Sunday, January 18, 2015

I do crazy things sometimes...

What is the most insane thing you can think of that someone undergoing cancer treatment that keeps him tired all the time and exhausted at least part of the time can do?  Enter a marathon?  Take up weightlifting?  Become an Avenger of the Night?  Start tap dancing?

Well maybe for other people in cancer treatment, but this Melanoma Boy (Hmmmm.....that's kinda catchy.  *Makes note to start on a costume.*)  seems to make major booth moves during treatments.  Last time, on my first trip out after surgery, I rented a new booth, which required completely redoing my set up and moving everything.  I had to do it.  The timing sucked, but it was an opportunity that I knew would pay off.  To make it work, I sat on a sofa and told Keith where to move the big stuff and then sat on a stool to put the small things in.

This time was even more major.  I know that's pretty hard to top, but I managed.  Not that I set out to deliberately do something crazy, but it was another opportunity I could not pass up, one which doesn't come along all the time.  Another one that I knew would pay off.

I bought a storage unit.

Not like this, mind you.

It wasn't even actually a unit, per se.  It was a room at the Peddlers Mall being used for storage by a vendor that had been evicted for non-payment of rent.  When that happens, the vendor forfeits any merchandise that may be left in the mall.  The mall resells it to try and recover the amount owed.  A lot of times, there isn't much for the mall to work with.  The vendor usually never had a good booth or sellable stuff to begin with and what had been there has dwindled down to the detritus, because the vendor hasn't been in for weeks to work the booth.

This time was different.  There were five booths, plus the storage unit, all with a reasonable amount of stuff left in them.  The little storage room was jammed full of stuff!  It was way too much for the store staff to deal with.  They would have been pricing items for days!  So, the manager decided to take sealed bids on the spaces.  Three other dealers and I were invited to bid, based both the interest we had shown in the stuff and on our ability to deal with it all.  All of us have multiple spaces and do fairly well.  Track records and communication pay off.

I thought about it a long time and talked it over with Keith.  I decided to go for it for several reasons:

1.  It was a chance to get a lot of stuff at a good price
2. Winter is here and there are no sales
3. Building a good stock now can carry me if later on in the year, I am not able to get out as much as I need to.
4.  Two stores = need more stuff all the time
5. I can take this at my own pace.  There was no deadline to have everything cleared out.  In fact, I bought the room right before we left for Chicago, but did not start to work on it until after we got back.

I did have some misgivings.  After all, I was swooping in to take advantage of someone else's failure.  I had moments of feeling oddly like a vulture.  But this is a business.  Everyone signs a contract that spells out what we have to do to sell in the mall.  This vendor had not responded to repeated requests to come and settle up.  Those requests clearly spelled out the consequences.  Plus, I had watched this vendor since he came in the mall.  He made a lot of mistakes.  Walking away without any contact was only one of them.  I may write more about that later.

When I got the room, this is what it looked like:

Scary, huh?  I did the only reasonable thing I could do.  I pulled out a cart load of easily reachable stuff.

Then I boarded up the room and got married.  Priorities, you know?

When I started to work on it...whooo boy!  What a colossal mess!  For real.  It took over a week to get the room cleaned out and sorted.  I hauled eight or nine cartloads and three flatbed loads of trash out to the store dumpster.  This vendor was in the habit of going to auctions and buying anything and everything in sight without any regard to what it was or whether it was sellable.  Then he would get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff he had, dump a lot of it in his booths without prices, and shove the rest in this little room.  He eventually got himself up to 14 booths (two that were being used as storage), plus two storage spaces.  He over-reached badly and in the end it got him.  I always tell people who are interested in trying a booth to start out small to see if they like it, then grow out from there if they are doing well.

But I found some wonderful things:

That doesn't even scratch the surface.  A short list of things I did not take a pic of includes:  2 computers, 2 printers (one new in box), two air conditioners, a vintage vanity (no mirror), three TV's (one big screen), boxes and boxes of toys (as yet unsorted), a smidge of vintage Christmas, several sets of dishes, more glassware than you can shake a stick at, and so on and so on and so on.  It was truly a sight to see.

I donated about a jillion bags of clothes to Goodwill as well.  And put a whole lot of stuff in a cart labeled "Free Stuff" and watched customers swarm it like vultures.

This is without a doubt, the largest buy I have ever made.  Certainly, it's the one I've spent the most time working on.  I made my initial money back within a few days.  A few days after that, I doubled my investment.  And stuff keeps selling every day.  From that point of view, it's been worth it.

There are a few vendors in the mall that primarily sell stuff from storage units they've bought at auction.  In fact, two of them were also involved in the bidding for these booths.  I've always wondered why they do things the way they do, particularly their pricing, which is always quite low.  In fact, I shop from them a lot, frequently making a lot of money from reselling their stuff.  Once I was confronted with a room full of stuff I totally understood.  When you have that much volume of merch, with a limited amount of booth space, you have to sell it cheap.  Otherwise, you're going to be totally backed up the next time you buy a unit.  And you can still make good money selling stuff cheaply.  It comes from the volume of sales.  It's the old "quick nickels" vs "slow dimes" thing.

I've also learned that I could never flip units full of stuff on a regular basis.  I am simply too slow to get a unit cleaned out in a set amount of time.  I have to go through every box and look at every single piece.  The speed at which these guys have to move amazes me!

In short, I'll probably never do something this crazy again, but it was a wonderful learning experience.  I don't regret doing it at all.

Of course, right after I bought this room, we got a horrible shock.  More on that in a day or two.


Joy@aVintageGreen said...

Hi Eddie.
What a huge inventory to deal with and what a great lot of good stuff. Timing was not great but you are surely doing a great job dealing with the volume. The concept of low cost volume over normal cost stock - something to think about.

Donna Wilkes said...

I chose December to combine my two booths into one huge one with a storage room. Great decision, but I will never attempt something that large during a holiday again. Looks like some great vintage stuff.
Melanoma Boy - I have to see the costume!

Shara said...

I love the way you leave us hanging on like an old radio serial. DUNH DUHN DUHN!!!!! That's a lot of stuff, but it sounds like you found some goodies in the mess. I think I have that doll's twin in my collection o' stuff. Love that old Lance jar too.

Waiting for the rest of the story......

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Eddie!! leave us hanging why don't you :) So OK this was a cool buy and very interesting but so much work. Glad you have made more then your investment back so that's a great thing. Now come back with the rest of the story.

Roger Owen Green said...

Keith must REALLY love you! ;-)

svelteSTUFF said...

NEVER a dull moment in the world of Melanoma Boy!! That's why we keep coming back for the sequels! Can't wait to see what the next episode holds :-) !!

Judy said...

Wowzers! What a motherlode! I think it would be a blast to do it once, but way too hard to do it on a regular basis. Imagine that fellow had 14 booths?? No wonder he fell behind on his rent. Shara is right.... you're leaving us hanging there...DUNH, DUNH, DUNH..... Try not to over-do it, kiddo.

Sheryl said...

Aside from the amount of work you took on, it sounds like a smart investment. I'm glad you are selling well. One last thing to worry about.