How to start a used furniture shop

Updated February 21, 2017

Starting a used furniture store is much like starting any business. Obtaining a business license, securing insurance policies and doing proper accounting are all general aspects of going to into business for yourself. Getting those areas in order can be complicated and are for another discussion. How to properly get a used furniture store off the ground is what's important here.

Find your niche. Being a used furniture dealer can be as easy or as complicated as you make it. Will you specialise in sofas, beds, handmade wooden chairs, desks, patio furniture, entertainment centres or home theatre seating? Keep in mind what's available in the market place. For example, custom made dinette sets from the 1800s may be hard to come by today. However, if you have an outlet to constantly stock your store with such products, you may be on your way to success. It is, therefore, important to know your niche.

Chose a proper location. Your shop will be a retail operation. It is, therefore, important for the public to to know where you are and not have to jump through several hoops to find you. Your location is key. Because you are dealing with furniture, it is recommended that you obtain a building that has adequate warehouse space to store inventory before it goes on your showroom floor.

Decide where you will get your inventory. A common problem among resale shop owners is lack of inventory. Scout garage and estate sales after they have been closed. Many items at jumble sales may be purchased very cheaply. Estate sales--after they are closed--are also a good outlet to find used furniture. After the estate liquidators and auctioneers take their cuts, it is common for many items to be left unsold. These items may be obtained for very little money or for free. People holding garage sales may also be willing to simply dispose of items they do not sell.

Don't be afraid to carry distressed furniture. You will not get top dollar for every item you put on your floor. Many items you run across in your search for inventory will have problems. Tables without legs, drawers missing knobs and rocking chairs with cracked spindles may be all you find at times. There are many customers that are in the market for this type of furniture and are willing to pay for them. Depending on your overhead, it is smart to mix distressed items--especially antiques--with your newer inventory. This will create traffic in your shop and a possible steady flow of revenue. However, shopping wisely for distressed items is crucial. Be careful that you don't overpay for things that need a lot of work.

A good way to alleviate the financial stress you will have during the start-up phase is to sell a portion of your inventory on consignment. If you have chosen a proper and visible location, it may be attractive for others to sell their items in your shop. This will allow you to fill your showroom and enjoy some cash flow from items that you did not have to purchase to obtain. A customer that purchases a consignment item and has a positive experience will likely return. Finding consignment partners may be done by calling friends or running classified ads in newspapers or online.

Know your market!. When selling used furniture, it is crucial to know how to price certain items. It may be quite easy to get a specific price for an item in one city or region. That same item may sell for much more or much less in another town. Research other used furniture stores and flea markets. Pricing products too high will force your customers to go elsewhere. Being too low will eventually force you to raise your prices and could eventually drive you out of business. Be fair out of the gate.

Consider selling on the Internet. There may be some items that you simply won't be able to sell to your walk-in customers. This may include high-end items that you can't afford to discount, or things that have been on your floor too long. In the past, these items would have almost always have been sold at a loss. However, with the popularity of online commerce sites such as eBay and Craigslist, it is more than possible to get your money out of virtually everything you have for sale.


Be familiar with your competition. Pay close attention to business licensing, sales tax laws and insurance requirements. Hiring an attorney is recommended. Properly staff your store. You more than likely will not be able, on your own, to do everything required to be successful. Budget your money wisely. Hiring an accountant or book-keeper is recommended.

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About the Author

Jim Hagerty is a writer and journalist who began writing professionally in 1996. He has had articles published in the "Rock River Times," "Builder's Journal" and various websites. He earned a Bachelor of Science in public relations and journalism from Northern Michigan University in Marquette.