How to Start an Antique Shop

Antique shops are responsible for over $4 billion in business annually in the United States. Selling old items isn’t a new thing, but many are fascinated with the products and devices of the past. Are you interested in learning how to start a vintage store? Keep reading to learn the necessary steps, like hiring employees, learning the business, and purchasing antique shop insurance.

How to Start an Antique Shop

When researching how to start an antique shop, you must learn the steps to launch a successful business. You must know your antique shop’s business costs and everything you must undertake to make your idea a reality.


Calculate Costs

The first step in learning how to start an antique store is figuring out your expenses. Starting an antique store could range from a few thousand dollars to $30,000 or more. Below are some spending estimates for common business expenses for an antique shop.

Business Expense Estimated Cost of Expense
Retail space rent $1,000-$3,000 monthly
Market research $200-$3,000
Employee wages $39,000-$48000 per employee per year
Operational costs $300,$1,000 monthly
Insurance coverage $300-$3,000 annually
Retail signage, shelving, lighting, and other interior decoration $1,000-$5,000
Starting inventory $5,000
Business registration costs $40-$1,000


Identify your Customer Base

Before opening your antique shop, research your customers’ needs. Each customer attracted to antique shops will desire different products and have different motivations.

  • Nostalgia seekers: These customers seek products they remember as kids but are no longer popular. They often look for vintage toys, old war gear, and advertising posters.

  • Customers who crave novelty: Some customers just want something different. They go out of their way to stand out by finding products that oppose modernity and corporatism. Your shop should have hand-crafted or custom pieces to cater to these customers.

  • People concerned with quality: These customers feel that things aren’t “made the way they used to be” They will look for old parts and instruments that stand the test of time.

  • Collectors: Many types of collectors go to antique stores to look for rare items. They want to fill their collections with specific items like cards, stamps, and coins. Some collectors enter the hobby to speculate, hoping to gather a collection they can sell for lots of money.

  • Businesses that like an older aesthetic: Some types of businesses, like diners and bed and breakfasts, want a homier or retro look for their store. These businesses will shop in antique stores to find memorabilia to hang on their walls and give customers access to the past.

Learn the Antique Business

To get the right foot forward in business, you must understand the market you are entering. Below are a few tips to help you get antique business experience.

  • Attend trade shows: Many antique enthusiasts will host large trade shows open to the public. Here you can network with other professionals and learn what people like.

  • Talk to antique appraisal experts: Antique experts know the ins and outs of the antique trade and the value of items. Lean on their expertise when starting so you can make smart business decisions.

  • Take history classes: Many types of antiques are valuable because of their historical significance. Take a war history class or an art history class. You can learn the value and importance of related memorabilia. This will help you come across as confident when interacting with your clients.

  • Learn a trade: Many antique dealers get into the trade because of their craft skills. A sewing, jewelry, or woodcraft background will translate well into evaluating antique items.

  • Find suppliers: Antiques aren’t made in a modern factory. They are often handcrafted and old items that are limited. You must network with other antique professionals and hunt through local garage sales to find a steady supply of antique items. Sometimes you can find someone selling valuable antiques online.

Decide Your Business Structure

Registering your business with the state you are operating in is wise to gain access to benefits. It often costs a fee but allows you to hire full-time employees, open business accounts, and protect your personal assets.

Business Structure Notable Characteristics
Sole proprietorship You are the sole owner and are personally responsible for business debts
Limited liability company (LLC) Protects your personal assets from potential lawsuits and debts. Need a registered agent to receive legal and tax documents.
Corporation Owned by shareholders who receive liability protection from business debts. Can raise capital by inviting shareholders and issuing stocks. Double taxation on income.



Hire Employees

Now that you know your customers and business structure, you need employees to staff your store and help your business grow.

  • Bookkeepers: A bookkeeper handles business payments and generates financial reports for you. They create invoices, balance your finances, and handle the payroll of your other employees.

  • Antique experts: You will use experts to help with valuations when an item comes in that falls outside your knowledge. Antique appraisers help you figure out the ownership history and can help you predict if the value of an antique will go up or down in the future.

  • Sales associates: Sales associates should be knowledgeable about your antique products. They provide critical customer service and guide customers through a pleasant shopping experience.

  • Cashiers: A cashier runs the cash register and handles returns. They are the final point of sale for customers. This makes them the last chance for you to convert a shopper into a regular consumer before they leave.

  • Inventory associates: Antiques can be heavy and fragile. You will need expert inventory associates to handle and display your delicate products.

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How to Start an Online Antique Store

It is hard to escape the benefits of the internet in today’s age, even for an antique store. It will be valuable for you to learn how to start an online antique store that brings vintage products to customers with modern convenience.


Create a Website

The first step to starting an online store is creating a website. It serves multiple functions. It gets your name out there to a wider audience. A website also serves as a point of sale for your inventory items. It can boost the legitimacy of your business and facilitate direct customer interactions.

  1. Register a domain name: You must find a unique domain name for customers to find your website. Make it easy to spell and reflect your brand. First, contact a domain name registrar and search through the names. After you find a valid name, you can purchase it, and it becomes yours.

  2. Choose your web hosting service: Next, you must find a web host to protect your data and manage your website traffic. Without a web host, your webpage won’t be viewable to your customers.

  3. Design the site: You can hire a web designer, use a web template service, or learn web design. A web designer is a more expensive option, usually costing thousands of dollars. You must create pages for your customers to browse to facilitate purchases and learn about your antique shop.

