How to Start an Antique Store

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Quick Reference

Are you a collector of antiques? If you love going on the hunt for antique treasures and have some knowledge of the values and history, you may have dreamed of opening your own antique store. You can enjoy the wonderful pieces of history that you love while earning money and being your own boss at the same time.

Business Overview

Antique dealers purchase antiques primarily from estate sales and auctions and then sell them at a higher price in their store, or at a booth in an antique mall, flea markets, or online. Many antique dealers specialize in certain types of antiques such as furniture, advertising, or household items. Many antique dealers sell through multiple channels. For example, some might have a booth at an antique mall but also sell online through their own website, an auction site, or a retail site like Amazon.

Industry Summary

According to the United States Census Bureau, the resale market in the United States was estimated to be $17.5 billion in 2020, 13% of which was antique stores, meaning that the antique store market size in 2020 was over $2.25 billion. According to Statista, online sales of antiques boomed in 2020, reaching $12.4 billion globally. Antique stores are vulnerable to the ups and downs in the overall economy because antiques are a luxury purchase, so sales go down when consumers have less disposable income.

Industry Trends

The antique industry is expected to grow, particularly online sales. If you open an antique store, having an online sales channel is critical to business success. Current trends in the types of items consumers are buying include mid-century modern, modular 70s pieces, art deco, and small items. However, trends in buying habits are very dynamic, so it is important to keep up with what is popular in any given time period.

Target Market

Your target market will be consumers who collect antiques and appreciate quality. Often they own older homes and want items that fit the time period of the architecture.

Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running an Antique Store

There are several specific skills that will be valuable to you while running an antique shop.

  • Knowledge of prices and trends. When you go to sales and auctions, knowing what to look for and what to pay in order to make a good profit is critical.
  • Business knowledge and experience. You will need to have some basic knowledge of marketing, finance/accounting, and human resources. Developing expertise in specific types of antiques and collectibles is valuable as well.
  • Sales. You have to be able to market and sell your items both in-person and online. This would involve knowing how to present your items to highlight their best features.
  • Customer service. You’ll need to be able to build rapport with your customers so that you retain them as customers and gain repeat business and referrals.

Costs to Start an Antique Store

Most of the costs to start an antique store are the space and your beginning inventory.

  • Setting up a business name and corporation costs approximately $200.
  • Business cards, brochures, postcards for marketing $200 – $300
  • A website to create an online store – $100 – $200 for a basic, do it yourself website, $1,000 – $2,000 for a professional site
  • Leasing space for your store $2,000 +/ month, while buying a building will run much higher. To lower your initial investment, you could rend a space in an antique mall for $150+ to get started
  • Display cases, other store set up $10,000+
  • Initial inventory $10,000+
  • Liability insurance, worker’s comp, property-casualty insurance $600 – $1,000 / year
  • Initial marketing such as Facebook ads or search engine optimization for your website, $500 – $1,000

Steps to Starting an Antique Store

​Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your antique should be to write a business plan. The business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of the business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, your value proposition to use for marketing, and more. You’ll also need to do some research to calculate exactly what your startup expenses will be.

Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan if you need financing, but multiple studies have shown that having a good business plan increases the odds of starting a successful business. Writing the plan helps you think through all the aspects of the business and then serves as a guide as you begin.

How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

​Step 2: Name the Business

Finding the perfect antique store name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name. Your name should make you stand out, reflect your brand, and tell potential customers exactly what you do.

Related: Tips and ideas for naming an antique store

Step 3: Form a Business Structure

A business structure refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

Related: Comparison of business entities

​Step 4: Select your Location

Your store, ideally, should be located in a historic area with a lot of foot traffic. While it seems that you don’t want to have competition, it’s actually a good thing to be among other antique stores. People like to browse multiple stores, but you need to make yours stand out with good signage and window displays, as well as unique merchandise.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

You may need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. Some common local, state, and federal registrations an antique store may need include a sales tax permit and an Employer Identification Number if you plan to hire employees.

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

Step 6: Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start an antique store is another. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs. Some entrepreneurs use their own funds, a home equity loan, or credit cards, but you are putting your funds at risk and will have payments that may or may not be more than those of a business loan.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the business.

Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

An antique store will need to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs on a continuous basis. Common marketing techniques for an antique store include social media marketing using Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and online advertising. Developing a website can be a significant expense, but it can also give your antique store greater visibility online. Your main source of business, however, will be foot traffic when located in the right area.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 9: Get Insurance

An antique business needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.

Professional liability insurance protects you from claims of professional errors or negligence that result in a financial loss.

Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.

Property and casualty insurance protects you if your merchandise is damaged.

Insurance policies will vary. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.

Related: What insurance does an antique store need?

Step 10: Hiring Employees

You will need employees to help you run your antique store. You cannot always be there because you will have to go to auctions and sales to get new merchandise.

In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff.

RelatedHiring your first employee

Step 11: Set up an Accounting System

Setting up an accounting system for your antique store is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.

Related: Setting up accounting for your business

How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning an Antique Store?

Your prices will vary depending on the item, and you should aim for at least a 30% profit margin on each item. You may be able to make $40,000 – 60,000 annually, but your revenue will be dependent on your location, how large your space is, and how much inventory you plan to have.

Things to Consider Before Starting an Antique Store

Running an antique store or any business will have its challenges. You need to be prepared and make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

The biggest challenge in running a vintage store is knowing your merchandise, how much to purchase it for, and what it’s really worth. You need to have extensive knowledge of various items so that you can spot what is authentic and what is a reproduction.

The other challenge is that an antique store is vulnerable to changes in the overall market. You will need to be able to weather the storms of economic downturns.

If you are going to operate as an antique mall with booth spaces for local vendors, be sure to create a vendor agreement. A vendor agreement should include the amount of rent, commission amount, and the length of the agreement, which is usually 6 to 12 months. Another important consideration is what items are allowed in your store as you don’t want sellers using your space simply for storage or letting them display junk.

Running an antique store is very time-consuming. You’ll be spending a lot of time buying items, as well as running the business. You will need employees that you can trust to run the store and negotiate prices with customers.

Talk to other business owners for tips on starting a business and do your homework to determine costs. Visit other antique stores to get ideas about what they are selling, how they display items, and their prices.


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