my five “secrets to success” when selling at an antique market

Marian Parsonsbuying & selling antiques, Running a Business16 Comments

Many readers have asked, through comments or e-mails, if I could share some of my tips and “secrets” to being successful at an antique market, so I thought I would write a post and share my answers with the whole group.

Here they are, my top five (off-the-top-of-my-head) secrets to success…


Create a Cohesive Look

Remember, as you’re curating for your booth, that you’re not just an antiques dealer selling individual items, you’re a designer who is selling a look.  If your booth is all over the place, stylistically speaking, it’ll be harder for customer to envision certain pieces in the context of their home.  If your space is carefully curated and styled to show each piece in a context, customers are not only more likely to purchase a piece, but more likely to purchase multiple pieces, because they love the entire look.  It’s up-selling without having to say a word.

So, a few things to think about as your curating – color, style, scale, theme.  Have a common thread that makes the look cohesive.  Also think about how items can work together.  If you’re bringing a hutch, what can you bring to fill the hutch.  If you have chairs, what about adding pillows?  Get the idea?



Have Highs & Lows

I am very intentional about carrying pieces at a variety of price points, so anyone can shop at my booth.  I’ve had things as low as $.25 vintage game pieces and as high as a $1,200 tufted sofa.  I know there are some vendors who just carry furniture or who just carry smalls, but I think for most vendors, a mix will bring in more customers and encourage add-on sales to those larger purchases.

Also, make sure your prices are appropriate for the location of the event.  Some areas can support higher prices than others, but a lot of success depends on having prices that entice people to buy.



Tune Into Trends

This one is a bit of a tightrope, because you want to be on trend, but you don’t want to look exactly the same as all of the other vendors who are on trend.  So, I would say “do you”, but keep what is trending in mind.  And look to a lot of different industries for trends, not just the home decor/antique world.  Look at fashion, electronics/apps, the art world, etc.  Inspiration is literally everywhere!

Carry around a notebook and sketchpad to jot down observations and ideas, take pictures of what inspires you, fill Pinterest boards full of colors, textures, designs, styles and ideas.



Pick the Right Event

I think this is key, too.  You can put together a fantastic booth, but if you’re at a show where everyone else is selling used electronics, high-heel shoe chairs, Gone with the Wind plates, tube socks, etc., then you are probably not at the right show.  Pick a good venue that attracts quality, design-oriented dealers.  I also like selling at events where an admission is charged.  You know that people paying to get in are interested in buying at least something!  That also means the organizers have money to put towards advertising and promotion of the event.



Share, Share, Share

This is my best tip to share with you.  Share pictures and details about what you’re bringing to the event on social media or a blog, if you have one.  I noticed a huge difference in my market sales when I started sharing about my pieces on my blog and social media.  When you share the pieces you’re bringing and some details about them, like price and dimensions, it gives buyers a chance to think about the purchase, imagine where they will put it, measure their space, get the “thumbs-up” from their spouse, etc.  They come to your booth knowing exactly what they want and they are ready to buy it.

Sure, people come to antique markets with an open mind, knowing they will “know it when they see it”, but if they know they love your piece, they will make a bee-line to your booth and that’s a good thing for you!

Even if your online following is small, share pictures of your pieces and see what happens!



I hope this is helpful for those getting ready for upcoming fall shows!

I know there are a lot of talented people “in the business” who read this blog, so please add words of wisdom in the comments section if you have any secrets to share!


Speaking of fall markets, I will not be attending the Market on Chapel Hill this year.

I know, I’m so sad about it!  The organizers and vendors are fantastic, but it’s just a long way for us to travel, so we’re taking a year off.  We may be back again at some point, though.

They have a fantastic lineup of vendors this year, though, so I would strongly suggest checking it out if you’re near Pike Road, AL on October 1, 2016.  You can find out more on their Facebook page.

my five “secrets to success” when selling at an antique market

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16 Comments on “my five “secrets to success” when selling at an antique market”

  1. What great advice for both vendors and buyers, especially if they want their homes to look as good as your displays! Please know you will be missed at The Market on Chapel Hill this year. You have been such a big part of our success, and we do hope to see you back here soon. We are bigger than ever this year and are so excited about our vendors. Thanks for mentioning us in your post!

