Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Retail Truths: We're All in This Together Except That We're Not

I get along really well with several other vendors at both locations where I have booths.  That's kind of an important thing for a lot of reasons.  It's boring work sometimes, so it's really good to have folks that you can chat with while you're stocking and cleaning your space.  We offer each other advice, share leads, and even swap junk with each other.  A dud for you may turn into a seller for someone else, and once it's out of your space, you don't have to look at it any more!  It's also really good to have someone to share your success stories and your gripes with.  No one understands both like someone who is out there day and day out slogging for junk too.  I love to see and hear about other vendors' awesome finds and show them mine.  Getting complimented by another vendor on a good find is one of the encouragements that can keep you going.

As a vendor, you want yourself surrounded by good vendors.  If you are in an area of the mall that has a bunch of other folks who work their space as often and hard as you work yours, then you'll get much better traffic than if you have neighbors who act like they don't give a damn about selling stuff.  (You'd be surprised how many of those there are out there.  Seriously!)

But, you also need to keep in mind the flip side to your relationship with other vendors:  They are your competition.  They want the same thing that you want, the money that's currently in the customer's pocket.  Sometimes you're going to get it.  Sometimes they're going to get it.  Sometimes both of you will get a little of it.  And sometimes neither of you will get it.

You don't have to be rude, mean, unethical or  two-faced about it. I genuinely like everyone that I interact with and I am happy for them when they do well.  But, I also fully admit that I want to do better than them.  I want my space to stand out more.  I want the customers to see me first.  And, as long as I am not doing anything to directly harm my neighbors, there's nothing wrong with that.  It's just business.

During Christmas last year, I put out a brass sleigh in one of my booths.  It was a cute little thing and I priced it what I felt was a good price.  A couple of days later, I thought I saw it at the register as someone was buying it.   Turns out that it wasn't my brass sleigh, but an identical one from another vendor who had priced it at half what I had mine.  You win some and you lose some!

Later that same day, this vendor and I were talking in my booth, when she saw my sleigh and my price and became very embarrassed.  She apologized for selling the same item for less and told me that she hadn't known I had one.  She even went so far as to tell me that the next time it happens to mark her item up to the same price as mine!

She was really surprised when I told her it was no big deal.  "Sometimes you get the sale,"  I told her, "And sometimes I do.  Today, you did.  That's all."  She actually tried to tell me that she hadn't been fair to me, but I tried to explain that, sometimes, it's about competition.  "We want each other to do well, because that means the store will do well.  And, when the store does well, we all do well.  But we're also competing with each other for the business that customers bring in."  Eventually, I think I got her to see that she didn't have anything to apologize for or be embarrassed over.  She had made a sale that was good for her.  That's all.

A few days later, my sleigh sold.  In the end, that's what matters.

1 comment:

Shara said...

When I closed my old booth and moved it all to the new booth, I set up a separate booth with all my old stuff in it. Clear as mud? Anyway, it was all the stuff that had been in the old booth for the past year and I was just sick of it all. I priced it cheap - 25¢ to $5.00 depending on the original price - $2.00-$25.00. I cleared the entire booth out and made about $200.00, so I was happy. But, last week, I noticed that a LOT of my stuff in a different booth was repriced more than I had it originally. I don't really care, but then again, I'm not sure if that was completely "cool" that they did this.

We have some people at the Flea that NEVER do anything with their booths - they just sit and sit and sit. The owner called them and told them to get in there and put new stuff to our they were GONE. What did they put in the booth next to me? A pile of Winter hats. In JUNE. Sheesh!