about the stores

JUNK has two Williamsburg Brooklyn locations - 197 N9th St & 567 Driggs Ave - we are open 9-9, 7 days a week. To reach either store take the L to bedford & exit on the driggs ave side. Check out our new website: Junk11211.

SOMETHING TO SELL? Call Brooklyn Bridge Estate Buyers 212-260-1851 or contact them online www.brooklynbridgebuyers.com

A standard box of 4 color tags - available from any supply house

Monday, September 12, 2011

How to price used clothes - the four color tagging system

I am always amazed by the number or seasoned thrifters, who shop in my store &  don’t know  how the four color tagging system works.

So I looked on line . . . and looked and looked and looked . . .  Not one word !

Now, I must confess, I surf the web a lot, searching for blogs about buying and selling used stuff; and this is what I find

1-  Sites promoting a particular shop - PR with no real information

2 - Bland generic how-to pages, with  advise like. “Keep your prices competitive” - whatever that means

3 - Bragging sites (some quite good!) - showing the writers “scores”  - often with fantastic photos of the way they’ve re-purposed their vintage finds.  -  But, even on these sites, I get the feeling that the authors don’t  really know how the resale business works.

And so , here it is Guys & Gals. . . The inside scoop . . .

For  simplicity’s sake we will assume  the color tag changes on the first of every month (it doesn’t)

1- Month one (lets call it January) - Throughout the month, New Arrivals (full price) are priced with Yellow tags

2- February 1st - switch to Green tags -  Throughout the month New Arrivals (full price)  are priced with green tags

3- March 1st - Switch to Pink tags- Throughout the month New Arrivals (full Price) are priced with Pink tags -  Yellow tag clothes are NOW at the first discount price (at Junk we go to 50%)

4 - April 1st - Switch to Orange tags - Throughout the month New Arrivals are priced with orange tags. - Green tag clothes are now at the first discount price (50% off ) and yellow tag clothes are at the second discount price (at Junk we go to $1)

On May 1st -  This is important -Yellow tag clothes do NOT  magically become full price again - no, no, no -  Yellow tag clothes are removed from the store! Then - Pink tags become 50% off - Green tags are $1 - NEW ARRIVALS are, once again, tagged with yellow tags.

On June first - Green tag clothes are removed - Pinks tags are $1 - Orange tags are 50% 0ff - NEW ARRIVALS  are once again tagged with green

And round & round  we go - once the system is in place there will always be 2 colors at full price, one color at 50% off & one color at $1

                                              ANY QUESTIONS?

Why are there 2 different full price colors?
  Because new arrivals are put  out every day. If there was only one full price color, items put out on Jan 31st would be marked down on Feb 1st -  after only 24 hours in the store.

What happens to clothes that are removed from the store?  Now that’s  a really good question! -  I give mine to my sister (she sells them at a Long Island Flea Market) - Goodwill sends their leftovers to outlet stores, where they are thrown into bins & sold by the pound!

What does all this mean?   Well, if your shopping out of Goodwill Outlet bins, you are scrapping the bottom of the barrel - Now, that barrel may still have plenty of good apples left,  maybe even a  few excellent apples left, but trust me all the best apples are gone (and if your shopping in a “thriftique” that gets it inventory from those bins . .  No I won’t go there - but you get my point)

 So - How do you get the best deals? It depends on what you’re looking for.

For Best Finds -
you want to check the new arrivals -  At Junk we’ve never had one of our $10 vintage cashmere sweaters stay in the store long enough to go on sale - but those 50 black A-line skirts I mentioned in an earlier post - about half sold at full price ($8) & about 5 made it all the way to $1 - the rest sold at 50% off - so -

For Best Bargains - you  want to look for those sale tags -

And for REALLY GREAT BARGAINS - you want to be in the store the day the sale color changes -  I love the amazed & happy  look on the faces of shoppers, who wandered in just as we were changing the sale colors & leave with armfuls of  fantastic $1 clothes.

