Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tips for Shopping Antique Shows and Fairs

The Farm Chicks Show (in the earlier days) - via Country Living
Temperatures are warming up and antique shows/fairs are found almost every weekend around the country right now...it's my favorite time of year!  Spring is normally a crazy, busy time for me and for the first time in 7 years, I'm not working night-and-day on a gazillion projects for back-to-back antique shows that I'm normally a vendor at in April/May/June.  I have to admit that it feels strange not to be stressed out with piles of inventory in the garage and around the house and weirdly enough, I miss it!  I sort of crave the pressure, but with the house being for sale and not knowing what the future held, I didn't sign up for the Luckett's Spring Market this year.  I had been down that road before...back in the summer of 2010...house was for sale, 6 big shows, packing, moving, a baby that never slept...not fun, never again!  I had learned my lesson...
Luckett's 2012 - Part One
So instead of being a vendor, I'm a shopper at the shows this year and long before I started selling my own wares, I was a die-hard shopper at some of the biggest shows like The Farm Chicks Show, etc. for years.  By being both a vendor and a shopper, I've definitely learned a few things along the way, so I thought I'd share a few tips for navigating these shows/fairs that have worked for me over the years...

1) Prepare the Night Before - You'll want to be at the show/fair early the next morning (I explain why below), so it helps to have everything packed and ready the night before.  Unless, you're an early bird and have plenty of time in the morning to gather what you need, it's much easier to just hop in the vehicle and go.  I've created a master packing list just for you:
  • Food/Water - Pack snacks, lunch, and plenty of water bottles for the day.  Most venues will have food stands and places to get refreshment, but many times the lines are very long, not to mention the price of the food isn't always the most economical.  If getting that funnel cake is part of the show/fair experience, then plan on buying it when it's not the prime meal hours to save time.  I'll pack the non-refrigerated food the night before and have a small cooler ready to go the items that need to be chilled.
  • Personal Necessities - I usually ditch my purse in favor of a small tote where I can store my wallet, lip balm, phone, pen, small notepad, small tube of sunscreen, and whatever else I may need.  You just want to make sure that you keep your carrying load as light as possible! The tote can double up as a shopping bag for some of those small items that you many not want to put in a shopping cart, which leads me to the next item...
  • Flea Market Shopping Cart - You've probably seen those two-wheeled, small shopping carts around the flea markets.  If you shop antique shows regularly, I recommend buying one as they are great for hauling your finds around!  Prices vary on these, but my mom and I only paid $5 each for our carts.  I also throw a few large, empty totes or reusable shopping bags in the cart to carry even more goods.  
    The Farm Chicks Show
    • Cash, Credit Card, Checkbook - Another reason I recommend getting everything ready the night before is you'll need to make sure that you have plenty of cash for the show. Cash is king when purchasing at any type of market! Stop at your bank or ATM the day before so you don't have to worry about it on the way to the show or while you're there.  Many of these types of venues are in a rural location and do not have ATM's.  Also, the ATM's that are available usually have those pesky transaction fees, plus having to stop and get cash takes precious time away from finding those bargains.  Many vendors are now accepting credit/debit cards because of the availability of devices like the Square and Paypal card readers, but don't count on every vendor having one.  Bring that checkbook along as well.  Some vendors might not accept checks, but many do and it's nice to have the option if you are getting low on cash.  One more thing about money...either set a strict budget for yourself or bring more than you estimate spending because year after year I saw shoppers buy way more stuff than they anticipated!
    • Measuring Tape, Screwdriver, etc -  If you are looking for furniture for a specific location for your home or client's, bring along a small measuring tape and list of measurements needed to ensure that you're not going to get something that doesn't fit the space!  Antique shows/fairs are not like retail stores with return policies.  Most of the time, you're stuck with your purchases.  Also, pack a screwdriver just in case you need to disassemble something in order to transport it easier (i.e. removing a table-top from it's base).  
      Luckett's 2012 - Part 2
    • Truck/Trailer, Packing, and Strapping - If you anticipate buying any furniture or large items, be aware that you'll need a way to get them home.  If you're already driving a truck, SUV, or van, pack some blankets, padding to wrap your purchases with. Having a large mirror break or beautiful piece of furniture scratched on the way home is the last thing you want to happen! Don't forget the bungee cords or straps for holding your load down as well.  Since moving to NC, I don't have access to a trailer anymore, so when I'm attending shows, I do a quick look-up of local U-haul rental facilities near the show in case the back of the truck isn't sufficient.  
    2) Be as Early as Possible! - I cannot emphasize this enough.  If you're going to an antique show or fair for the best deals and selection, you must arrive early (and wear comfortable shoes)!  Depending on the size and popularity of the show, you may need to arrive hours before it starts if you want to be one of the first shoppers in the door.
    via Vintage Indie