  2. My husband and I sold some things at local flea markets and my tip is to “enjoy the process.” Get out there and engage with people/customers/vendors. Make sure that you know something about what you are selling, if possible, so you can add a little story to your sale item. I loved watching my husband explain how some old cameras took pictures to a 10 year old boy used to digital cameras and phones. It was a history lesson and totally worthwhile even though he didn’t buy the camera.

  3. I would add: (1) Make sure to price your items BEFORE you get to the show. You really won’t have time to do it when you’re setting up, (trust me) and there is nothing more aggravating to customers than having to ask for a price on every single item. Many people won’t even bother to ask, and will just keep walking. It can also make it very difficult for your helpers if they have to find you to ask a price on each item – you’ll both be exhausted, and your customers may get tired of waiting. (2) Make your displays accessible, as people want to take things out/down and touch them. I had a tendency to create beautiful stacks at my shows, which looked great, but were hard for people to get to the ‘thing’ on the bottom that they were interested in! Marian’s booth space is nice and open, with no precarious stacks, and everything tactile is easily accessible (like those great German brushes) so people can pick them up and play with them, and decide they MUST have one!

    1. I totally agree! It’s really annoying for your booth neighbors if you don’t price your stuff, too! I was next to someone one year and people were asking me about their prices (thinking it was my stuff) all day. I also agree about making items accessible. A couple of years ago, I brought hundreds of ironstone plates and almost none of them sold. It think the stacks just felt too precarious and overwhelming to go through.

  4. Marion,
    The picture above this, with the table would make a gorgeous watercolor. I am going to try it.

  5. Hi Marian, Great Article!!…Just wanted you to know the listing address on your site for Sage Farm Antiques is incorrect!..The fall show will be in Rochester, New Hampshire at the Fairgrounds!!…I checked their Facebook Page because I am planning on attending and wanted to make sure I head in the right direction! It is only about an hour from my house in Massachusetts! Take Care!

  6. Good advice from a credible source! Doubt I’ll ever do a show like you do, but you never know! If I ever do, I’ll look up this post so I remember the tips you’ve shared!

  7. Since you are not attending the Market on Chapel Hill, I was wondering if you might be interested in a space at my Water Street Festival, which is held in conjunction with the Catoctin Colorfest, October 8-9. We are a lot closer….

  8. This is good advice for someone like me just starting. I think I have a total of 5 pieces of furniture done. Pricing for my area is my major issue right now. Thankyou for sharing

  9. So sad you won’t be at Chapel Market. I completely understand about the distance being a big factor but we so love you here in the south. Hope you can come back next year. I am in mourning!!

  10. Good advice, I’m not sure how to follow it, but I will continue to evolve. I have lots of ideas of repurposing pieces and getting creative with old pieces, but my neighbor would make my ideas a realty, but he decided to coach the local high school football team, and I feel lost I cannot use a saw and I don’t own a paint sprayer????

  11. Thank you for this post, Marian. I show at an “upscale” indoor flea market, and I use many of your ideas for my displays. I would like to add: 1) put items in the back of your booth to “draw the shopper in”. It can be a color, a large piece, or striking vignette – anything to catch the eye. 2) shop booths/ markets in your area to see how others price their items, then like you and Carrie mentioned above, you can have your items priced and ready to go. 3) Being kind of OCD, I try to sketch out my large pieces/ displays before we arrive. It makes set-up so much faster with less re-arranging!

  12. Great tips- I have shopped at consignment shops, vintage malls etc all my life. I am considering a booth at a consignment shop. I have read to have a look, have cohesion etc. My question is- does this mean only using certain colors, or selling all vintage stuff, and nothing newer. I find various things at flea markets, estate sales at a good price, also I have just moved so I thought about starting out with pieces from my other home, but I have a conglomiration of different things. Other blogs I have read said have small, medium and higher priced items. Do you think the booth would look ok, if I have like a kitchen decorating section, living room items section. I am just confused about the cohesion part, if I am not sticking to a certain color scheme, or farmhouse look. This booth will be in Alabama near the coast, so it will be shopped by locals as well as tourist. Thank you

  13. I like what you mentioned about having some high priced items and low priced items at your booth. That way, you can attract a lot of different types of customers and have a better chance of adding sales on. I am hoping to sell some antiques at a show soon, and I want to make sure I do it right. These tips should really help me, thanks a lot!

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