How often do we change the sale colors at Junk? About 5 times a year. It’s not a set date and it’s never announced in advance -  Generally speaking, if I’m straightening the racks & notice the $1 clothes are almost all gone, I know it’s time!

And finally - how does using  the 4 color system help store owners & managers?

1- It helps them correctly price their inventory -  If  merchandise sells faster than it can be restocked & if nothing ever lasts long enough to go on sale, prices are probably too low - but if nothing ever sells before it goes on sale, then clearly prices are to high!

2 -  It helps them know what to stock - items that only sell at a greatly reduced price or  never sell at any price are a waste of  floor space

3- It allows them to efficiently manage their  inventory.  A customer tries on a garment,  breaks the zipper, pops a button or leaves a make-up smudge on the collar - then puts it back on the hangar -  The seller might not notice it - but  the damaged item will cycle out - either it will sell at a discounted price or leave the store unsold.  Buyers are not stupid. They can decide for themselves what is or isn’t a good deal.
                                                   Best of All

4- It means buyers can  find sale items every day  - not just on special occasions!

That’s all for now - I hope this information  helped you become a better,  more informed shopper!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Where does all this stuff come from? Questions we hear all day long #2

Everywhere! - But essentially, used items come from other peoples homes.   Children outgrow their clothes and cribs - Young families outgrow their first homes -  Expanding careers require relocation and fancier furniture - It isn’t always a sad story , even when it goes in the other direction.  Grown children leave home & the parents downsize - Retired folks sell their homes & move “somewhere warm“ - Every day, houses are sold, the new owners need them empty, and the contents enter the resale market.

Junk is a resale shop, which means we  sell items that have been offered for sale before - most are used , but many are deadstock - that is to say,   pre-owned but unused - which brings us to the real topic of today’s blog entry . . .

When are old items new? When they are New/Old!

Let’s take a step back  and start by asking. . .

Where Do Stores Get Their Stuff? - or Wholesale, Retail,  Resale - What’s the Difference?

     Imagine It’s a beautiful August day - you’re driving down a country road and see a farm stand selling fresh corn. Behind the stand are fields of ripening corn -  You know exactly where that “store” got it’s merchandise.

The stand represents the farms retail operation.  You can buy two ears of corn or a bushel, you are still
making a retail purchase. 

The farm (the producer & wholesaler) will sell most  of the corn wholesale -

Either to a cannery (another wholesaler), that will process the item, and re-sell it to grocery stores

Or directly to a Supermarket chain (retailer), that will distribute their large purchase among their many retail stores.

And yes,  this an oversimplification. . .

Moving on to. . .

Manufactured goods -  these also, often begin on the farm -

A farm grows cotton - sells it (wholesale) to a mill - the mill weaves cloth, and sells it (wholesale) to a factory - the factory sews t-shirts and sells them either . . .

1) retail, out of there own shops
2)wholesale to large chains, that distribute the shirts among their many retail stores
3)wholesale, to distributors  (also called jobbers) who buy massive quantities, break them down into large quantities & resell to small shops
4) some and/or all of the above


They sell them (wholesale) to another factory, that dyes, prints or otherwise decorates them & then resells them in any of the ways just mentioned.

And so, a simple ball of cotton, moves up & up the food chain - becoming more expensive as it goes along.

                                     Eventually it moves back down - and gets cheaper!

     At the end of the season, manufacturers and big stores, sell their leftovers (wholesale) to big discount chains - or to discount distributors, who break down the lots and sell them to smaller discount stores.

      Small stores usually  just pack the stuff away . Some do send it to auction - and there are auctions that specialize in the bulk sale of “shelf pulls” ( items with worn torn or damaged packaging ) & end of season close outs

    But usually unsold items - a case of this and half a box of that -  gets packed up & stowed away  in basements & storage units.  Where it  accumulates & sits  . . . & sits & sits. . . Often forgotten. . . Until the business closes & the inventory is sold in bulk.  If it sits long enough, it may actually improve.   It may become the holy grail of vintage dealers: new/old stock.

