a quite a bit since the 1990s when they first started to become popular. Many systems offer a number of excellent tools for both the shop owner and the shops tenants. A group shop that does not have a system should raise a red flag. We would not consider renting from a shop that does not have a good computer system.

If you are getting serious about joining a group shop make certain that you know what system they have installed and what features are available to the group shop tenants. Features like reporting on what categories are selling, notifications when an item is sold, useful/accurate accounting reports and automated social publications will make your life easier. Get sample reports from the shop’s owner and see if they meet your accounting requirements.

Does the co-op have a working surveillance system?

Many shops have alarm systems that protect the shop during off hours or when the building is unoccupied. A growing number of shops also have video surveillance systems that are capable of capturing and recording images from multiple cameras.

If your booth is out of the line of sight from the front desk then you need to make certain that there is a camera placed within a clear sight line of your booth. You will be amazed at the number of items that “grow legs” in a group shop. We have lost many pieces over the years.

Other key camera locations are at the entry of the shop, at the exit of the shop and very critically, at the register or checkout location. Because many shops deal in cash it is important that there is a record of the checkout.

Ask the shop owner how long they keep video records and what areas are being covered. If they do not have a video system ask them how they are dealing with theft and loss. Speak to other dealers in the shop to get an idea of the security of the shop.

What fees are you going to be charged?

The main (most significant) fee that you will be responsible for is the monthly rent. You should take the time to check out the cost per square foot by doing some simple math. We have paid anywhere from $3.50 dollars a foot up to over $15 a square foot. This will depend on your choice of a booth or a case somewhere in the shop. Do the research and find a number that you are comfortable with.

Using an example of a 8 foot by 10 foot booth with a rent of $345 per month. To calculate your price per square foot you take the dimensions of the booth and multiply them. Example 8 x 10 = 80 SF (Square Feet). The monthly rent of $345 is divided by the total SF and you come up with $4.32 (rounded) per SF. Your annual rent will be $345 x 12 or $4,140. That is a lot of tchotchkes!

Credit card and other transactional fees can be a mixed bag. Some shop owners will simply pass through the actual transaction fees. Others will add on a percentage as “handling charges”. These charges will eat into your potential profits so find out ahead of time what their policy is.

Avoid a shop that charges you a percentage of your sales on top of the rent. This type of fee punishes dealers with good inventory for sale. Only consider a percentage of sales if the shop is in a spectacular location with enormous traffic. Otherwise keep looking!

What about sales taxes?

What is this? In Connecticut (and many other states) the owner or operator of the group shop collects sales taxes on your behalf. They are then required to report the sales, file sales tax, and remit the collected taxes to the state. Take time to read the laws in your state so that you understand who does what and who is ultimately responsible to the taxing authorities.

You might be surprised at what you find out about this. What if the antique group shop owner fails to pay or report sales taxes that he or she collected from your sales? Each state has its own regulations so study up.

Here is a handy link for sales tax research Sales tax resource

What about insurance, theft and broken items?

What is this? First you need to think about the space that you rent as your shop. In most cases you are fully responsible for stocking it, arranging the goods, lighting and what you sell. So the big question is; What is your liability?

You will need to get specific advice from a lawyer or a knowledgeable insurance broker. Some potential questions you need to ask are: If a piece of furniture that you placed in the shop falls on a customer or a shop worker who is liable? If someone is electrocuted by plugging in that old lamp that you are selling who is liable? What if the shop owner does not pay his or her employees workmans compensation insurance, are you liable if they get hurt?

There are many more questions that you need to ask when you place yourself in the retail marketplace. Having a legal expert advice you might be one of the smartest things you do. It will help you decide what insurance that you will need and what your personal liability is.

On breakage, damage through break-in and other losses of inventory you will need to read the shop lease agreement. We also suggest that you speak with an attorney or qualified insurance broker after you have a copy of the lease agreement and before you sign the lease.

The web, online access to your inventory and your shop?

Unless you have been under a rock for the past decade you know that you can pretty much get anything on eBay or Etsy. Yet for some strange reason many group shop owners do not have a website, good social media presence or even a way to place orders online. This is a major missed opportunity for the antique group shop owner and the antique group shop tenant. The reasons are obvious so do your research.

Search for the name of the antique group shop online. Look for it in Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. Also search the customer rating sites like Yelp and others to see what people are saying about the shop.

What about advertising, social media and internet?

Related to online presence, how else does the shop advertise? Ask the shop owner for his or her past 12 months of advertising collateral. This will give you a good idea about the consistency of their branding efforts.

If they have no advertising collateral or are unable to show you what they have been doing to promote the shop you should ask for some information on the number of monthly sales (quantity of tickets) and average ticket amount. In either case you will be far better off if you get an idea of the promotion efforts that shop owner is willing to extend for the shop. Once you sign the lease it will be too late.

Where is the shops traffic coming from?

Where is traffic coming from? Is it a local shop frequented by locals or is it a destination shop that people travel to see? Are the buyer’s mostly retail or are they predominantly dealers? Knowing the difference will help you understand the pricing model.

Does the shop get its traffic from another popular tourist attraction? Is it a summer market and does it dramatically slow down in the off-season? Knowing this will help you understand how to stock the shop and how many months will yield few or no sales.

In one antique group shop we routinely saw 3 to 4 months of sub $100 sales as well as a few $0 sales periods. In this particular market, Christmas, spring and parts of summer were the only times of reasonable sales volumes. Also be mindful of the schedule for major regional events where antiques are sold. Knowing this can help you decide when to stock up on items that would appeal to dealers preparing for such events.

Miscellaneous items like: access to put stuff in your booth access to shipping, and etc.

When can you bring in new stock and when can you pull out old stock? Many shops have specific times that you can and cannot work on your booth. We have been in shops where weekends or busy times were restricted we have also been in shops where we were allowed to do pretty much anything. Check before you sign the lease.

Shipping and delivery is a big deal in some markets. A few antique group shops we rented from were really good about delivery and others were not so good. Having a clear and reliable method for delivery available (for the items that you sell) can mean making the sale or not.

Shipping is a little different than local delivery. Some shops will pack and ship others will not. Shipping can be an important part of making a sale for some items. Check to see what shipping arrangements the shop you are considering has available.


Author: uasole

Old and wired but not retired.

2 thoughts on “Antique Group Shop Checklist for antique sales”

  1. It is important to get only quality things, as these will certainly be most likely to hold their worth as well as really stand out in your house.

    1. Great point! I will address the quality issue in my next post. Many I know in the “antiques” business have lost a ton of money buying marginal items. In my experience, only the high end, desirable pieces will sell or hold their value. If you are dealing in lower tier items they must be in superior condition to be able to resell them.

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