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Monday, May 2, 2011

Finding our identity

When opening a store, you have to have a clear vision of what you want to be. Do you want to be a thrift store where only the most frugal collectors come to shop, or do you want to cater only to the high-end designer trade? Do you want to be somewhere in the middle? There's nothing wrong with any of these...but you have to identify your niche.

We had sold at an antique mall in the past, where we carried fairly inexpensive pieces we had picked up for pennies. When we started talking about opening the store, we knew we were ready to up the ante quite a bit. We were also adamant that we didn't want our only criteria for buying a piece to be its age, which can sometimes result in buying items that were of poor quality 60 years ago and haven't grown better with the passage of time. That led us to talking about buying only pieces that were quality items when new and are still in excellent condition... no "fixer uppers" on the floor that needed reupholstering or refinishing.

So out of an ongoing discussion of several months' duration about what we didn't want to be, a clear idea finally emerged of how we envisioned ourselves. We wanted our store to have an upscale look and affordable prices. We wanted our customers to walk in and immediately be visually delighted by meticulously arranged displays of tasteful, stylish pieces of furniture and accessories. Once the visual "wow factor" was achieved, we wanted their second reaction to be, "The prices are so reasonable!"

Admittedly we don't sell at thrift store prices, but we have something for every budget in the store. And no matter what the item, we make an effort to sell for less than the prevailing retail price, because we fervently believe that good design should be accessible and affordable...and because we believe that if you offer great items at  fair prices, your customers will show their appreciation by coming back.

For example, unfilled atomic barkcloth pillows covers can consistently be found in the $30 to $50 range, but we sell the cover with the pillow form included for $35.

A recent search turned up a spate of vintage fiberglass desk lamps in the $60 to $100+ ramge, but we have a couple in excellent condition for $45.

Just today I found a pair of almost identical Bitossi Rimini blue candleholders by Aldo Londi for $139. A few searches later I found a single for $95. We have a pair marked at $65. We also have a large pedestal bowl for $75.

A high-end retailer sells this Jens Risom chair for $837. Ours is priced at $420.

Of course we want to make a profit on what we sell, but to us it's not about squeezing every possible dime out of an item. Rather, it's about getting a reasonable return on our money and putting beautiful design into the homes of people like us who appreciate it. So far, customer reaction is exceeding our expectations.


  1. Nice peek behind the curtain at your process. You are SO smart to price well. Far too many sellers use ebay as a guide not seeming to understand that a winning auction price meant multiple people were competing for it or they use price guide prices that are inflated because it's generally a replacement price, what you would insure it for, not what you should pay for it. Smart sellers make for happy buyers - I bet your buyers are ecstatic!

  2. From what I have been able to read off your price tags in past photos, your prices are more than reasonable.

    10-20 years ago when I did the antique mall/thrift store rounds all the time, 50's things were, in MY opinion, outrageously priced.

    Extensive and comprehensive eBay shopping (all I do lately) and your prices are comparable or BETTER.

    It's also my opinion, that the reason so many antique malls went out of business in my area, is because sellers did NOT adjust prices to fit the eBay market, and let's face it, that's what the majority of vintage shoppers do these days, is use eBay as a comparison when determining value, or so my theory goes.

    I'd buy local too, if sellers adjusted their prices accordingly, and not price things 3-6X what eBay prices are. And your shop is priced perfectly! Wish you were local...

    Did any of that make sense? lol...

  3. Also, just a thought: Advertising is key, and offer to ship if you also advertise online.

  4. I think what a lot of people do is look at eBay prices...and, even worse, 1st Dibs prices...and forget that a lot of the pieces they're looking at haven't sold because they're overpriced. We all want to believe we've got a really valuable piece that's going to make us a bunch of money, but it's only worth what someone will pay for it. We'd rather keep things moving and keep people happy than have a bunch of items with big price tags sitting in the store for months.

    I think eBay is a particularly bad place to determine value, since so many people who sell there are just cleaning out grandma's garage and have no idea how to price their items. On any given day, you can find the same item unbelievably underpriced on eBay, as well as grossly overpriced.

  5. Great post. I think it's more important to move quantity at a fair price, especially if you have quality items.
    I swear when I move back to Portland in the next couple years I will be leaving room in the U-haul and making a few stops along the way. One in St. Louis at Mr. Modtomic's garage and one in Dallas at your store!

  6. I'm so happy for you and your success! I think you have a perfect business plan and your pricing strategy is really smart. When I see images of your shop and then look at your prices listed, I'm so so impressed (and jealous). The only comparable store in Atlanta (I won't name names) is similarly impeccable looking, but their prices are painful. I think they are able to do fairly well because there are enough people willing to pay crazy prices for beautiful, high quality vintage, but it's not in my budget. I do have to say though, I'm glad in a way to see people willing to pay upwards of $1800 for a quality vintage Danish sofa, I just wish I could afford it myself! Oh, if you are interested in looking at the website for the shop I'm talking about, let me know. They post their inventory and prices online.
    Um, my point is that I think you have set up a very very smart strategy and I think you are destined to do very very well.