     NEW/OLD - old items,  that were never sold & never used.  (What dealer doesn’t dream of going into the basement of an old Mom & Pop toy store & finding half a dozen original Barbies, or GI Joes tucked away in a closet?).

      Most deadstock is not that valuable- but it’s still can be very cool - and a great deal for the resale vender & their customers. 
      Leftover t-shirts, from a forgotten political campaign,  boxes of unused buttons from a long retired wholesale importer, or most recently, boxes of candles from a closed gift shop:  Not quite new, but also not used, these are among my favorite things at Junk.
       Some purchases are small - 1,000 furry cat toys & 1,000 rubbery aliens - all of which fit easily on the passenger seat of my van -  Some purchases are large - a gazillion pieces of costume jewelry from the 70’s 80’s & 90’s - enough to fill a truck & sell for 5 years. Some are just odd!

     Last year I bought about 10,000 pieces of clothing from a woman who shopped as a hobby. Seriously - she spent 20 years buying clothes (mostly new, at discount stores), in a variety of small sizes (not hers!) and arranging them into outfits - Skirt, blouse, sweater, scarf & belt - the works! -  some were displayed on store racks throughout her house, others were neatly  packed away and labeled.  In one box - labeled  black winter skirts - there were 50 unworn  black wool  A-line skirts. Different brands - but all the same skirt.  Weird.  She just liked to shop. At 86, still spry & shopping, she decided to sell her house  & move into an assisted living complex.  She couldn’t bring the “collection” with her.  And so it came to JUNK - not really new, not really used - just simple good quality classic clothes -  at bargain prices for our lucky shoppers!
     I doubt I’ll every find another collection quite like that one!

       One last aside - not everything in the world is discounted - Luxury companies often tightly control the distribution of their branded goods & destroy, rather than discount unsold items

Why we don’t Haggle at Junk

    It’s silly (see my last post) , it’s time consuming & it’s inconsistent (different day ,different salesperson , different price - huh?). But mostly it’s unfair- to you - the buyer.  I knew,  when I set this policy, that some people wouldn’t like it.  I never dreamed it would make them violently angry!  Really- we sell junk not penicillin!  Our policy is to give everyone the same price and give everyone our best price the first time. No special rates for “good” customers - we think all our customers are good!  No higher prices for tourists or the inebriated!
     We do mark things down. We do have sales.  We do not ever discount at the counter.  That’s our store policy - not a debate topic. And that’s all I have to say.

Monday, February 28, 2011

How to Haggle, Hondle, Bargain or Negotiate Prices at a Flea Market or Second Hand Store

    First, determine if prices are negotiable.  Bargaining is a common practice in resale, but some shops do have a set price policy (Junk is one of them). If the tag on the item or a sign on the wall  says prices are firm it’s safe to assume prices are indeed firm.  No amount of  “technique” is going to get you a discount and it might get you thrown out of the shop.

     On the other hand, if  negotiating is the norm, not asking for a discount means you are paying  more than you have to.  So how do you get the best price?

    To start with, I’m going to let you in on a little trade secret-  THE GAME IS RIGGED --  The seller already knows what he wants for the item The first price is intentionally inflated to leave room for negotiating.   Or as they say in the trade  “Ask 80 take 50”

    Consider these three real world scenarios

1-  An aggressive unpleasant customer walks into a flea market booth and asks “how much is this chair?” The seller says $80 - the buyer counters with an offer of $40 - The seller says they can do $50. They agree and the chair is sold

 2- A friendly pleasant customer walks into the same booth, looks at an identical chair  and asks “how much is this chair?”  The seller says $80.  The buyer says can you do a little better. The seller says they can do $50.  They agree and the chair is sold

3-  A pleasant experienced buyer comes into the same booth  looks at an identical chair  and asks “how much is this chair?”  The seller says $80.  The buyer says can you do a little better if I take three of them . The seller  says  they can do $150 for the lot.  They agree and the chairs are  sold

    The point is everybody, the tough negotiator, the easy going shopper  and the big purchaser , all paid the same price for the chair - $50 .  Because that’s what the chairs cost.

