How to open a secondhand store

Written by stacy calvert
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Second-hand stores appeal to many entrepreneurs because they are often labours of love. Many owners offer merchandise, such as vintage or gently used clothing, books or antiques, they love to buy or collect themselves. Well-stocked, clean second-hand stores tend to attract dedicated followers because of their distinctive products and great values. Initial investments in inventory may be lower than those required for new merchandise.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Inventory
  • Storefront or online account/website

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    Setting Up Shop

  1. 1

    Set up an online storefront or auction account(s) if you want to become a virtual second-hand seller. Open an eBay or similar auction account, and describe your items honestly and accurately in order to establish positive feedback. Respond quickly to item inquiries and buyer e-mails, and you will soon gain a good reputation. Online storefronts also are available from eBay.

  2. 2

    Create a website, either in lieu of or in addition to an online auction account. Sign up with a company that offers reasonably priced templates and a credit-card payment system. Search "payment processing" to find a separate company for accepting credit-card payments if your site is not set up to do so.

  3. 3

    Scout out store locations if you want a physical storefront. Look for sites with high visibility and ample parking and foot traffic, if possible. Choose a spot with at least 1,200 square feet or larger if you plan on selling large items like furniture. Consider moving in near other second-hand stores, since many people like to shop multiple stores in one trip.

  4. 4

    Obtain any necessary permits from city hall. Choose a name and get estimates from local signage companies. Meet with landlords to look at your top storefront options and find out if rents are within your budget.

  5. 5

    Buy used inventory in bulk from local or online wholesalers. Verify first that you can return any merchandise not meeting your quality standards. Even if you choose to sell on consignment, you will need to have adequate stock for opening day. You will need to provide a federal tax ID number, which you can obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, and a sales and use tax number. A tax ID number is also required by the IRS when hiring employees.

  6. 6

    Establish an account for each customer who sells items on consignment at your shop. Use an old-fashioned ledger or a spreadsheet if you prefer. Log vital information about each item he or she brings in, and be able to access it quickly for customer updates.

  7. 7

    Choose your methods of tracking inventory and sales. Shop around online, and browse local office stores for software. Find shelving, lighting and other equipment for your store. Read local ads for deals on these items from businesses that are closing. Distribute flyers, e-mails and mailers to announce your store's opening. Arrange inventory in a visually appealing way and ask friends and family for their honest opinions and assistance. You are ready for opening day.

Tips and warnings

  • Rent space at a flea market to size up the competition, and see what people are buying.

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