Part II: 5 MORE Smart Tweaks for Successful Vintage Sales

by Sammy in 3 Comments — Updated April 19, 2024

5 Things Sellers Want You to Know About Buying Vintage

Hello and happy FRIDAY vintage lovers!!!!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s Friday AGAIN. Doesn’t it just feel like it was Friday last week … yesterday??

Well, whatever the day, it’s a GOOD one for both you and me. Today is especially exciting because I’m following up Wednesday’s post on 5 Smart Tweaks to Selling Vintage with yet another set of tweaks you can implement in your brick & mortar shop to influence successful sales.

A few online vintage sellers commented that Wednesday’s tips were applicable to digitally selling, too. That’s great news and I totally agree! Many of these ideas are for your personal inspiration too.

So whether you have customers coming into a physical storefront or clicking through on Ebay, Market Publique or Etsy, take these tips into account for guaranteed greater success — not to mention FUN! — than you’re already having as a brick & mortar or online vintage seller.

Speaking of vintage seller, today and tomorrow is the annual MANHATTAN VINTAGE SHOW! There are vintage fashion expos all around the country, but NYC’s premiere show is arguably the MVS. It’s practically vintage itself: A 20+ year old tradition of nearly 100 vintage fashion vendors from all around the Northeast who come together for 48 hours of vintage fashion mania!

I’ve attended almost every single show since I moved to NYC, and moving forward I wouldn’t miss one for the world! I’ll be attending from 5PM to 8PM tonight — if you will be, please tweet me @sammydavis22 or email me [email protected] so that we can arrange a meet & greet!

Keep reading after the jump for more savvy advice on selling vintage fashion as learned managing my favorite New York City vintage store, A Little Wicked!

Last spring I worked with the Manhattan Vintage Show to style the photo shoot for their marketing materials, as well as curate and style their ’70s exhibit at the show.

I even produced a video [watch it here!] at the event to show off some great vendors and have fun styling the season’s “it” vintage piece: The marvelous maxi dress.

A huge reason for why I’m so motivated to work in the vintage industry is because it’s a DIY community of self-starters. As we experience such turmoil economically here in the US and all around the world, more and more individuals are turning to their innate talents and networks to make a living.

I want to be a spokesperson for supporting small retail businesses, and that’s exactly what vintage fashion is. So as you consider where your next purchase is going to be — especially in light of the upcoming holiday season — please strongly consider an independent retailer whether a physical storefront or online store.

I promise the return is greater when investing in the individual — and your own personal individual style benefits, too!

Thank you all for supporting vintage fashion sellers and for spreading vintage love!

Happy weekend!

xx, SD


5 Things Sellers Want You to Know About Buying Vintage

HOW TO TWEAK: It seems simple, but it’s a practice that can actually get de-prioritized with everything else you have to manage in your shop: Steam, steam and scent, scent!

I recommend investing in a handheld Jiffy steamer for approximately $69. That way you can move the steamer anywhere around the store and steam to your heart’s delight. It’s important to regularly steam inventory because pieces become wrinkled when shoppers try them on.

Also, some pieces will just naturally “lose” stiffness and inherit wrinkles without even being tried on. It’s also VERY important to steam lining — especially of coats, blazers and anything with silk or poly-silk lining — because while you can’t see it from the outside, a customer will wrinkle her nose if she sees wrinkles on the inside of a piece!

Febreze is the go-to scent remover for couches, chairs and blankets reeking with pet and smoke odor — but did you know it also removes the “vintage smell” from clothing, too? We light a candle everyday at A Little Wicked so that it doesn’t — and I quote! — “smell like a thrift store.”

Additionally, we Febreze our inventory on the regular to keep it smelling fresh and clean. Febreze doesn’t damage clothing. In my opinion, it should be the sponsor of vintage cleaning supplies!

THE BENEFIT: When you keep your inventory smelling and looking pristine, you show your customer that you are NOT a thrift store. I hate to speak the truth, but this is it: When new customers realize that A Little Wicked is a vintage store, often they say “Oh … it’s a thrift store you mean?” I am not a person to get angry but vintage lovers, some anger does bubble up! The term “thrift” is near and dear to my heart for personal reasons, but by no means are curated vintage boutiques “thrift” or should be regarded in the same light as a Goodwill or Salvation Army.

If the inventory is well taken care of and the store attractive in both scent and sight, people who may have looked at your store as of lesser value before will see the true value for what it is. They will be less inclined to view it as “secondhand” and see it only for its true style.

THE BOOST IN SALES: We live in a society of fast fashion, and so many customers go shopping to find a piece they want to wear NOW.

So if your inventory isn’t steamed and scented to wear right at that moment — you may lose a sale because there is still some elbow grease to work into the piece. In other words: No one wants to go home and steam/iron a jacket herself. She wants to wear it out of the store now!

While your customers may not be expressing it verbally to you, they could very well be thinking it: When they see a piece with wrinkles, a missing button or some lose threads, they mentally default to “this piece isn’t worth buying because it’s not in good condition.”

Keep everything in the store in GREAT condition so that you can prosper from successful sales over and over again!


5 Things Sellers Want You to Know About Buying Vintage

5 Things Sellers Want You to Know About Buying Vintage



HOW TO TWEAK: Rather than just let a sale or a customer trying something on “pass you by,” after paying said customer a compliment on what they are wearing casually ask, “Do you mind if I grab a picture of you with my iPhone?”

The key here is to be “casual” in your request so that the customer feels comfortable posing for your iPhone paparazzi. I’ve never had a customer say “no” to a picture though, because usually I precede my picture request with tons of complimentary flattery. The customer is feeling good and therefore understands WHY I’d want to get her picture.

Before taking the picture, I ask if they’re OK with me posting this to Facebook “because it looks so good on her.”

THE BENEFIT: There is a two-fold — maybe even triple-fold! — benefit to interacting with your customers in such a high-touch way.

First, taking a picture of them in the vintage piece is further flattery to what they are wearing. While they may not have been 100 percent inclined to purchase it before, the fact that you are taking a picture and posting to Facebook is sort of like a hot guy saying, “Girl, you look so sexy in that.” OK … maybe that’s stretching the point, but you get what I mean!

Second, posting a picture to Facebook then shows your fans a.) the pieces in your store b.) how the pieces in your store look on a BODY, because nothing looks as good on a hanger and c.) gives the customer whose photo was taken incentive to “like” you on Facebook, so that you gain new fans through in-person marketing.

THE BOOST IN SALES: As alluded in the previous subhead, the fact that you are giving the customer further flattery creates greater chance that you will make the sale. Maybe you won’t that very moment, but there is a chance she may return to the store for the piece after musing on how great it looked on her thanks to your picture.

Also, when posting pictures to Facebook you’re encouraging your audience to stop by the store to check out that piece and the rest of your inventory. When it comes to vintage fashion, absence does NOT make the heart grow fonder. You must remind your customer base that you EXIST over and over again.

Keeping an active fan page of fun, flattering photography of what’s in the store on real-live customers is the easiest — and arguably most exciting way — to do just that.


5 Things Sellers Want You to Know About Buying Vintage


5 Things Sellers Want You to Know About Buying Vintage


HOW TO TWEAK: This is a small tweak, but an aesthetically AWESOME one.

There are a variety of “hanger types,” from the crappy dry cleaner wire ones to clear plastic to fabric and at the very top of the hanger chain, the creme de la creme of “wooden” hangers.

THE BENEFIT: Wooden hangers are beneficial for a variety of reasons. They’re higher quality gives your inventory a higher-quality appeal — even if it really truly isn’t.

Second, wooden hangers hold all types of clothing in secure shape so that they don’t look “dead” on the hanger. They give coats/jackets the structure they deserve and tops/dresses/skirts a pleasing boost as well.

Lastly, a customer who peeks into your shop to see what’s inside will be brought in by not just what she sees for sale, but how it’s merchandised. If you have low-quality merchandising materials, the automatic assumption is that the inventory is the same.

It’s similar to why we want to dress to impress: Books ARE unfortunately judged by their covers, and so we have to influence potential customers to open our vintage loving books with the right “cover” materials.

THE BOOST IN SALES: The most direct influence wooden hangers have on sale is not only bringing higher traffic into your store based on what they see inside, but also the fact that a customer will agree that your price point is right because it’s merchandised in a top-quality way.

If you’re using lesser quality hangers, a customer may scoff at your prices because they perceive it to be not as valuable as you’re selling it for. You want to give the aesthetic trust that this piece is worth [insert price amount here] based on how you merchandise it.

This is why pieces on mannequins, on display and “out of the racks” are more likely to sell, because they are merchandised differently and in a “showpiece” top-quality way.


5 Things Sellers Want You to Know About Buying Vintage


HOW TO TWEAK: As you probably have, I’ve stepped foot into many vintage stores. I’ve fallen in love with some simply for their clothes, others for the salespeople and still others because they were buried deep in the middle-of-nowhere-ville but had the BEST selection at crazy affordable prices.