    Now we all know life is not quite that simple. Lets go back to the same flea market, same vendor, same day. He still has three chairs left.

1- someone walks into the booth and  asks “how much is this chair?’ the seller  says $80. And the buyer says I’ll take it. The chair is sold

2-  another person walks into the booth and  asks “how much is this chair?’ the seller  says $80. The buyer says will you take $60? They agree and the chair is sold.

     The dealer now has one chair left.  Hours have passed and no one has asked about this chair.

     Finally someone comes into the booth and asks “How much is this chair?”  The seller says $80 . The buyer says $40- the vendor says $50 -the buyer says no, $45 - they go back & forth.  At last the seller capitulates. They agree on $45. The last chair is sold. The seller gets into his van, drives home, plops down on his couch & has a cold one.

    No deal is stuck. , the vendor loads the chair  into his van drives home, plops down on the very same couch & pours himself beer . The next week he bring the chair back to the flea market & sells it for $50.

    Either way the dealer is ahead. He started out with 8 chairs. He wanted $50 a chair ($400 total). Instead he got $435 (scene 1) or $440 (scene 2).  Bargaining is not a consumer friendly practice.

     As a buyer, the deck is stacked against you. . You think your talking the seller into a cheaper price, but what your really doing is trying to guess the number the vendor already has in his head.  So how do you get him to reveal the (real) lower price?

     Start by having some idea of what you want to spend.  Then be  direct.  Usually a simple “Can you do a little better?” is all you need.   Most dealers have a standard “discount” rate. - (They say 80 -  you say better - they say 50 and a deal is struck. ) Sometimes a second counter offer is required.  ( They say 80 -you say better - they say 60 - you say 50 - and a deal is struck)
       Whenever possible let the seller give the first & second price. You don’t want to be the person who got the $80 chair for $60 instead of $50

      Sometimes the dealer will turn the tables on you  - They say 80 - you say better  - and they say “What are you looking to spend”  If you stand there looking like a deer caught in the headlights, your in trouble. The vendor now knows you have no idea what the item should cost.  So be prepared - offer slightly less the you want to pay. The dealer may counter with the real price, or may refuse &  toss the ball right back to you, - in that case you offer what you really expect pay.

     By now you may be asking yourself  - if the vender knows they want $50 for the chair & isn’t going to take less than $50 for it -  why do they ask for $80? Are they trying to rip you off?  Not at all! They’re just giving you what you want - an opportunity to haggle.

     Consider the green young vendor - new  to the  flea market - he goes out & buys eight  beautiful chairs - he pays $25 a piece,  hoping to sell them for $50 each. All day long  he tells people the chairs are $50 -they counter with an offer of  $25 - he declines & at the end of the day packs up his chairs & goes home broke

     The next week  he brings the same chairs, but  now he’s asking $25 a piece , just hoping to recoup his investment -  All day long he tells people the chairs are $25 - only this time they counter with an offer of $10
     At this point one of two things can happen - the young man sells his chairs at a loss - goes home, ,gets drunk, wakes up the next day & looks for a real job - or

     The little light bulb in his brain goes on -  he realizes bargaining isn’t about price - it’s about manipulation -  he starts telling folks the chairs are $80 & by the end of the day finds he‘s sold every chair  - for the price he wanted - $50 each!.  Life is good.  Our hero switches from PBR in a can to micro-brewed stuff in a bottle.  And every week he titillates the public with eight more “$80 chairs” that he lets go  for $50 a piece.

     Years pass. And here you are, standing in his booth, lusting after one of those chairs.  The seller says $80. You know that’s too much.  But what is the true price? $60, $50, $40?  You’re just not sure!

     The good news is, the guy wants to sell the chair.  He knows what the real price is &  a polite “can you do a little better?” is usually all that’s needed to get him to reveal it.  Individuals vary. Some vendors require a few passes before the truth is revealed.

