Vintage Garage Chicago

My First Show

I surveyed 250 vintage dealers and asked a series of questions that revealed many common threads among those of us who make a living buying and selling vintage. Answers were often honest and surprising. There is no doubt we are a passionate bunch! Because I asked open-ended questions, I'm posting about the most commented on subjects. Topics like time management, social media for vintage, increasing your exposure, legalities and display are coming. Doing a vintage market is a huge topic. Catch up by reading about competition, and having a vintage store.

Make sure you get all the way to the bottom for the tips on doing a show!

My First Vintage Market

After the store closed (read about my shop here if you haven't) we had a ton of merchandise. I'd never done a show or vintage market before. I thought this might be a good way to get rid of some stuff.

Honestly, for the years I sold online, I used to wonder why anyone would drag this stuff out of the house to any vintage market. I didn't know what to bring, how to set it up, NOTHING. I was also afraid if they knew I didn't know what to do, they wouldn't let me in. So, for my first show, I kept my mouth shut and no one asked. I was in! But nervous.

With two vehicles full (including kids), to Northern Michigan we went. We brought a lot of jewelry and a variety of stuff.  I actually found a pic of our very first booth.  It looks pretty good!

We did OK with set up. We used bright pink table covers like one would use for a birthday party. At the time I thought it would set me apart from the crowd and people shopping would remember the pink! I was probably right 🙂

We spent a LOT of time and energy on this space.  You can see we put down rugs and I'm standing behind my own jewelry case, which was crazy to transport, by the way. The Chinese bar on the left is now in my dining room.

Our sales were pretty solid that weekend, about $2900.00. But, there's a few things to remember when considering this amount: We brought 2 vans full AND no one had ever seen my merchandise before; I had a few pieces that were magnificent and I probably sold them too cheaply; These were the "good old days" when pre-2008 shows were bringing in higher dollar amounts; This was a whole weekend, not one day; Booth rental was around $400; Each night in the hotel (3) was about $130 and gas for 2 vans was $200. That didn't include cost of goods and food.

The money flowed freely, too freely. You want things to look great the first time and you figure you can use everything again.  Now, I think it would have been better to spend less, get a feel for it, THEN spend money on table covers, props etc.

Driving 2 vehicles 4 hours each way wasn't such a smart idea, but we wanted to do really well our first time and look great. It would have been smarter to take one van, set up lighter and really pay attention to what was happening at the show and being part of it. What was selling, how were things priced?  How were they setting up?

The second booth we ever set up was at the Cat's Pajamas show in Elgin, Il. This time there was a major storm and flooding was all over the Chicago area. People had a lot of trouble making the show and it cancelled all sorts of flights.

We lost money after gas, hotel, booth rent etc. Not to mention 4 days.  

I was still hanging onto the pink, as you can see in the photo above. I moved into washable black table covers after the first year, which was easier. When you see this pink color over and over, it starts to look like Pepto Bismol. 🙂

Tips for your first show

    1. Don't spend a fortune. Do the show first and remember your first time at any show is a learning experience.
    2. Don't be afraid. Customers don't know if you are new. They are excited to see your stuff!
    3. Find something local. Driving all over before you know what you are doing isn't optimal.
    4. Commit to it. Doing any show one time isn't going to give you the full scope of the experience anymore than opening a shop for one day would.
    5. Be ready to promote yourself. In the old days, promoters would promote a show and dealers would show up. It doesn't work that way today. The show scene has changed a lot. Those big buyers of 2o years ago are retiring, buying condos and downsizing. Today it's a new audience and the old forms of marketing don't work.
    6. Time is Money. You might spend 4 days on a show between driving, set up, show and breakdown. How many hours is that? Did you make enough to cover it?  Will you?
    7. Start with a one-day market. Or as short of a time period as possible.
    8. Use the opportunity to promote YOURSELF. Not just you at the show, but just YOU. Have business cards that will direct potential long-term customers to your website or Facebook page.
    9. Build your list. Gather email addresses from your customers so you can keep in touch starting NOW.
    10. Don't overdo it. Keep things as simple as humanly possible. Figure out what you want to bring.
    11. See that gap between the Chinese bar and the jewelry case?  That was the only entrance to my booth; that's BAD.  Don't restrict anyone's ability to get into your booth!
    12. DO NOT BE AFRAID to talk to the show managers about being new. If anyone does anything other than welcome you into the fold, you don't want to be there. Mentoring helps everyone in our business!

If you're interested, take the survey for yourself. It is for anyone who sells vintage and antiques, or aspires to!

Vintage season is almost here!  Joins us anytime here in Chicago.  The Vintage Garage beings April 17th!

Vintage Garage Chicago

5051 N. Broadway

Chicago, IL 60640

United States (US)

Phone: 312-505-6373
Email: hey@vintagegaragechicago.com

Vintage Garage Chicago, 5051 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640, United States (US) - Phone: 312-505-6373 Secondary phone: 8475799079 Email: hey@vintagegaragechicago.com URL: