Part I: 5 Smart Tweaks for Successful Vintage Sales

by Sammy in 8 Comments — Updated April 13, 2020

trying on vintage clothes

Hello and happy Wednesday, vintage lovers!!!

With fall fashion in full bloom, I’ve been inspired to write more on my experiences selling vintage at New York City vintage boutique A Little Wicked.

Last week’s post on 5 Tips for Selling Vintage Fashion was well received and I hope that everyone was able to glean some new insight about shopping from what they read. I truly believe that pursuing a personalized shopping experience by way of a vintage store or contemporary boutique will satisfy your style cravings more than a standard visit to a fast fashion store every single time.

To continue to inspire vintage sellers, buyers and lovers alike, I wanted to write again on the details I’ve noticed make shopping at the vintage boutique I manage an AMAZING experience.

While so many of you have probably worked retail before, you may not have worked hand-in-hand with the owner of said retail store, especially if you were at a chain. Working for a privately owned boutique has been so enlightening for me and aligned with my personal passions because I’m able to see firsthand the output which results from the input.

Managing a vintage store is not the same as owning one, but I started Sammy Davis Vintage in Spring 2009 with the intention of someday owning and operating my own store. I believe that my current position is my masters education in how to do just that.

And whether I use this degree in vintage store management or not, I’m more than happy to share the Clif Notes behind selling vintage fashion and how to price vintage with all of you!

So keep reading after the jump for 5 smart tweaks I suggest every vintage store owner make to their brick & mortar — and why it matters to your customers and ultimately, boosts sales!

I had so much fun writing today’s post that I decided to add 5 MORE tweaks in a follow-up post tomorrow. So be sure to check back in for part two of today’s vintage selling lesson!

I’m never sure who of my readers is an online vintage seller and who also owns and operates a brick & mortar store of their own [or perhaps cement, I shouldn’t assume your store is made from brick!]

I’d love for any & all vintage store owners to leave a comment on this post so that I have some further insight into the audience I’m reaching. I aim to create content that you want to print out and post on your refrigerator, it’s so good!

If I’m not inspiring you to do that, I hope you feel comfortable enough to let me know, whether it’s by tweeting me, leaving a post on Facebook or sending me an email!

Have a beautiful Wednesday, everyone!

xx, SD



organize vintage store by color

HOW TO TWEAK: Shift your inventory on the racks so that it flows by “color” instead of size, style or era.

THE BENEFIT: We are aesthetically driven creatures. In other words, we are attracted to things that “look good!” and the allure of a “rainbow of vintage” will keep customers engaged with the inventory.

First time customers will enter the store because they’re attracted to what they see from the street. Plus, if someone is looking for a piece in “their” color, they’ll know just how to shop in your store.

Style of clothing should be merchandised appropriately as well, but no need to pair “all tops” or “all dresses” together. Do it by feel & material, like a back rack of black holiday/cocktail party dresses with some shimmery evening sequins thrown in so that your rack doesn’t become the big black abyss.

Vintage sizes and eras are at the bottom of the merchandising list of priorities, because a vintage “size” is simply what fits. Get your customers to try on clothes rather than walk away if something isn’t sized to what “they think” will fit. That means you have to understand your inventory and how it fits on a body, which is part of why being a vintage store owner is also acting as a personal stylist to your customer.

Sure, some vintage lovers only want “[insert era here] style,” but for the most part a vintage lover is a vintage lover: We like to play and experiment. And everyone else simply wants to wear what looks good, not a specific piece from a specific time.

THE BOOST IN SALES: The fact that your merchandise is color coordinated will drive the appeal of your shop so that a.) you attract more customers from the outside and b.) you keep your customers in the store longer as they finger through the rainbow of stylish goods.

Almost every new customer in A Little Wicked comments on the merchandising of the racks and how beautiful they find it to be. I implore you to try it for yourselves — and let me know what fresh feedback you get!


witty vintage fashion tags

HOW TO TWEAK: Change out your run-of-the-mill price tags for tags that have personality, pizzazz and spunk with handwritten lines that speak to your stylist personality and philosophy.

THE BENEFIT: Writing a line or two to describe said vintage piece shows that you care about each piece enough to give it human characteristics.