     The bad news is, years of dealing with the public has turned your dealer into a cranky old eccentric.  Unless he’ retiring tomorrow & moving to Florida he’s not coming down from his base price. And if you act like a jerk he may decide to never tell you what that base price is.

So here are a few things you should never do. They’re common tactics and they don’t work

1- Don’t say “ I’ll give you . . “ Every dealer I know hates this expression . Much better to say “Would you take.. .”
2- Don’t emphasize your offer with the word CASH -  99% of the time cash is the only option at a flea market.  Saying it in a shop implies you think  the business has shady bookkeeping practices. 

3-  Don‘t try to get a discount by pointing out the flaws in an item. Once you’ve selected the item, knocking it makes you seem insincere and  implies the dealer hasn’t looked it over carefully and isn’t familiar with his own stock.

     Trust me - Not only have I  been in this business for over 25 years, but almost everyone I know is in this business and when dealers get together in private and grouse about difficult customers -  these three scenarios  top the list  of things that drive them crazy.

     Use some common sense. In bargaining, as in most things, positive is better than negative.  Flattery is better than insults.

     “I love it, but the price is a bit more than I wanted to spend” works much better than “It’s kinda shoddy - can you do better?.”
  “ You have the coolest stuff! Would you consider $10?” (for the $15 item) will seal the deal faster than “Your prices are nuts. I’ll give you ten bucks” (for the same $15 item).

     I sold in the flea market for years & I never gave anyone a better price because they made an ugly face at me or told me my merchandise sucked

     I did give slightly better prices to people who bought from me regularly,  always made a point of telling me what great taste I had,  and occasionally thought to bring me a cup of coffee or a bottle of water.

     I gave my absolute worst prices to people who spent ten minutes chatting me up then turned to the item of interest and said “what can you do for me” as if we were lifetime friends.  Personally I found that routine out and out disturbing and the would-be buyer who pulled it never got a deal and never got another ten minutes of my time.

     But for the most part I followed the same routine I just described; asked for an inflated first price & quickly negotiated down to the real price.  Today I have a fixed price No Haggling shop and I will explain why JUNK has that policy in my post

     One last thing(for now) -Suburban flea markets often attract “soccer mom/vendors”; non- professionals who set up a table once or twice a year in an attempt to de-clutter their closets.  Usually their prices are very low. So if your at one of those markets and you  see one of those vendors and they have an almost new pair of jeans in your size and they ask you for a dollar - just give them the damn dollar!  Offers of change are offensive to anyone over the age of  five - no matter how polite your tone is. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why do you sell that? Questions we hear all day long #1

     As people wander through the store, we often hear them muse - “Why do they sell that? “  The answer is really simple.  We stock items our  customers ask for & buy.  If no one buys it we stop carrying it. 
     Older people are often confused  by our vinyl section (No one buys records any more!) or our old keys & photos (who would buy that?)
     Younger folks, especially those new to the city,  can’t understand why we stock distressed furniture or non-working outdated electronics.  They are simply unaware of the constant  need for props in this media driven town.
     Junk doesn’t have any lofty goals.  We sell cool old stuff - $.99 VHS tapes (because we love movies)   and  $50 vintage suitcases because they look  great - carried to the airport,  stacked for a window display,  or scattered about in a 1940’s train station scene.
     Our customers include high school kids & retirees - art students, young couples, restaurant designers, & major movie studios.  We try to serve them all.

      So stop by, take a look & pick the item that’s right for your needs. And remember - it’s a big city - other people have other needs. We’re here for them too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Antique? Vintage ? or Just Plain Junk

Antique? Vintage ? or Just Plain Junk

     The generally accepted American definition of  an antique is “ an item over 100 years old.”  That’s great as long as you use the word as a noun. As an adjective it has a much broader meaning.  According  Merriam -Webster antique  means

1) existing since or belonging to earlier times
2) being in the style or fashion  of former times
3) in or representative of the work of an earlier period

      Therefore you can buy  paint called “antique white” or a brand new shirt  labeled  “Antique Lace Trimmed Blouse”.  Antique doesn’t always mean old and sadly, buying something in an  Antique Store is no guarantee of age.  The next time you visit your favorite shop, look at their sign - odds are it says something like “ Antiques and Gifts”.  Very high end shops may guarantee the age & origin of  their wares, but that is the exception not the rule.

