How to start a second hand used clothing business

Updated April 17, 2017

Second hand clothing shops have increased in popularity over the last decade. Vintage clothing has become the chic thing wear and tough economic times further increase the appeal of buying quality clothing at bargain prices. Because people of all socio-economic backgrounds suddenly want to shop for second hand clothes, it's a great time to start a business that sells them. Opening a second hand clothing shop can be profitable while also helping the community. Plus, you're recycling, which helps the environment.

Pick a location for your shop. The location must be in an area where demand for such a business is high. This doesn't mean it has to be in a low income part of town -- people of all socio-economic classes shop at second hand boutiques. Your location should be in a safe area, easy to get to and close to another business that draws a similar clientele. Take time to shop around for the right spot, compare prices and weigh the pros and cons before choosing a location.

Decide what kind of clothing "buy-back" policy you want. Will you only offer credit to people who bring in clothes? Will you pay cash for the clothes up front? Will you operate as a consignment retailer? Your policy will require foresight and determine how much manpower you'll need.

Choose a cleaning method for the clothing that comes in. Will you send clothing out to an external cleaner or do all the cleaning in-house?

Hire dependable employees who work well with customers. They should know how to evaluate and appraise the value of clothing that is brought in for buy back deals. Your employees should also feel as excited about second hand clothing as you are.

Plan your marketing strategy and budget. Decide what type of media you want to use, such as newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and social media. Consider teaming up with a non-profit organisation or charity in order to introduce yourself to the community. Offer special grand-opening discounts and events.


Most second hand clothing shops offer buy-back programmes, which allow customers to sell their used clothing to the shop in exchange for store credit or cash. This is a great way for second hand clothing shops to expand their merchandise and bring in new customers.


When dealing with older clothing stay aware of the possibility of bug infestation. Make sure you carefully check and clean all clothing before putting it for sale.

Things You'll Need

  • Clothing stock
  • Cleaning equipment
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About the Author

Laura Petrolino has been writing professionally for over 12 years. She owns and operates her own public relations and communications firm and specializes in government relations, development, communications and public affairs.