10 days into January

We’ve finished 7 of the 25 days we’ll be open in January.  Sales are at pace to equal or slightly beat November’s totals.  One trend that continues is a noticable discrepancy between dealers who are already at or above rent, and those struggling to just make rent.

Debi and I haven’t been long in the business, but with some experience behind us we’re seeing what works and what doesn’t in the store.

For our part, our biggest struggle has been selling furniture.  This was addressed in the January newsletter.  With the purchase of “Simple Country Pleasures” in Rapatee, we’ve acquired a number of decent quality pieces of furniture.  Several items are in the store already.  We’re selling these at good prices, lower than we would ask in most circumstances.  Our purpose is to establish a reputation as a good store to shop for furniture. 

We’re also in the midst of expanding into a third room at “Spirit”.  The latest word from the Landlord is that his part of the construction will be completed this coming Sunday or Monday.  Once we can get in, we will paint, set up fixtures, and move in as soon as possible.  We’ll then bring many more bigs in to the store.  Again, as mentioned in the newsletter, our intent is to expand the customer base to persons shopping for bigs.  Let’s be honest…we just haven’t had many in the store and we can’t expect to attract this new customer base without the merchandise to offer!  It may take a bit to start a trend towards larger items.  We know that, and we don’t expect our booth dealers to use precious display space.

To those that do bring in furniture, we hope our efforts will succeed in helping your sales.

Now, as to the subject at hand about the differences we’re seeing in results for our dealers.  If folks are looking to improve their sales, some of the best results have been:

Coming in often to clean and rearrange/decorate display space.  Those dealers that do this, simply enjoy better sales than those that don’t.

Good pricing.  Good products.  Large and varied inventory.  Better results have come from dealers who bring in antique or vintage items, and price them according to the Pekin market.  Primitives/vintage glassware/signs/jewelry have all been selling.  There isn’t a noticable trend except that reproductions and “newer” (we’ve some in the store which we really shouldn’t have) items aren’t moving.  We also have many items which have been in the store in dealers booths since we opened.  Is it time for a price change, or a product change?  It would be a good idea for dealers to walk the store and check pricing.  How do yours compare?

“Spirit of the Past Antiques” has enjoyed sales close to the triple rent figure we aspire to achieve for two full months and it looks like January will be the third.  It can be done.  It is being done by many.  We do not believe we’ve even come close to the best sales figures we can achieve.  We’ve only been open seven months!  And, we’ve many dealers who are just as new to this as Debi and I.  A learning “curve” is to be expected.  We are very happy with the community of dealers we’ve extablished.  The store is currently completely full.  When we finish setting up the third room, we hope to have opened up some spaces in room one for expansion.  All our current dealers will be offered what space is made available before we contact people on the waiting list.

One announcement which will be “official” in the February Newsletter.  We’ve noticed that the single shelf dealers..either using open shelves or those in locking cases..do tend to struggle the most to earn profitable returns.  As of April 1st, we’re going to end the opportunity for anyone to rent less than a full shelf unit or locking case.  We’ll certainly strive to offer expansion to those folks (to a complete unit) first.  We don’t want to force anyone out…but we never feel right taking payments for rent when a dealer isn’t earning profits from the display space.  And single shelves are just not big enough to “absorb” a bad week.  They are too “hit and miss”.  Obviously the few pegboards do not lend themselves to expansion, so we’ll keep offering them in the same manner as we have since we opened.

Debi and I have our hands full with the expansion.  Not only are we opening up the third room, but we will be setting up a business office for Debi where the current storage room is located, and we will be remodeling (rearranging extensively) the sales counter area.  Behind the counter we will be setting up displays of our products…thus keeping more of the floor space available to dealers.

We also think removing the “paperwork” in favor of an “old country store” appearance will give the customers a little more enjoyable shopping experience.

Because we’ve got so much on our plates…the Web Store continues to be tauntingly close to completion..but still out of reach.  We’ve decided to hire outside help to check out the design and make the Web Store as atttractive and efficient as possible.  It is coming…no new projections as to when because I’ve optimistically made too many already.  All I can say is…it is on the way. 

