While the pandemic has forced hundreds of Las Vegas businesses to close their doors (and close many forever), a few others have done well.
For example, business at the Fantastik Indoor Swap Meet, which opened in late May after a 10-week shutdown, is up 10 percent.
Doug Kays, co-founder of the 32-year-old company on Decatur and Oakey Boulevards, says there are up to 7,400 customers in each three-day weekend.
The Formula for Success: Thousands of domestic consumers receiving stimulus money, people looking for a chance to get out of the house, good shacks, and companies trying to survive and perhaps thrive.
“Before the pandemic, we had almost the same buyer for 32 years,” Kays said. “Two different things happened after the pandemic that increased our awareness. No. 1, they (buyers) got more incentive money. Initially, you had that additional $ 600 bonus and that spurred a lot of purchases. This was the second reason we had more visitors and people were bored and couldn’t go to other venues. “
The boom has allowed Fantastik to add around 65 new companies since it reopened its 100,000 square feet of retail space.
“It’s a different environment, but the bottom line is that people want something to do,” said Kays. “They want an interesting place, a value-driven place, unique products … so they came to visit us.”
The weekly stimulus money stopped a long time ago, but Kays says sales continue to be strong.
“I see (seller) products on days when they are stocking up, which is Thursdays,” said Kays. “I see the bags walking out the door with the customers. That has definitely improved since we opened up again from the pandemic. “
Business is so good that Kays is opening additional stand space that has not been used since the Great Recession.
He has a pretty unique view as his establishment is a place for sellers and buyers. He’s partly a landlord, partly an advertiser, partly a recruiter, in many different roles.
Start or established for a long time
For companies, Fantastik offers both space and a steady stream of customers.
More than 7,000 companies have been launched at the facility over the past 32 years. Some have moved to malls or other retail stores, but many are still left. Of the current 170 vendors occupying around 500 stands, 40 percent have been with Fantastik for five years or more and 25 percent have been with Fantastik for 10 years or more, said Kays.
“When there are problems with the economy and when there are problems with employment, people have to create their own futures so that they can start their own businesses. You come to Fantastik. You can start on an entrepreneurial smaller scale. “
While a standard 10 x 10 foot rental per month (12 shopping days) can cost $ 560, a portion of the space can range from $ 200 to $ 300 depending on the location.
The pandemic created a change for hopeful business owners, Kays said.
“Before the pandemic, it was people who dreamed of opening their own business and acting on it, but now you have the people who feel the need to open their own business and control their own destiny,” he said.
Companies range from the largest collection of jewelry retailers in Las Vegas to companies that offer silk plants, furniture, or services like real estate and insurance or a chiropractor and a back massage.
Kays believes that the key to being a business owner is plan and perseverance.
“People who are successful are people who have a plan, are ready to implement that plan, and are willing to invest that time,” he said. “You have to plan the time. The customer may not buy your seat the first or second time, but they will remember you.”
Jeweler Frank O’Hara, a salesman at Fantastik for more than 20 years, was perfectly pleased with his layoff during the pandemic.
“We enjoyed the shutdown. If I did sports he (Kays) would be on TV (commercial) and draw me back, ”said O’Hara.
T&S Jewelry did better after it reopened than it did before it closed, he said.
“It brought out a new crowd of buyers,” he said, noting that buyers tend to be younger, which he called unexpected.
Repairs of watches and jewelry are in greater demand “as if they had been waiting for someone to do them”.
“All in all, it was pretty successful,” said O’Hara. His wife Brenda has her own stand at Fantastik.
32 years of shopping
Consumers have been bartering for 32 years. The company has been successful at its West Valley location since 1991 after it was founded in 1988 on Boulder Highway and East Sahara Avenue as the Las Vegas Indoor Swap Meet. It is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“Shoppers are always looking for bargains and entertainment,” said Kays.
Savvy shoppers might find bargains.
“Pricing can be aggressive,” said Kays. “The thing is, you deal one on one with the business owner.”
Negotiations are not uncommon.
“It is with some of them and not with others. It depends on the price, ”said Kays. “People with a lower price tag have less freedom of movement or less room to talk, while people with a higher price may have room to talk.”
Fantastik supports its providers with strong advertising from print to radio and television to a large presence on social media.
Hard times for some
If you wander down one of the many aisles, you will find one vendor that offers dental insurance, the next has jewelry, another has pampers in a suitcase, and another sells bamboo bedding. In between are silk flowers, clothing and cell phone accessories. Diversity abounds.
Not every business is booming for every provider.
“Business is going down 90 percent and going back,” said Esmerald Hurtado, owner of This n That, which specializes in cell phone accessories and sporting goods.
She has relatives who work in casinos and restaurants and they all tell her that business in the valley is getting worse and worse.
“I try different things,” she said to see what will sell. “I will let it (their stand) run at least until Christmas and I hope it catches up.”
Since safety is paramount in a COVID-19 world, Fantastik follows federal and state guidelines by requiring masks and plays an active role in trying to protect customers and suppliers. Kays noted that there are 24 hand sanitizing stations and there are up to eight people on the floor watching buyers and sellers for social distancing and other safety measures.
Contact Marvin Clemons at [email protected] Follow @Marv_in_Vegas on Twitter.