A British Guide To Haggling – Part 3: Antique Shops, Emporiums & Charity Shops

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See what we have to look through to find our stock! - Steptoe's Yard

In Part 1 of our guide to haggling, we looked at the types of buying grounds that we often frequent and list five questions you should ask yourself before buying anything.

In Part 2, we take a close look at car boot sales, offering some advice on best practice to get bargains, including some tips on haggling and keeping safe at these events.

Now, we take a look at antique shops, emporiums and charity shops and show you how to get the best deals.

Buying from antique shops

Antique shops and antique emporiums offer a concentrated range of good quality antiques, vintage items and interesting curios. Prices tend to be at the retail end, but bargains are always to be found and negotiated if you look hard enough.

Some antique shops can be intimidating – high-end items with high prices and many do not even price their stock. Do not be afraid to go in and look around – sometimes there is nothing of interest or their prices are retail. But, sometimes items can be found that will make a good profit. Look for sales tickets or signs and ask the owner if they deal with trade – some will offer a discount immediately if buying for trade. Talk to the proprietor and tell them what you are looking for, they may have clearance stock, contacts and useful information. If all fails, you only have to be polite, say thank you and leave.

Some antique shops can appear like junk shops, cluttered with thousands of items in a disorderly fashion. These are great opportunities for rummaging and searching for a hidden bargain.

Buying from antique emporiums

Antique emporiums can be large warehouses, garden centres or small shops that rent space and cabinets to individual traders. They are staffed by the owners or stall holders and can be excellent picking grounds. Some offer a fixed trade discount of 5% to 10%, whilst others leave it to the individual traders to set discount rates or not. Discounts are usually only possible with items priced above £20. Negotiation on higher priced items can be possible, but sometimes the staff will have to phone the trader to find out if an offer can be accepted and further haggling can result in a deal. Always be patient and kind to the staff at emporiums – they want to make the sale to earn their commission so they are on your side when talking to the sellers. Multiple purchasing can be a great method to obtain larger discounts.

Look out for traders who are closing down or leaving the emporium, as they may have sale or clearance prices. Unfortunately, many emporiums charge high rental prices to their seller which means that prices can sometimes be a little high. However, it also means that the sellers need to turn over a reasonable amount of stock in order to cover their overheads, so sensible offers are unlikely to be flat out refused. Remember – you can always go up in price but never down. For example, if an item is listed at £100 and you want to pay £90 for it, offer £80 initially and then you have some room to negotiate and meet in the middle at £90 – and you also might get it for £80 if you’re lucky!

Buying from charity shops

Charity shops are always worth checking out. Some are local independent charities (e.g. local hospices) and others are national and international charities (e.g. Scope, Cancer Research & British Heart Foundation). From our experience, the smaller or independent charity shops tend to be the ones where they are happy to negotiate and have more sensible prices to start with. Larger chain charity shops often have company-wide policies which mean that older items are appraised and put on sale at the kind of prices that we would usually be looking to sell the items for, making it impossible to make a profit.

Negotiating with staff at charity shops can be something of a taboo issue. As a general rule, many will not accept offers on their goods and will go through a process of reducing items which are not selling after a fixed period of time. However, charity shops are still businesses in every sense of the word, and whilst their profits go to their good causes, there is still some room for negotiation if done in the right way, in order to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Think of it this way:

  • Charity shops often have very large quantities of stock and limited space
  • Customers who visit the shop regularly and see that items aren’t selling will get fed up and go elsewhere
  • Charity shops often have a lot of stock which is kept out the back due to limited shopfloor space
  • Regular buyers and repeat business are very important for charity shops
  • By offering you a discount, they are much more likely to have your repeat custom, which will help to ensure turnover of stock and bring in a regular income for the shop

As a general rule, if you ask for a discount on an individual item, you will often be met with a cold stare. If the item is particularly expensive, it may be worth asking to speak to the manager about it. It is always worth trying to build relationships with the managers of the shops as they are the gatekeepers and can really help you out if you get on their good side. If you get on well with a manager, they may give you a call to let you know when new items come in that you may be interested in, or offer you discounts when buying in bulk – for example 20% off when you spend £100 on jewellery. Sometimes buying in bulk can be the only way to get a discount in charity shops, but it could pay off if the quality of the items is good and you can sell them for a profit.

Whatever happens, always be polite and don’t be afraid to turn away if the price isn’t right and you won’t be able to make a profit. You are a business after all and need to look after your own interests. You tend to quickly find which charity shops near you are most likely to strike a bargain, or have reasonable prices to start off with.

Our fourth and final part of this series will be out next month (May) and will look at buying and haggling for good overseas. 

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