Antique Store Merchandising For Success

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How To Setup Your Vintage Store

Styling tips for antique stores - that's is information I could never find when I opened my store several years ago. I had no problem finding information on general merchandising for common stores or clothing boutiques, but antique stores require a slightly different approach..... or do they?

Antique stores do not need to be a mind numbing labyrinth of clutter and chaos.  Our store, Loved Homestead, combines antiques with brand new home decor items. We only have two carefully selected vendors in the back of the store so we have full control over most of our floor space. We know styling may be a little different for stores that are mostly, if not all booth spaces. That being said, if you own an antique mall, you have the right to have strict guidelines for your vendors. After all, it is your store! Even if you are renting a vintage booth, there are still many tips you can take away here; so please read on.

Boutique Style Merchandising For Antique Stores

When we opened, we did not have a complete vision for the store but we knew that we wanted to create a more inviting, refreshing spin on the vintage home goods store. More of the feeling you get when walking into a nice boutique. We wanted to know where everything is and make it simple for shoppers to find what they are looking for..... or what they did not know the needed!

To accomplish our goals we took general merchandising tips from other types of stores and boutiques and modified them to fit the vintage vibe. Here are the vintage store styling methods that have been successful for us. 

Give Your Customers Some Space

When you walk into someones home, you are not immediately forced to navigating around furniture. Instead, you are welcomed with some sort of foyer or at least many feet of space, welcoming you in.

It is even more important for your store entry to have several feet of empty transitional space. This gives your guests a chance to pause, scan the store and get the "lay of the land" so to speak. If they walk in, nose to product, you risk starting their experience off with anxiety rather than a welcoming feeling. 

First Impressions Are Everything

Just past the "decompression zone", what your guests first lay their eyes on is paramount. Make sure your defining pieces and products are what they see first. If the items that truly define you are in a cozy corner in the back, your guests may not make it back that far!

Who Are You?

Too many antique stores are an "anything goes" affair. Meaning, every random vintage item your hands have ever touched is piled on shelves and tables with no rhyme or reason. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having a broad range of items. Heck, I did a blog post on encouraging the eclectic home. I think you still need to define the main thrust or theme for your store.

Do you love mid century modern? Is depression era your thing? Maybe you are a lover of the primitives. We have all been to "antique stores" that have a primitive cabinet, next to a pressed wood 80s entertainment center with piles of glassware from "whenever" .... a cool antique camera....and maybe even some video tapes! HUH, there is nothing wrong with thrift stores but you are not one, right? Hard to ask for top dollar on a true antique when it is surrounded by thrift clearance.

Our store's focus has always been on early america, primitive to pre-mid-century items. We offer brand new home decor also, so long as it is inspired by and/or contributes to this vibe. 

Personally, except for very select items, we stay away from endless shelves of glassware, figurines and collectibles. We know many stores specialize in some or all of these items and do very well merchandising it. As a store that leans more toward the "home styling" side of antiques, we would defeat our purpose if we filled up our shelves with items that collect more dust than interest. But that is just us sharing our focus. 

Space Equals Luxury

Even if you are not going for luxury per say (we are not), much can be gleaned from that statement. When you walk into a store with carefully curated and rather sparsely displayed items, it creates a feeling of value. Such sparse styling may be harder to attain in the antique world but employing a degree of this thinking will pay off in spades when laying out your store. 

Keep clean, clear and well though out walk ways. Guide them through the store as you wish for them to view it. A vignette is one thing but when there is so much stuff atop your table, under it and to the side, does anyone know the piece is for sale, or that it is even there? Shelves are for all the "stuff" (displayed in organized fashion), furniture is for showing how that "stuff" can be correctly used and displayed. 

Personally we like to paint a picture how each piece of furniture could be used in your guest's home. A dining table may be set up with a full tablescape complete with place settings and centerpiece. Other times we may have a small tasteful vignette atop the table with carefully selected, coordinating dining ware. Said vignette should not overtake the table but, rather give amazing suggestions for complimenting the amazing vintage piece of furniture that you are trying to sell below. Likewise a desk may have stationary on it as well as vintage office products. Customers clearly see the amazing desk in all its functional glory. 

Keep Your Shelving Organized 

Antique lanterns

As mentioned in the last paragraph, the bulk of your items should be neatly displayed on shelving. We like to keep like items together to make the shopping experience simple and pleasant. One shelf may have all our vintage scales nicely displayed. The next shelf may have vintage crocks and stoneware with like items grouped together. Some people may love to mix everything up through the store so customers may run across different treasures as they explore and there is something to be said for that. That is why we like to pull random items off the shelves to display atop furniture etc. Aside from those select items, I like to know where all my product is.

When someone asks, "do you have any antique butter molds" I like to take them to a shelf where I have the wood butter molds and related items. When you have a lot of customers in the store, that is so much easier on us and our customers as opposed to wandering around the store for 15 minutes saying "I am sure we have some somewhere....".

Think about types of shelving also. If your store is rustic, your display shelves should be as well. Displaying primitive, general store finds on Costco bakers shelving or on particle board thrift store finds is a "non-starter" if you are looking to portray an upscale image. 

I hope this helps anyone with a store, or about to open one.Yes, we catch ourselves straying at times but quickly get back on track. We strive to maintain certain standards because of the endless compliments we get. Customers are constantly saying "I absolutely love your store, the way you display everything is amazing", or "finally a vintage store I want to linger in and not feel like I want to run for the door", or, "this is more than just antique shopping, this is always a wonderful experience" etc....

You too can create a store that people love to frequent, a store that people cannot wait to talk up to all their friends, a store that is not "just another antique store" but an experience and a shopping destination! 


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