    I used to get goosebumps seeing the throngs of people lined up around the giant fairgrounds back when I was a vendor at The Farm Chicks Show (these pictures are just a small portion of the line). I'd heard that shoppers lined up 2-3 hours before opening. For some shows, it helps to have the correct change for the admission as they may have a separate, faster-moving line.  Also, be prepared for any kind of weather!  If the forecast is predicting rain, don't forget to grab that umbrella or poncho on your way out the door...
    3) Be Prepared to Buy -  You're finally through the gate and it's shopping chaos...  Depending on the show, it can be like Black Friday and you need to have a plan.  Sounds serious, doesn't it?!  The great deals go quick and sometimes I actually had every large piece of furniture purchased (usually by store owners) in the first 10-15 minutes of the show.  Luckily, I had more to bring in :)   If you'd rather go through the booths at a leisurely pace, then this next piece of advice probably isn't for you...
    Miss Mustard Seed's Booth - Luckett's 2012
    • Move Quickly - If you're looking for something in particular or you're a dealer looking for a bargain, you'll need to move quickly and scan the booths for what you're looking for.  For example, if you have your heart set on a crystal chandelier or just the right dresser for your daughter's room, you might want to consider skipping many booths and covering more ground. After you find what you're looking for, then you can go back and shop in detail.  You'll have a greater chance scoring what you really need this way, plus it's never fun to finally find that elusive thing-that-you've-been-looking-for-forever only to have a big, fat "SOLD" sticker on it because you just didn't get to that booth in time!  This leads me to the next piece of advice...
    • Don't Hesitate - If you find something you love, need, and know that it will come back to haunt you if you don't buy it...don't hesitate!  I've gone through this so many times with my mom.  Although, I learned years ago not to hesitate (don't even ask about a giant milk bottle dairy sign for $20 that got away), she still has the tendency not buy something that she really wants only to come back and it sold.  I thinks she's finally starting to listen to me now though :) 
    Sophia's booth- The Farm Chicks 2010
    4) Don't Be Afraid to Negotiate - With the wild popularity of these shows in the recent years, I think's it's fairly common knowledge to ask vendors for a better price or to ask what is their "best price".  Most of the time, there is always a bit of wiggle room for negotiating, but please don't be insulting about it.  I've been on both sides of the negotiating table and even though I love a great bargain, I have respect for the hard work that many vendors put into their wares.  It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to find, haul, re-furbish, haul again, and set-up a booth.  Antique shows/fairs that showcase painted furniture and some unique hand-made items are a bit different than your standard flea market and I personally negotiate differently, depending on the venue.  Get to know what general asking prices are for comparable items and if something is a fair deal, don't push it...just my two cents :)
    Ekster Antiques Booth- Luckett's 2012
    Another tip for getting a great deal is to ask the vendor for a discount if you are purchasing multiple items from them.  It's a win-win situation...the vendor sells several things and you get a bargain.  Also, if the vendor is accepting credit/debit cards and you pay with cash, don't hesitate to ask for a cash discount since transaction fees on the use of the cards usually run 2-3%.  
    Sophia's Booth - Luckett's 2012
    5) Don't Forget What You've Purchased! - This might sound strange, but you'd be surprised at what you can leave behind at various booths.  The little metal shopping carts and tote bags can only hold so much and if you buy furniture or anything large, you'll have to go back and pick up your purchases when you're ready to head home.  I always had an empty wall next to my booth at The Farm Chicks Show and there was an empty space next to my booth at Luckett's last year that many shoppers used to pile their purchases...just don't forget they are there :)  Many vendors will mark "SOLD" on your items and leave them in their booth until you can pick them up.  At a large show, it's easy to forget what you've left everywhere, so pack a small notepad and write down the item and location (booth number) of the purchases.  Taking a quick picture with your phone of the item and booth is a great solution too! 
    6) Shop on the Last Day - If the long lines and die-hard shopping isn't your style, and you just want to leisurely shop the show/fair, shop on the last day of the event.  Usually this will be on a Sunday, but since moving to the South, I've noticed many Friday-Saturday events.  The last half of the first day is also a good time to get some shopping in, but you can score some great bargains on the last day because most vendors want to minimize what they are hauling home.  As a vendor, the last day of the shows were always fun because it gave me more an opportunity to chat with customers and get to know some of the vendors too.  
    Chartreuse & Co. Booth - Luckett's 2012
    So are you ready to shop that local antique show or vintage fair in your area?  They are a really fun way to spend the day and find some treasures!  For more information on The Luckett's Spring Market that is scheduled for May 18 & 19th in Leesburg, VA, you can visit their website HERE.  I also posted tons of pictures from last year's show on my Facebook page HERE and HERE.  
    For those of you on the West Coast, The Farm Chicks Show is absolutely amazing!  You won't regret going... My friends here in NC are probably sick of me talking about how incredible it is, but it really is all that and more.    It's being held June 1-2 in Spokane, WA and there is more information HERE.