  4. Add content:  Finally, you must figure out what content to upload. You should post images of your store and products. A blog is a good idea to keep customers up-to-date on the happenings of your store. Many customers visit a company’s webpage to get answers, so consider putting an FAQ. Ensure your website has a functional storefront so customers can purchase your products.

Decide What E-commerce Services to Use

While you should focus on building your website, you will also want to research other e-commerce platforms. These platforms have a built-in audience that can help your products get noticed.

  • Amazon: An Amazon storefront is excellent because it has one of the largest built-in customer bases. It also gets products to customers quickly. One downside of Amazon is that it gives you less control over your storefront and has fewer customer data available.

  • Etsy: If you use Etsy, you enjoy the benefits of lower listing fees, meaning you keep more of the profits. Esty also has a built-in audience that is receptive to antique shops. It is popular for niche products and handicrafts. It has over 92 million active buyers

  • eBay: eBay offers excellent tools to keep track of profitability and has a wide range of products available. eBay also allows you to post a certain amount of free listings. It gives you greater freedom than Amazon in customizing your storefront.

  • Shopify: Shopify is easy to use and set up. It does have a monthly subscription you need to manage, and add-ons will cost you extra money.

Look at Competitor Reviews

Competitor customer reviews are a valuable resource to give you insight into areas you can attack. Just reviews for other shops on places like Amazon or your competitor’s website. By utilizing your opponent’s customer reviews, you can help carve out a niche even if you are competing in the same space. For example, if your competitor’s reviews complain about shipping fees, you can adjust your own to compete.


Use Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is necessary to get your business noticed digitally. SEO aims to get your website to rank on the front page of popular search engines like Google or Bing. Search Engine Journal says over 25% of people click their first Google search result. Surveys have found that a small percentage of people even pass the first page of a search result.

Creating content around keywords your target audience is searching for will make you more likely to be found on search engines. You want to create content on your site that matches the search’s intent. For example, if someone is searching for jewelry antiques, you should put an article on your site about how to spot fake ones. The great thing about SEO is that it boosts organic traffic. Organic traffic is better than ad-click traffic or otter sources because it has a higher chance of converting your customer.


Choose a Shipping Method

Now that your online business is set up, you need a way to ship your products to customers. Below are the advantages of using a few different services.

Service Advantages Disadvantages
USPS Delivers down to the last mile, making it ideal for shipping to rural customers. Most affordable Size restrictions can be limiting, slower delivery
FedEx Real-time tracking, quick delivery, better for international shipping Higher shipping rates, pick-up fees
UPS Is cheaper than FedEx, great for domestic shipping, and has a shorter delivery time Costs extra for rural or remote locations

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Insurance Requirements for Boosting Income

Without adequate insurance protection, your antique shop will not survive an unexpected event of financial loss. Insurance boosts your take-home income because you don’t have to spend it defending your business from a ruinous lawsuit or expensive property damage.


Business Owner’s Policy for Antique Shops

A business owner’s policy is one of the more comprehensive options. It allows you to combine the coverage of multiple policies like general liability and commercial property. Because a business owner’s policy combines several other policies, it can save you money. NEXT is our recommended pick for a business owner’s policy. Their business owner’s policies are tailored for small businesses. With NEXT, you can easily change your coverage and access insurance certificates online whenever needed.

General Liability Insurance for Antique Shops

A general liability insurance policy defends your business from third-party claims. It typically protects against bodily injury, property, damage, and personal injury claims. For a general liability policy, we recommend Thimble. Thimble has a simplified buying process and can quickly get your policy running. They offer short-term general liability insurance allowing you to choose its duration down to the hour. Thimble has an A+ from the Better Business Bureau.


Professional Liability Insurance for Antique Shops

Your professional liability insurance protects you from business mistake lawsuits and costs. This policy kicks in if you fail to fulfill a contract with a customer or cause financial loss due to negligence. Hiscox is our pick for professional liability insurance. They offer specialty insurance that has a 14-day refund policy. You get discounts with Hiscox when bundling multiple policies, and they have a trusted service award from Feefo.


Commercial Property Insurance for Antique Shops

Commercial property insurance protects your business assets from fire, theft, vandalism, wind, explosions, burst pipes, and more. The policy covers your commercial building and property on the premises. CoverWallet offers an excellent selection of partners to pick your commercial property policy. At CoverWallet, you can select from over ten top carriers like Hiscox, Travelers, Markel, and Progressive. The Better Business Bureau gave Hiscox an A+ rating.


Commercial Auto Insurance for Antique Shops

Commercial auto insurance protects your vehicles used for business purposes. This policy covers accidents your vehicles get into and the damage they sustain. You use this policy for vehicles to transport antiques, meet with clients, or pick up office supplies. For commercial auto insurance, we recommend Tivly. Tivly offers a fantastic digital platform with over 200 insurance partners. You get matched with the right policy and insurance provider that fits your antique shop’s needs.


Workers’ Compensation  Insurance for Antique Shops

Workers’ compensation insurance pays injured and ill employees for medical costs and lost income. Most states require that you purchase this policy when you reach a certain number of employees. This protection must be in place from the first day of an employee’s work, or you will be subject to penalties like fines and business closure. The Hartford is an insurance provider with over 200 years of experience. They service over one million small business customers and have a 4.8 rating in their customer reviews. The Hartford has an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau.

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