    This is not to imply that antique dealers are crooks - but rather that these shops, like business everywhere evolved to meet market demands. 
     There was a time when antique & second hand shops were two very different animals.  The craze for vintage blurred those lines.
      In the late ’60s, when I first became interested in old things, “new antiques” (i.e. late Victoriana ) were the rage.  Today of course all that stuff really is over 100 years old.
     Then there was the craze for the  bright ,comfy, cheerful colors & lines of the 1930’s & 40’s and  the popularity of the sleek sophisticated style  of the deco 20’s.  Today we are at the tail end of a passion for modern (the streamline space-age inspired designs of the 50’ & 60’s. )  & a resurgence of  interest in early primitives , mixed with previously overlooked,  heavy farm/industrial machine parts, reworked to serve as furniture & art.

      ”Vintage” became a buzz word ; antique stores faded and Antique/Vintage Shops sprung up to meet consumer demands; but everyone seemed to have a different opinion about  how old something had to be, before it could be called vintage.

According to the dictionary vintage, n. means

1) - season's yield of grapes or wine from a vineyard (2) wine; especially : a usually superior wine all or most of which comes from a single year

It doesn’t mean old - wine made this year has a 2010 vintage

2) period of origin or manufacture

Again it doesn’t imply any specified age - and so you have “1980’s vintage clothes “ - that is  clothes made in the 1980’s - a perfectly  legitimate use of the word vintage.

As an adjective it means

1) dating from the past : old

  Just about anything can be called vintage

    Add to this,  the ready availability of inexpensive imported reproductions. Dealers found that, if the price was right,  many people were happy to buy  new “gift” items with an old look. These items could be ordered from a wholesale catalog & were therefore easy to stock & mixed well with the more expensive true (and hard to find) antiques they already carried.

    The age of the classic small town /country antique store, with it’s crotchety old keeper, who’s love of old things was wedded to his knowledge of local history & lore ended.  The Multi-dealer mish mash mall, with it’s college student clerk replaced it.

     On the up side , all sorts of really cool old -  but not so old - things were preserved and entered the resale market.
     On the downside the general household goods second-hand stores disappeared .  Those fantastic furniture graveyards, with their mountains of old wood chairs &  dime store china morphed into neat, orderly vintage emporiums.

     I don’t know when all those second hand stores disappeared - I just know they used to be everywhere & now they’re almost all gone.  So I opened JUNK

      JUNK as a second hand store. We sell all sorts of  pre-owned stuff - Victorian trunks, 70’s tulip chairs, & good readable non-collectable books. We sell VHS tapes of blockbuster movies & cheap dead-stock cat toys. Most of the items we sell are used and  everything we sell has entered the market through resale channels. Nothing is ordered new from catalogs.   

    Our merchandise has to meet only one criteria. I have to like it - and I have rather wide ranging & often bizarre tastes. 
   Postscript -
      After writing a first draft of this blog, I jumped in the shower & raced up to the Walter Reade Theater to see Kris Kristofferson & a very young Gene Hackman in Cisco Pike. I was totally blown away. Watching the movie all  I could think was - if I didn’t know what  year this film was made I’d swear every prop in the flick came from my shop - but then it dawned on me - Every prop in this film has, somehow over time, wound up in my shop.
     I like to think my taste is the product of some unique inner vision, but clearly it is nothing more than a reflection of the time & place I came of age. If anyone out there wants to know what the 70’s really looked like - not the sanitized Wisconsin cheese spread version of the era - but the real 70’s -  I recommend you see this film.  It was a time when pot was cheap, love was free & yoga was a prelude to astral projection, not a means to flat abs.