Starting a thrift store can be both fun and profitable. If one has a knack for asking others for things they do not want or no longer use and want to be of service to a community by making quality goods available, starting a thrift store may be the small business start-up.
The Specialty Shop or the Chic Vintage Business
A vintage boutique or haute couture specialty shop provides apparel, accessories, and gift items not easily found in other stores. Haute couture is a French term that means “high dressmaking” or “high sewing.” A chic boutique can offer haute couture items such as private label, tailor-made, and one-of-a-kind garments and accessories.
The charm of the vintage boutique is the quality service, exclusivity, and reasonable prices. It can be an opportunity for the patron to step into a bygone era, e.g., Victorian, 18th Century, or the 1920s and 1930s. Vintage boutique specialty items can include a wide assortment of goods such as cat eye-glasses, crinolines, flapper dresses, poodle skirts, western clothing, or vintage jeans. The business niche is limited only by the operators imagination and usually includes merchandise the owner has a personal interest and knowledge.
Business Planning for the Vintage Shop
An important aspect of the thrift or vintage store business plan is assess the market dynamics of the future business in order to develop a niche market. While a thrift store can generally cater to the needs and desires of women, men, and children, the vintage shop targets those who like to stand out from the crowd. This includes performers, celebrities, collectors, designers, and other clients with discriminating tastes.
Writing a good business plan is an ongoing process. Initial elements of the business plan at the start-up stage are selecting a name; listing the government business licensing agency in the county and state of operation; researching the consumer market and finding a location for the business; identifying start-up fixtures, supplies and inventories; and assessing the competition. The business plan should also provide a calculation of the anticipated start-up costs and potential sources of funding for the business.
Locate and lease a retail facility to operate the thrift shop and secure the fixtures, supplies and inventory. Location is a very important. Issues that will be addressed is assuring that the facility is zoned for clothing resale. Check local zoning codes to insure compliance with city regulations. The best locations for thrift shops are typically those with high foot and automobile traffic visibility.
Stocking the Thrift Shop
Start-up fixtures for a vintage shop will include a cash register, check-out counter, clothing racks, shelving, mannequins, hangers, bookshelves, bags, and a glass display counter for jewelry and other small items.
Obtain inventory by requesting donations from friends, family and neighbors. Clothing and accessories can also be obtained from yard sales, garage sales, second-hand shops, thrift stores, estate sales, antique shops. Remember that the better the selection of apparel and accessories the higher the asking price on goods.
A well designed lay-out and display is important to customer lifetime value. Establish a fashionable facility that includes a comfortable and classy dressing room where customers will feel comfortable trying on items. Administrative tasks for stocking the shop will include arranging and displaying inventory. It will also include cataloging, tracking and tagging merchandise.
Identifying Vintage Items
There is always the business risk that a new vintage shop owner will begin to acquire large quantities of items that have no real market value to the niche market. Below are some tips for identifying quality vintage items:
- Prior to the 1950s, most apparel was tailor-made.
- Side zippers in women dresses, skirts, and slacks are typically an indication of vintage.
- Size is often provided as hip, waist, and bust measurements.
- After the 1960s, fabric care instructional tags and plastic zippers appeared in apparel.
- Bone buttons, brass button, jet buttons, and pearl buttons are hot vintage indicators.