Paying your way through university can be tough, even if you’ve got your fees covered. But while Guy Roberts, 25, from London, was studying illustration at the Norwich University College of the Arts, he realised Norwich’s car boot sales were an untapped goldmine of vintage fashion. He set up an eBay account and soon he was earning up to £300 a month.
Guy is now a self-confessed car boot addict and has agreed to tell carbooted the secrets of buying and selling at the car boot.
When did you start going to car boot sales?
I used to go with my parents but I didn’t really get what they were all about. It was only when I started going off my own back that I realised there were people who were willing to practically give away stuff. I’d be mesmerised by these things and they would let me have them for 50p because they thought were rubbish.
What’s been your best buy at a car boot sale?
The first thing I remember being proud of buying was an old Miami Dolphins jacket, which I still love to bits. It cost me £2, but if you bought it in America it would be about £70. I also bought two Helly Hansen jackets for £2 each, and they’re worth around £70 if you buy them new.
What made you decide to start selling clothes online?
I’m into vintage clothing myself, so I could see that a lot of this stuff was worth good money. I thought, if people are selling these things so cheap but I know there’s a market for them, why not start selling them on eBay? So I started going to car boot sales and charity shops, and buying vintage things so I could sell them online. Once, I bought a River Island jumper which wasn’t even vintage but it had that kind of feel – I got it for £3 and sold it for £30. After that I was addicted.
What are the easiest things to sell?
You can normally sell designer brands for double what you pay for them at the car boot. Sportswear from famous brands like Nike or Adidas always goes down well. If anything has a brand name on it but looks like a granddad would wear it, people will be willing to pay for it.
How much do you make out of car boot sales?
While I was at university I was making £200-£300 a month. That covered all the money I needed to have fun, and I was able to go out pretty much every night. It probably wasn’t great for my liver and my brain cells, though.
But now when I sell stuff on eBay, the money stays in my paypal account and I usually end up spending it on more clothes.
Where’s the best place for finding bargains?
London’s not the best for cheap stuff because people here have a bit more money. But at the car boot sales in Norwich, where I studied, you’d find things for 50p which would go for at least four times that in London.
I like the Battersea Car Boot Sale but a lot of people are there to make as much money as they can, so you feel like you’re getting hustled sometimes. I saw this really nice Tommy Hilfiger towel there but they were selling it for £8. In London they know how much they can get for stuff, but outside London, they’re not so bothered about brands so that makes it cheaper.
Chiswick School Car Boot Sale is good because even though you’re in London it’s more like an out of town sale. A lot of people come in from outside the city and you also get well off families who just want to get rid of their stuff as quickly as they can.
Where’s the worst place?
The East End is a lot more trendy – you get people coming in looking for vintage clothes and furniture – there are a lot more posers round there so things are more expensive.
What was your last buy?
This jacket I’m wearing (see picture). I got it for £4.
What was your last sell?
Last weekend I went to Battersea Car Boot Sale to get rid of some old clothes, I had forty huge plastic rings that my friend had bought back from Thailand. I sold them for £4 to this weird old man with a massive empty suitcase – I’ve got no idea what he wanted to do with them.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, car boot sales are ideal for tracking down vintage collectibles.
In her post, Annata Vintage seller, Kelly Conway, identifies two types of car seller: the pro and the necessity car booter. Well actually, when we carried out our carbooted poll, we identified a third: the hobby car booter (but don’t worry Kelly, you weren’t to know).
Also, Kelly offers this tip on haggling: show the seller the exact amount of money you want to pay as a persuasion technique. We’ll have to give that a try when we’re out car booting tomorrow…
And if you’re looking for any more tips on vintage buying at the car boot, we spoke to Steve Beastall from The London Car Boot Company back in January. He told us to watch out for the vintage scene in Stoke Newington, which has been gaining momentum over the last few years.
Hackney Homemade, Wood Street Indoor Market, Frock Me, Judy’s kilo sales, and Little Chelsea: in the latest post of our 2012 predictions week, carbooted picks out five London markets you should visit on a bargain hunt.