I fell in love with A Little Wicked partly because of how the store was designed. One of it’s key components is an extra large wall mirror that is immediately accessible upon exiting the fitting room.

This extra large wall mirror is almost like a party mirror — you can have a flock of people pose in front of it for a DIY picture, much like I do on the regular [shown above] to share my outfits with you on Facebook.

THE BENEFIT: Sure, you could have ANY kind of mirror. You could have multiple mirrors around the store! But why would you want to do that when you could have one LARGE mirror that directs all try-on traffic to a central place?

When you drive customers to a large mirror, you can stand behind them and ooh & aah the piece on them. Or, you can tweak with a belt, bag, jewelry and other additional pieces to complete the look. This is KEY to having a mirror this large, because as a vintage seller you can participate in the experience of buying said piece with your customer.

The extra large mirror is most representative of what the customer looks like wearing the piece in real life. There are no “fat” or “skinny” mirror comments — just trust that what you see is what you get!

THE BOOST IN SALES: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tweaked a piece to give the customer an idea of how to wear when she gets home, and because of that personal attention in front of the mirror she was influenced to purchase it. That is what real styling is all about.

Real styling is also about giving the look a “look” in the mirror and telling the customer honestly that it doesn’t work for her because of A, B & C — but now that you understand her body better, you can suggest a better-suited piece and keep her engaged with shopping in the store for a longer amount of time.


5 Things Sellers Want You to Know About Buying Vintage

HOW TO TWEAK: It seems like the opposite of what vintage shopping is all about. Carry multiple pieces of a vintage item?

“But wait, Sammy, how the heck do I do that when it’s so hard to find ONE piece of something to begin with?”

I’m not talking about selling an angora ’70s pointelle sweater in cream and offering 5 of the exact sweater — I’m talking about selling multiple pieces of the same STYLE TYPE.

When you are shopping for vintage — whether you’re scouting or buying from the middleman wholesale industry — first buy what you know will sell in your store based on the style tastes of your customer base and that of the mainstream as it relates to trends. Second, consider that a customer may like a certain “style” of item and be interested in trying on multiple versions of said style.

Bias cut slip dresses are a great example. We have about 6 on the floor right now. While each is unique in her own special way, we have customers who will try on 3 of them to see which one is truly perfect for them.

THE BENEFIT: By carrying multiple examples of a similar style — as shown in the picture of hand knit sweaters above — you are inspiring the customer to also think, “There is definitely one here that works for me.”

If you only have ONE piece of a style, the interested in customer may be discouraged right off the bat because she automatically assumes that the piece “won’t work for her” since she has only one option. Sure, it may actually be the PERFECT piece for her, but the psychology of having only a singular try creates pessimism toward style success.

THE BOOST IN SALES: This is an obvious one. When you know that a particular style is popular, buy as many pieces of it as you can so that you have them on hand for multiple interested in customers.

Additionally, having multiple pieces of a style gives your vintage store a “mainstream appeal.” We all secretly love H&M because we know that a piece is available in size 2 to 14 and most likely in three different colors as well.

While we can’t quite offer that selection as a vintage seller, we can still psychology influence the “feel” of shopping a fast fashion chain.

And that’s what all of these tweaks are about: Giving your customer, new or old, a great shopping experience that she’ll want to return to again and again!


3 thoughts on “Part II: 5 MORE Smart Tweaks for Successful Vintage Sales”

  1. Awesome, practical tips. Thanks, Sammy!

  2. Sammy- I love the tips you have been offering. Could there be a book here? Just sayin’.
    Now I am going to rethink my shop using some of your ideas. Thanks.

  3. As someone with a fragrance allergy, it is discouraging to hear Febreeze is used so heavily. I am fairly sure that the thrift store near me uses it. Even when I wash the item 10 times, the scent does not easily come out. I often have to leave the item outside in the sun for a full 2 weeks to remove scent in addition to washing over 10 times. I am highly allergic to fragrance and therefore it is practically impossible for me to shop thrift without having to waste a lot of time and money to get the fragrance out. I hope that over time, thrift stores will change their practice over time. I have read that 40 percent of people are actually sensitive to fragrance so it only makes sense that we adopt healthier alternatives. I would absolutely love to wear second hand clothing because our Earth is drowning in our fast fashion. I don’t want to buy new clothes but until second hand stores clue in to the fragrance issue, I can only rescue a few items a year.


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