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Tips for traders

Laura of Lost But Never Forgotten
Laura of Lost But Never Forgotten charms a customer at The Vintage Village, June 2011.  Photograph by Susie Norris.


If you have vintage stock, is it clean and presentable? 

  • Clothes should be clean and fresh.  Everybody knows what Febreze smells like, so don't be tempted to mask musty odours with copious amounts of chemical spray!  Some people are allergic to it as well.
  • Vintage homewares, collectables and decorative items need to be clean too.
  • Avoid polishing vintage metal to a bright finish because they will no longer look old, and will lose the valuable patina that they have gained over many years.  Sometimes you can even take the plate off a metal piece with too vigorous cleaning. But a good dusting won't go amiss on all your non-clothing items.

If you have handmade craft stock, this needs to be clean and fresh too – but you have the advantage over vintage sellers because it is likely to be recently made by yourself.  It doesn’t hurt to check it over though!

trying on some glasses by bradleygee.

Pricing is not an exact science and can be tricky, especially when it comes to vintage items:
  • Do your research.  If you’re not sure about the value of a piece look it up in price guides or online.  Remember that the information you get is only a guide, and factors such as condition, rarity, whether the type of item is currently ‘fashionable’ with collectors or not, should all be considered when pricing.
  • Pricing too high can put buyers off.  But if something is justifiably expensive, you should be able to explain why.  “Its very rare” isn’t really good enough!  Tell them all the interesting facts you know about it – many people love to learn about vintage pieces.  That’s why the Antiques Roadshow is such a popular tv show!
  • Pricing too low can set off alarm bells with customers too.  They might start to suspect that the item isn’t genuine since it appears to be too cheap.  Or another dealer/trader might buy it off you and make the profit on it that you should have made!
  • Be prepared for haggling!  It is an essential part of the vintage/antiques trade and you should be open to reasonable offers.  But it’s always up to you what your lowest price is, and don’t feel obliged to accept a price that is clearly too low.
  • It is also customary to offer discounts for multiple purchases, if requested.  Experienced vintage buyers will expect some discount if they spend a lot of money with you.
  • In the vintage/antiques world it is customary to give discount to your fellow traders.  Its part and parcel of being in the ‘fraternity’ of vintage/antique sellers.  Not recognising this might mark you out as a novice!  Everyone knows that there’s the ‘public’ price and then there’s the ‘trade’ price.

Christmas labels by TinTrunk.

You need to bring more than just your stock though.  Here’s my checklist of essential items:
  • Bags – and plenty of them.  You don’t necessarily need brand new carrier bags, but if you recycle old ones make sure they’re clean inside and out!
  • Change – bring an adequate float (and make a note of the total you start with, which is very helpful when you are cashing up).  You are likely to be paid for low price items with £20 notes, so do you have enough change to deal with that?  Don’t forget that many people will have come to the fair straight from the cash machine.
  • Wrapping materials – tissue paper, bubble wrap.  Chances are you will already have bubble wrap if you stock fragile items.
  • Business cards and/or flyers – slip one in the bag for every sale you make!
  • Pen.
  • Spare price tags.
  • Duster – for last minute sprucing.
  • Clothes brush or lint roller – for last minute clothes sprucing.
  • Tape measure – for checking clothes sizes.
  • Scissors –they are always handy.
  • Receipt book – not strictly necessary, but sometimes people will request them and you should be prepared.  At least know how to write a receipt and have some paper handy.  You can write a receipt on any piece of paper and it will be valid, but you do need to include all these basic details:   

2012 flyer
Have you seen this flyer?

Here's the truth - selling at fairs is hard work.  You have to pack and transport your stock early in the morning, travel to the fair venue, unload everything and set it up so it looks nice, stand there all day waiting for sales, and then pack it all away again, load your vehicle and then unload it all again at home when you're so exhausted you're fit to drop!

Clearly there's more to it than that too.  It’s not just about plonking your goods on a stall and expecting people to queue up to buy them.  You need to prepare beforehand, and - during the fair - to 'work' your stall and entice people to it, provide good service and make such a great impact that your customers will remember you and seek you out again.

Its also about making sure you don't inadvertently lose sales by putting people off!  We've consulted some of our most discerning visitors and they've been honest enough to tell us what makes them turn on the heels and walk away!

These tips are offered as pointers to help improve your chances of having a successful fair.  Some of them might seem obvious, but they are all intended to help make your day more enjoyable and productive.

typewriter by rachaelvoorhees.  Maybe a little dusting is in order?


Make sure everything is priced clearly and securely.  Your visitors don't want to be forced to pester you for prices. 

  • Use tie-on tags rather than sticky labels whenever you can, which can often damage surfaces such as leather, wood, plastic, paper or card, even metal (they can remove the patina, leaving a neat shiny silhouette where the label was!)
  • Ensuring every single thing is priced helps you too.  What if you need to take a break - and you will at some point during the day - and have to ask someone else to mind your stall for ten minutes?  They are not going to know what prices your items are and you may lose sales as a result.

Note price tag by jkirkhart35.

Think in advance and tailor your stock to the season.  Is there a seasonal event coming up such as Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day?

Get yourself prepared by stocking up on the kind of things that would be relevant for them beforehand:
  • Crafters have an advantage here, since they can make seasonally appropriate products – Christmas decorations, Valentine’s gifts, cards etc.
  • Vintage sellers can try to stock up on appropriate pieces too – things like picnic hampers for the summer, or accessories such as gloves and purses that make great Christmas gifts.  And of course, warm coats and knitwear for winter, cool cottons and linen for the summer.

International Money Pile by


13th Feb 2011

Cuddly toy        £5.00
Teasmade          £15.00

TOTAL            £20.00

Payment received with thanks
L. Grayson
Generation Games  


List of items sold with prices

Total price paid

Your signature

Your business name if you have one


Nobody is expecting you to plaster the town with posters, but there are some things you can do to help ensure a good turnout:
  • Tell everyone you know about your fair - family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours - and encourage them to come along to support you (and bring their friends).
  • If you have a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account or other web presence, mention the fair well in advance.  Give accurate details of the name of the event, the date, time and location, and a link for more information.
  • Don't forget to announce if you will be bringing anything new or offering any special deals (January sale!  New range of hand crafted doodads!  Buy One Get One Free!)
  • Let the organisers know too if you're planning anything special for a forthcoming fair - we'd be delighted to promote it for you on this website, our Facebook page and Twitter.
  • If you can get a few flyers from the organisers, make sure you always have them with you to give to people, or to put on noticeboards in your workplace, local shops and so on.
  • You can now download and print our A4 posters and flyers on the Promotions page. 
  • On the Promotions page you can also find Vintage Village buttons and badges, all ready to add to your blog or website.
Its not about doing the organisers' work for them - its about generating interest and helping attract plenty of visitors for you, and for your fellow stall holders.  Your friends might not buy anything from you, but they might find something on another stall; people that other stall holders have attracted along might also buy from you!

Next step - at the fair

Subpages (1): At the fair