Image via McMuggins
Every Saturday, Lower Clapton Road, E5, 10am-4pm; Every Sunday, Chatsworth Road, E5, 11am-4pm
The Hackney Homemade markets are back up and running after a well-earned Christmas break. On Saturdays you’ll find them in the garden of St John church in Hackney selling good old-fashioned bric-a-brac alongside vintage clothing and books. There’s also a good choice of world food to fill your belly as you browse. Sundays are the artier days, promising ceramics, toys, and furniture in the courtyard of an independent book shop. As the name suggests, there’s a lovely handmade ethos to the markets, and they’re clearly doing something right as Time Out named founder Jane MacIntyre one of their most influential people of 2011. We love the clear advice that their friendly and welcoming website gives for people wanting to sell their wares at the market, telling you exactly what you need to know before pitching up.
Wood Street, E17
Open Monday – Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, from 10am-5.30pm
We’re really excited to check out the goods here after organisers ran a competition to find 21 brand new shops for empty space in this Walthamstow market. The winners get three months free rent, and there’s a love-themed launch party on February 11 to say a big hello to the new kids in town. There’ll be flowers, homeware, records, costumes, and plenty of vintage to browse as well as performances in the indoor market, which used to be a cinema.
Frock Me: Chelsea Town Hall, King’s Road, SW3. Next event: Sunday 12 February, 11am-5.30pm
Adams Antique Fairs: Elverton Street, SW1P. Next event: Sunday 5 February, 10am-4.30pm
Matthew Adams runs an antique fair at the Royal Horticultural Hall as well as the fun vintage Frock Me fair in Chelsea. Frock Me is excellent for celeb spotting (Hi Kylie! Hi Kate Moss!), and the prices do get a little steep at times. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do well on a budget as you explore the range of vintage clothing, burlesque items, jewellery and accessories, and there’s a tea room to quench your thirst in retro surroundings. The antiques fair attracts 140 stallholders so you could easily spend your entire Sunday lost among some real gems.
Moves around! Next event: The Rag Factory, Heneage Street, E1, on Saturday 11 February, 11am-4pm
Load up on a kilo of clothing for only £15 – bargain! You’ll need your rummaging arms at the ready for this sale, run by the team behind Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fairs. As well as finding your new favourite shirt, this one’s a great opportunity to get crafty as you can turn old cloth into new togs, or rework a fantastic fabric into an e-reader cover/purse/neck scarf/pillowcase…
Chelsea Town Hall, King’s Road, SW3
Next event: Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 March. 3-8pm on Monday, 11am-6pm on Tuesday.
This one calls itself “the affordable antiques fair”, so it’s a great way of making your first steps into antique buying for as little as a tenner. Steer clear of the items they say could cost as much as £30,000 – unless you’ve come into some incredible good fortune – and get haggling in the surrounds of Chelsea’s Old Town Hall. Here’s a long-running fair for furnishings, porcelain, glass… You name it, it’s probably there.
The organisers of Covent Garden, Holloway, Stoke Newington, Brixton Market, Southfield and Capital car boot sales tell us what they think will sell well in 2012 as our predictions series continues.
“The goods that will make you a profit in 2012 are definitely good quality toys (especially wooden ones) and bikes. There’s so much junk out there for kids that we find parents are looking for simple but well made toys that have more meaning to them. Recently at Brixton, a lady sold a wooden doll house for £70.”
Lisa Watson, Brixton Market
“The vintage scene is very big at the moment in London; clothes and furniture. There are vintage shops and fairs springing up everywhere. A massive vintage scene has been created by the people at Stoke Newington car boot. People have always headed to the car boot for antiques, but now it’s vintage as well.”
Steve Beastall, The London Car Boot Company (Stoke Newington and Kilburn)
“People are finding it hard to afford to live and so are selling stuff that’s not getting used anymore. It’s a good time to pick up household goods. We’ve had crockery, televisions, computers, toasters and kettles being sold cheaply. Last weekend, someone sold a whole gymnasium that he’d had in his garage, including a rowing machine. A buyer walked away with it for £25 within half an hour of it being put out.”
Cyril Waterman, Sherman & Waterman car boot organisers (Covent Garden flagship)
“Everyone wants second hand goods because of the economy; clothes, shoes and books. In general car boots will be much busier in 2012.”
Janet, Booters Best (Holloway flagship)
“Food: during the warmer months, we often get a stall selling home baked cakes which always sell well. One of our regular helpers sells samosas and refreshments and people come specifically to get a bag of samosa’s from Angela & Joe’s stall. Best profit margins are from good quality household items and vintage clothing and accessories. There is always a foot spa and an old skybox somewhere in the mix which I have never seen actually sell!”