These are your children and you want to find them happy homes with your customers. So when your customers see that they can identify with the personality of said piece — and the branding that you have instituted with your store — they will be more likely to find personal satisfaction from taking home something with an inspiring description.

A Little Wicked represents sexy style for downtown cool girls, so we write tags which speak to this fashion and life philosophy. The tag pictured above says it all: “Keep your Trick Ass Warm in this Cozy Sweater.”

The Little Wicked customer isn’t afraid to have a sharp, witty tongue and she isn’t afraid to rock her look with confidence and attractive sass, either. We want our ladies to feel hot in our pieces, so our tags encourage them to fee hot in the moment of shopping at the store!

THE BOOST IN SALES: With witty tags on all of your pieces, customers may simply want to shop your store for an extended period of time simply to read them all.

But most importantly, creating a personality behind the clothing does have psychological powers to encourage sales. When you feel a personal connection to something, you do not want to leave it behind. So personalizing your tags will influence the customer to desire a piece more than if it didn’t have a personality behind its great style.


vintage store chalkboard display

HOW TO TWEAK: Instead of relying on the name of your store on the window or awning to influence a customer’s decision to enter, use a sidewalk chalkboard!

THE BENEFIT: Before working at A Little Wicked, I was used to seeing sidewalk chalkboards outside cafes and restaurants. Basically, anything with food specials to advertise, like “free coffee with bagel” or “2 slices pizza and a medium drink for $2.99” sort of thing.

But now that I’ve learned more about in-store marketing, I realize just how fruitful a sidewalk chalkboard can be to drive foot traffic into your store. Note how the chalkboards say interesting, witty and relevant things.

We emphasize FUN and FASHION in our word choices. If there is a sale going on inside, we let you know here. People ALWAYS want to enter a store with a sale — that’s why chain stores are so apt to display huge “clearance” signs within the windows and/or hanging from the ceilings.

THE BOOST IN SALES: Because A Little Wicked is so small, I can literally see people walk PAST the chalkboard, turn around and do a double take to read it, and then enter the boutique. No joke!

When I notice these first timers enter the store, I always make comment asking whether they have been in before. Lo and behold, they will say “no, I just walked by and noticed you for the first time!”

It’s true that in an urban environment we are so continuously stimulated that we miss most of what we walk by. To capture new customers, we must give them a reason to STOP and LOOK at what is in front of them — a sidewalk chalkboard does just that.

And new customers = new chances for sales and word-of-mouth of your store to their friends. All thanks to a little ‘ole something made from “board” and “chalk”!

vintage store chalkboard display


mood boards in vintage store

HOW TO TWEAK: Rather than relying on mannequin and windows to display your inventory, invest in a creating a mood board in your store to pin clothing & accessories in “themed” arrangements that represent your particular style mood in an aesthetically pleasing way. Note my use of “aesthetically pleasing” again, repeated from tweak #1 … see a pattern here?

THE BENEFIT: Whether you use a corkboard or a fabric board like the one shown above, you can easily hang all of your knick knacks in a way that allows the customer comfortable access [i.e. won’t be under glass and out of reach] and also give you space to create mini lookbooks of what’s available in the store right now.

People gravitate toward this moodboard and it inspires them to examine your merchandise more closely because it is out of the racks. It’s amazing how simply hanging a piece or putting it on a mannequin makes a piece of fashion instantly more attractive.

Unfortunately clothing is never given justice on a hanger — so whatever you can do to display it in a visually appealing way will draw more attention to it than if it were hanging amidst other pieces on the racks.

THE BOOST IN SALES: I can speak to two instances where a piece of clothing was bought straight from the mood board simply because the customer walked in, saw it, and then asked to try it on.

We are all busy ladies. If we don’t have time to comb the racks, sometimes all we want to do is enter a store and be inspired to “simply buy something.” While not all of us have the luxury to do that, there are still those of us who do. Give those privileged customers the opportunity to integrate fast shopping into their experience of your boutique by giving them clear access to your standout pieces.


window display vintage store

HOW TO TWEAK: First, if you don’t have a window display in your store, please do all that you can to create one! I don’t care if this means tearing up a wall to create a window from scratch. You cannot be a successful retail business without showing the world what you sell from the view of your window!

