Updated: Nov 5, 2020
The first thing you have to realize when dealing with vintage vendors is how much work and cost it takes to run a vintage business, so tread lightly the next time you say “would you take $10 for this?!”
1. Understanding vendor cost
The first misconception when dealing with vintage vendors is that they paid .99 cents for every item for sale, that's far from the truth. Yes, vintage vendors do find deals at thrift stores, but not as frequent and cheap as you might think. A lot of inventory has been purchased from another dealer just to have that piece for their customers, so they could have an item that they are only making a small profit on. Vintage vendors curate and sort through hundreds of items so you don't have to. They can spot hidden gems while thrifting that an untrained eye would ignore because of the skills they have acquired, that is a value in itself.
There is also the cost of the vendor spot which can range on average $100-$200 per day of the event and doesn’t include the monthly storage fee where most vendors keep their inventory. After the time, energy, and cost to be at an event, it’s a pretty hefty expense to be there. So take into consideration and remember that you’re supporting a small business.
2. Reasonable negotiations are welcome
The majority of vendors anticipate a little back and forth with the customer and most welcome it. Haggling is part of the sale process and builds a relationship when a price is agreed upon. So don’t be afraid to offer a price a little lower than what they are asking.
The majority of vendors will work with you and get close on a price because they appreciate the item as much as you do and want to see it go to a good home.
3. What’s my first offer?
Start with an offer of no more than 20% off of the asking price and go from there. So if the vendor is asking $100, offer $80 and go from there. This is close enough to the original price letting the seller know you are interested. You don’t want to ever shoot the seller an extremely low ball offer, especially with no intent on purchasing the item or the vendor will think you are just phishing for deals. There are guys who just go to the events and shoot low offers waiting for someone to budge, and half the time they make an excuse not to buy after the vendor agrees.
4. What if I am buying from a vendor to resale?
This part of the vintage world is somewhat tricky and lines can get a little blurred. If you see a piece or two that a vendor has for sale and you know you can sell it for profit, in no way do you try to get it at the lowest price possible. If that vendor is unaware of its value, the respectful thing to do is pay what they want for it. If you beat a vendor down trying to get the lowest price only to make money off of the deal they cut you, that’s just bad business.
If a vendor has 7-10 items or more that you want to resale, it’s best to just be upfront and ask for a bundle deal. Most likely the vendor already knows you are going to resale and the transparency just makes for better negotiations. Remember, the vintage community is extremely small, and bad business travels fast.
5. Exceptions to the rule
There are a few exceptions when it comes to negotiating with vintage vendors and this usually applies to the last 30min of the swap meet or market. Depending on the vendor’s sales and inventory, some decide to run specials just to make up for losses at the end of the show. If you hear “everything must go” or “make an offer” then you have the green light to throw any price you want to them without any animosity.