Angela McHale, Southfield Car Boot
“Second hand clothing is good to sell at the moment. People want to have new looks but can’t necessarily afford to go to the high street, so are turning more and more to the car boot sale for their fashion fix’. We are also noticing a much younger crowd of shoppers who are looking to set up their first homes.”
Faye Marriott, Capital Car Boot (Pimlico)
All photos of carbooted favourite; Capital Car Boot
Chelsea Walk-in, Brixton Flea Market, Princess May School, Purley Indoor and William Morris: in the first post of our week of predictions for 2012, carbooted brings you the top five up-and-coming car boot sales in London.
Photo via Urban 75
Station Road, SW9
Held on the first Saturday of each month, open to shoppers 10am – 4pm
Station Road was once the site of a one of London’s most popular car boot sales, attracting thousands of sellers. Since November it has become home to one of London’s newest flea markets, The Brixton Flea Market.
As well as loads of second hand bargains, there are stalls offering Jamaican, Caribbean & Guyanese street food and an American cake stall (the pumpkin pie comes highly recommended).
Chelsea Theatre – Worlds End Place, Kings Road, Chelsea, SW10
Every Sunday, open to shoppers 1pm – 4pm
You’ve heard of drive-in cinemas; now visit the walk-in boot sale at Chelsea Theatre – no car needed. This sale will celebrate its first birthday this year and carbooted predicts it’ll go from strength to strength. Make sure you bring a rain coat if you’re selling though, because as well as no cars, there’s no shelter at all.
Don’t be put off by the up-market surroundings. Posh neighbourhoods mean expensive goods at bargain prices. Keep your eyes peeled for a pair of Spencer from Made in Chelsea’s underpants.
Princess May School, Princess May Road, Stoke Newington, N16
Held on the last Sunday of the Month, open to shoppers 9am – 2pm
This Princess May School Car Boot Sale is an old favourite, attracting over a thousand buyers every week. It is now host to the Lovable Vintage Collectors Market, focusing on the retro side of things, as well as collectible vinyl. The team behind it have more than 15 years’ experience running car boots in St Augustine’s and St Mary’s Schools in Kilburn. Carbooted is confident this sale is going to be a success in 2012.
St Mark’s Church Hall, Church Road, Purley, CR8
Saturday 28th January 2012, open to shoppers 10.00am – 12pm
Okay, this one’s pretty far out of the city centre, and it’s not regular (after January there’s nothing planned until March). But seasoned car booters will know that the more obscure car boot sales are often untapped mines for bargain hunters. So keep this one under your hat. As long as it doesn’t become a regular fixture and the London crowd don’t find out about it, it could be a good spot for exciting finds this year.
Oakside Stadium,Station Road, Barkingside IG6
Every Sunday, open to shoppers 6.30am – 1pm
This one’s been a way for a few months, but it’s planned to reopen in February. So make sure you’re there for the first sale of 2012. It’ll be the first sale since Christmas so make the most of people getting rid of the presents they couldn’t give house room.
It’s a hard ground venue, so no need to worry if the winter weather takes a turn for the worst. Also, it gets an extra thumbs-up for donating the majority of the admission fee to the William Morris School for children with special needs.
The Observer has invited its favourite 50 tweeters to name their top three follows – read the article here. But carbooted was dismayed to see that there were no car booters on the list, so we’ve decided to share our own favourite car boot related tweeters…
Avid car booters in London do well to keep an eye on the nearby counties, for new trends and bargains that you wouldn’t find in the capital. @campscamp doesn’t just tweet about the car boot scene in Essex, she’s also got a page on tumblr dedicated to the subject.
CarBootJunction is one of the oldest and best car boot sale directories on the web. Follow them on Twitter for all the latest news and tips on where to find the best car boots in the country.
Closet and Botts specialise in reclaimed and furniture. They’re are based in both London and Brighton so that means they have twice as much specialist knowledge of where to find classic items at bargain prices. Check out their tumblr (http://www.closetandbotts.tumblr.com) to see some of their fantastic reclaimed vintage items.
Capital Car Boot runs a weekly car boot sale in Pimlico which never fails to open, and their twitter feed is a must follow for car booters in London. Not least because every week they tweet a password which allows you free entry after 12.30pm.