    See ya' on the junkin' trail :)

    Kristen

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    20 comments:

    Eclectically Vintage said...

    Great tips - I always have my dorky cart ready to roll! I'm heading to Brimfield next week - can't wait!
    Kelly

    Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

    Such great and well thought out tips, Kristen! I love the pictures you've shared to go along with this post, too. I tend to be more of a browser, so I get to these markets/fairs about 10 {after the initial crowd} and just check things out along the way in each booth. If I find something, great, and if not, there's always the next one. My stomach couldn't handle the stress/anxiety otherwise!

    Old Lucketts Store said...

    Thanks so much for the tips and for sharing your thoughts! A great list of tips here! Love the photos of the Lucketts Market too!

    Old Lucketts Store said...

    Thanks so much for sharing! This is a great list of tips! Just love your photos of the Lucketts Market too!

    Karen Cooper said...

    Great tips! I'm thinking of heading to the Scott Antiques Market on Friday. Now I feel prepared!

    lynn cockrell said...

    These are really great tips! I can identify with your point about not hesitating. I thought I had learned that lesson, but a while back, I snoozed and missed out on a wonderful and large signed and numbered "train" print.I'm still kicking myself about that one.

    Botanic Bleu said...

    Were you a teacher in your previous life? Your tips are so well organized and full of good advice.

    Amazing photos of the 2012 Lucketts Market...

    I've heard about and read about the Farm Chicks Antique Show. Maybe one day, I'll get to visit one.

    Good luck on the house selling.

    Judith

    Botanic Bleu said...

    I'm following and invite you to visit my blog.

    Judith

    Angie @ Postcards from the Ridge said...

    Thanks for the great tips and all the inspiring photos. I'm wondering where you're able to find all of the great items that are in your previous booths? Maybe you've shared that in the past, but do you shop estate sales? Thrift shops? Yard sales? All of the above? You have a great eye for finding just the right treasure! ~ Angie

    the mercantile said...

    Thanks for the great tips. We are going to Lucketts next weekend for the first time. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! Just found you through Hometalk. New follower!!

    Andrea said...

    This post makes me have serious antiquing envy! I really need to make it to Farm chicks one year. It isn't that far (while I live in Alberta, my family is in Vancouver).

    Lady Courtney said...

    GREAT TIPS!!! I'm pumped for Lucketts, I live local, so of course it is my favorite. Going to Brimfield for my second time next week, that is one BIG SHOW! Thanks!

    Claudia said...

    We were getting all excited. A new place for us to go, but then I noticed in big letters; NO PETS PLEASE. We have always taken our pets to Flea Markets. We have a stroller and they ride while the hubs and I shop. They love it! There is no one to leave them with at home, which is why we always take them. Tsk, tsk, tsk. With places everywhere becoming more pet friendly this is sad.

    Shirley@Housepitality Designs said...

    Great tips Kristen!!...I think you have covered everything we all need to know...thanks so much and see you Saturday!!

    Terry Moore said...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the great ideas that I will be using.

    Beth said...

    Hi Kristen, Thanks for all these great tips! So, where do we go to shop flea markets on the East Coast? I'm from NC too and would love discover some awesome markets!
    Thanks,
    Beth @ Welcome Lane Designs.

    Diane said...

    I am bookmarking this post - it is so full of great information. Thank you for taking the time to write it for us - love it!!

    Jenny Lynn said...

    This was so fabulous of you to share. I am newbie, so for me this was so informative. I have already been marking my calendar with flea markets here in Utah.

    Lorita Littleton said...

    Your tips are so professional, Kristen! From the preparations to going to the fair early, and so on and so forth. Being an antique shopper myself, I can easily relate to what you're saying. Be prepared to buy. Of course, that's the whole sense of going, after all. Although after buying a few items, I usually go home instead of touring on stalls I haven't checked yet. It's disheartening to see one piece that you really love and wouldn't be able to buy it. >.< I hope there are discount coupons for antique fairs! -->Lorita

    Jeanne Crackel said...

    Thanks for the tips! This year I am a vendor at my very first Vintage Show: Vintage Bliss Market, here in St Louis. Usually being the shopper, the table have turned, I could relate to your talk about the stress of it all and the over flow of inventory throughout your home… Its getting hectic, but I am excited non the less, just a little sad to not be a shopper this year, but my goal is to come home with the trailer less full than when I started!!!:) Thanks again for sharing!!
    Jeanne
    www.idreamofjeannedesign.com

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