“They bargain like crazy. There’s no money out there. It’s really tough,” said the owner of one Chinese-themed stand, who said she did not want to be identified because she was embarrassed at the failure of her store.
On Sunday, she was trying to hawk remaining merchandise — such as necklaces and Chinese cultural figurines — at drastically reduced prices.
Despite the recession, organizers of the monthly swap meet, which charges vendors a $40 to $50 fee, said average attendance hadn’t changed. The fees benefit the college’s general fund.
“It’s been pretty steady,” said Jon Harris, who oversees the event.
January and February are typically slower months, netting a thinner crowd than the average 2,500 people, or 185 vendors, Harris said.
But even then, business has been slower, vendors said.
“People just aren’t buying like they used to,” said Betty Johnson, a vendor who’s been selling at the swap meet for a year.
For La Crescenta resident Stephanie Mercado, the issue isn’t so much the money, but the mood.
As she browsed through a box of used books Sunday, Mercado said the worsening recession had driven “the spirit” out of her.
“It’s like, everyone’s losing jobs or taking pay cuts, and every time I come out here thinking it will take my mind off things, but it doesn’t. It’s a real distraction,” she said.
Whatever the reason, the shopping funk has not only hit vendor bottom lines, but their ability to restock or find new merchandise. Declining sales have hampered the ability of some vendors to scour estate sales and other events for the stuff they later mark up and sell at the swap meets.
“I don’t have extra money to go buy stuff,” said Theresa Myers, who specializes in rare coins and stamps. “So it’s slowing me a little bit more.”
Still, she considers herself lucky since her swap meet sales are, for now, only a side job.
“It’s not going to make or break me,” she said.