When I (Dan) say we’ve got much on our plates…I’m not kidding.  The items we’ve brought in from Rapatee have just scratched the surface!  We worked all but one day in December and all but one day so far in January to move items, research and inventory them, price them and get them on the sales floor!  Our attention is on the details of timing to get the third room open, and all previously mentioned, done as soon as possible.  If at times we’ve seemed tired, or unintentionally “short” to anyone…please understand it is simply because of all we are trying to accomplish in as short a time frame as possible.

“Spirit of the Past Antiques” will be a stronger business entity due to the work we’re putting in this month.  We’ll be a better place for shoppers, and a better place to be a dealer.  One of the last things we want to see is folks that have struggled to date to make rent decide to give up prematurely.  But, we set up our lease to be one month at a time because it would be worse to us to see dealers want out and be stuck in a lease.  We’ve had many people coming in wanting display space.  We are well stocked ourselves with items to display.  If anyone does want out…we hope they don’t decide to stay for fear of hurting our feelings.  Debi and I feel the friendships we’ve made with our dealers go much further than “rent”.  And if anyone does decide to pull out…we’ll understand.

As the title mentions, it is 10 days into January.  On the 14th we’ll have been open for seven months!  We’ve been through a summer, fall, and Christmas shopping season.  Results overall have been more than Debi and I expected this early in the process of establishing a store.  But, we’ve also seen enough months for folks to determine if their personal results are acceptable.  (Some dealers have expressed that “making rent or a little better” is about what they expect…if they are happy with that and being a dealer is more of a hobby, we certainly understand and have no issue there.  It does throw off our statisitcs a bit…lowers the results overall…but why not have room in the store for those doing this as a “hobby”?  It’s ok by us!)  Perhaps what I’m trying to get at is this simple…as a dealer at “Spirit of the Past Antiques” are you having FUN?  If you are…wonderful!  If it is going to take better sales, well, we’ve offered some suggestions, we’ve seen the store work for many so we know it can work for anyone.  If a dealer isn’t satisified, and especially isn’t having fun…the 20th is the last day of the month to give us notification that you wish to end the monthly lease agreement.  We’ve got folks who want to expand…we’ve got our own product…and we’ve got folks that want to move in.  You won’t hurt our feelings and in fact you will releave us of feeling so rotten to be taking your rent when you aren’t making any money!

Now, I suppose I’ve rattled on and on again…and I hope I’ve created the right “tone” in this post.  I don’t want to sound like I’m pushing anyone out…and I don’t want to sound like I don’t understand that some folks are just having a good time and not worried about “profit”.  Though we ARE going to end the single shelf rentals…we’ll find room to offer expansion to those folks.  No one is being asked to leave.  Likewise, no one is being asked to stay if they wish to get out.  “Spirit of the Past Antiques” was started with the intent to be a fun place to own, or be a dealer, or shopper….that is the point I’m trying to make….if you are having fun, stick around, we think it is only going to get better.  If you are not having fun, or not making enough sales to make it fun, don’t worry about us…do what is right for you!

Dan         

      

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Charlie Chaplin’s "It’s a Dog’s Life"

AMC was running a Charlie Chaplin marathon tonight.  Debi and I caught all of “Modern Times”.  Towards the last half hour, her six year old grandson, Ethan, joined us and became quite interested in the movie.  I was impressed with how he caught onto the facial and body expressions…understanding the plot very well.  He asked why the movie was not in color.  We explained that it was very old, and movies used to be in black and white.  He asked about why there was no talking, we explained that old movies couldn’t record sound.  (“Modern Times did have sound, just not much more than background noises as that was Chaplin’s “thing”.)

Ethan laughed soundly at the right parts, and often expressed his own narative, “He told him to leave!”, stuff like that.”

I was fighting back tears of joy!  Here was a six year old enjoying a Chaplin flick…filmed in 1936!  I loved it.  When the film was finished, Ethan wandered off to do his own thing.  Debi and I were just so proud of him, and so happy to see something as classic as a Chaplin film could still captivate a child! 

Then, during a preview of the next film, “A Dog’s Life”, Ethan reappeared and asked, “Is there another one!?”

“A Dog’s Life” is a 1918 Chaplin short, just 30 minutes.  None of us had seen it before.  We three watched it start to finish.

(Chuckle) In this world of video games, “Star Wars”, and everything big…fantastic…amazing…it is so nice to see “The Little Tramp” come out from mothballs to capture the imagination of a child.