Now, if you do have a window display but you don’t switch it up on a regular basis, here is where you can incorporate a quick tweak that I promise will drive more traffic and increase sales in your store.

We change the window display — along with re-organize the merchandising of the store — about once every 3 days at A Little Wicked.

We change the window display to fit with a theme of trend, seasonal style or eye-catching pieces that inspire women to enter the store. We keep the window display sexy and fresh without hints that the store is “vintage” at all.

Note how modern and chic these displays appear. So often women step into the store and then ask curiously, “is this vintage or new?” because they honestly cannot tell!

THE BENEFIT: Changing up the window display along with re-merchandising the store shows your customer that the store is not “dead” for weeks a time. Allow me to repeat the phrase “aesthetically pleasing.”

Once someone has seen a window display enough, they grow bored of it. They will keep walking past your store because it does not interest them based on what they see inside.

But if you keep changing the window and the flow of the store, they are intrigued to enter simply by witnessing this change. Another customer comment repeated often is that A Little Wicked seems “to always be getting new inventory in the store.”

While this is partly true, it’s party not. It just APPEARS that we have brand new things in the store because we have psychologically changed how you view the store and what’s available by re-stimulating your senses with change.

So while the store may seem like its full of brand new things, the reality is that your brain is simply telling you that it is because the window display has changed and the arrangement of pieces is new to you and you are noticing things for the first time.

THE BOOST IN SALES: Everything comes down to foot traffic and the ability to translate customers entering the store to money-spending clients.

By changing how the store appears from the outside and within often, you will notice a spike in customer traffic both from new and repeating ones. I’ve had ladies stop in the store TWICE in one week, simply because they saw something in the window they had never noticed before.

We are also constantly selling pieces promoted in the window. These are the shining stars of the store, the “bragging pieces” that we want to use for eye candy.

While you may have 5 or 6 potential buyers try on a window pieces before it sells, don’t fret — the fact that people are entering and asking about the window is a sign that you are doing something right.


SELLING: 5 Tips for Selling Vintage Fashion
PRICING: 7 Secrets to How to Price Vintage
MONEY: 10 Careers Involving Vintage Clothing
PART I: How to Tell It’s Vintage by Labels and Tags 
PART I: The Secrets to Identifying the Era of Designer Vintage Tags 
EDUCATION: 14 Books for Learning about Vintage Fashion

8 thoughts on “Part I: 5 Smart Tweaks for Successful Vintage Sales”

  1. I run an online vintage store but found the pointers in this article adaptable and inspiring! I’m definitely looking to display my items by color and creating a moodboard. Do you have any specific tips for online & etsy sellers?

  2. Great tips! Next time I’m in the city I’m going to stop by and visit your boutique!

  3. Love tip #3! I can totally see myself being inspired by a live mood board. Great article!

  4. I love the personalized tags!!

  5. Genius….I’m coming up there now!! ;-)

    No seriously…let me know the days you work again…

  6. LMFAO Sammy!!!! I LOVE that tag!

  7. This was a fantastic article! Even though these pointers are in the back of your mind it’s always great to actually re-read them step by step to get you re-energised. I have an online boutique as well as a market stall at Adelaide’s premier fashion markets, the Gilles Street Markets. I started merchandising my clothing by colour awhile back and have found that it increases foot traffic twofold compared to by style etc. I also display a vintage mannequin (“Delilah”) and two other modern plastic half body hanging mannequins. I know the stall needs some kind of colour theme I.e for table covering; floor covering; accent colour but I am torn between keeping it an eclectic variety of colours, or committing to a colour scheme. Any ideas/ comments would be greatly appreciated :)

    • Miss Bare Threads, thank you so much for leaving this comment. It reminds me that I have a lot to offer with vintage selling experience. Thank YOU. As for Delilah, um fabulous! As for your stall, have you thought about getting a fence to hang your wares? It would need to be the kind you can lean on a wall (if you are against a wall?) Also, a carpet and those french screens, for changing. And a faux lamp for a nice touch! can you keep your stall all week or do you need to collapse it everyday and then re setup?


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