How to Shop At an Antique Mall

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Debutante Clothing

I love shopping at antique malls for vintage clothing and accessories. Some malls are VERY organized, some, not so much. Regardless of how well merchandised a mall is, i love that I don’t have to dig too much to find real gems. As a vintage collector, most of the time the prices can’t be beat. As a vintage dealer, I would still rather pay a bit more for the convenience of it just being there waiting for me to take it home. If you are curious about shopping at an antique mall, here are my tips on how to find the best treasures and negotiate good deals.

1. Shop in the afternoons during the week

Dealers usually bring in fresh merchandise during the week when there aren’t too many crowds. Mornings, or opening time, are the best times for dealers to stock their shelves. Wait until the goodies are stocked and take your pick of the treasures! If you have to shop weekends, get there as soon as they open. You know the saying about the worm.

2. Return unwanted items to the front counter

I always walk around with my “maybe I want this” items. If you change your mind about an item, be kind and take it to the front counter instead of sticking it back just anywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I found random items in my booth with missing price tags indicating who they belong to. And I would find some of my missing items in other dealers booths as well. It’s just much easier to return items to their rightful spaces if you let the cashier know you have changed your mind.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount

At the antique mall where I rented a space, cashiers knew that a 10% discount was allowable for most of the dealers in the mall. If you want to ask for a further discount, or want to make an offer, ask the cashier. They will call the dealer and get an approval or rejection. Many times the dealers just want to move some inventory, and if your offer is reasonable, they will accept. But please don’t ask for a 50% discount because a dress has a broken zipper. The keyword here is REASONABLE.

4. Visit your favorite dealers frequently

Good dealers will replenish and merchandise their selections weekly. If you have purchased more than one item from the same dealer, visit them regularly to see if they have any new items. I visit one dealer at a small antique mall regularly because I always find at least one designer vintage item, very reasonably priced, each time I visit her space.

5. Got on the dealers mailing list

A smart dealer will include a website or email address on their signage in their booth or on their price tags. Get on that list to find out when the dealers has restocked or when they might be having sales or selling at flea markets or fairs. It’s always a good idea to stay in touch with dealers you like and trust.

Do you like shopping at antique malls as much as I do? Tell me about it! Leave a comment below.



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1 Angela { 01.24.14 at 10:16 pm }

Do you have any tips for removing a musty smell from vintage clothing, or handbag? Also I notice a lot of dresses have stains, is there any way of having a better idea if you can get it out while still in the booth? What about vintage shoes of a peculiar color ie gold or soft taupe with scuffs? I find cool things but with issues I am concerned they will just look junky on stage (I sing old jazz).

2 Sandra { 02.03.14 at 2:33 pm }

Hi Angela,

To remove musty smells, I usually use kitty litter. I place it in a cotton hankie and place that in the handbag. From vintage clothing, I usually spray with distilled white vinegar and let is sit in fresh air for a few day, away from sunlight.

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