For anyone interested in selling antiques in a brick and mortar setting, a multi-vendor shop can be a great way to test the waters. This type of establishment is a large store divided into smaller booths or “cubbyholes” which are rented to individuals. The store owner sells the items in the booths, collects the cash, and remits sales funds to the renter. Coded tags are usually used to identify which vendor gets credit for a sale. A multi-vendor shop requires much less in start-up costs and stock, (and therefore carries much less risk) but there are some key things to consider before joining one.
The first thing to know is whether you must sign a lease. No lease means you can leave at any time, however, it also means that the owner of the shop can change the terms of your rental with little notice. Most of these shops require a vendor to sign a lease, although a small number do not. Look for the lease to spell out not only the rent amount, but the details of how the business is run. Some leases require that a vendor work several days a month in the shop (as a volunteer). Any store which requires you to work in the shop should be more reasonable than those that don’t have this requirement. The store may also charge an additional fee based on a percentage of your total sales (in addition to rent), and this amount should be clearly noted.
The prices of items in many antique shops are negotiable. Read the lease to see if the price you set on your items is firm or negotiable, and if there is a cap on what percentage an item might be reduced. This is crucial to know when you assign a price to your wares.
Any potential vendor should also inquire as to whether there are restrictions on what merchandise can be sold in the store. Some shops allow newer vintage items and even reproductions, while others strictly prohibit them.
A few other avenues to investigate are how often and by what method you will be paid, and what happens if an item of yours is stolen or broken (it happens).
One of the best ways to get inside information about a multi-vendor shop is to talk to some of the current vendors. They are frequently in the shop volunteering or restocking their booths, and many like to share their experience.
It is helpful to visit a potential shop at different times and on different days. Get a feel for the traffic, and observe whether customers are usually just browsing or actually buying. Be aware that business in some tourist locations may be seasonal, and sales may plummet in the off-season.
Finally, before you decide to take the plunge and sign a lease, make sure that you research sales and income tax considerations.
A multi-vendor shop can be a fun way to enjoy your hobby or supplement your income—just read the lease carefully and ask a lot of questions before signing on the bottom line.