So You Want To Start A Vintage Business?

Quite a few years ago now I started my own business selling vintage clothes. It was one of those ideas that you suddenly get and have to act on straight away. Within a day of having the idea I was signing up for an online shop and running around charity shops looking for vintage bargains. It all seemed so straight forward and easy, little did I know what hard work it would actually turn out to be.

I don’t sell vintage clothing so much now. Mainly because I have two children now and less time. Also because I was sick of storing hundreds of vintage clothes in the house. When I started buying vintage it was far cheaper and easier to get your hands on. With the massive rise in vintage’s popularity in recent years the prices on sites like Ebay have trebled. With Etsy becoming more and more popular in the UK it is easier for more people to sell vintage as well.

I know a lot of people start vintage businesses and give up very quickly. There are loads of reasons for this, but here are my top tips for starting a vintage business…

1. Don’t do it unless you really are passionate and knowledgeable about vintage. You need to know exactly what to look out for when buying and you need to accurately date and describe everything.

Vintage

2. Make a large investment. Although the temptation to start out with cheaper newer pieces is there, I wouldn’t recommend it. There are thousands of sites selling 80s and 90s ‘vintage’. Why not take your time and save a little. Buy a few incredible pieces at auction that will make your business stand out a mile. It’s better to have 10 amazing pieces on your site than 50 mediocre ones.

3. Invest in a beautiful logo. The first thing anyone will see when viewing your brand for the first time is your logo. It’s worth getting a professional to help you out here. Once you have your logo use it on EVERYTHING.




4. Build a strong brand. Make your company stand out by creating a brand. Your logo will help with this. This is another place to spend money. Your name should be on everything – flyers, tags, bags, packaging, business cards, hangers – anywhere where people will see your products it is essential that they come away with a sense of your brand and hopefully your web address. If you are at a vintage event there could be 100 stalls selling vintage, you want yours to be the name they remember.

5. Use PR. The best way to get yourself noticed is to get as much press as possible. I was so lucky when I started my business that I had a friend who knew how to write amazing press releases. I spent hours and hours sending them out to magazines, websites and bloggers and got some amazing coverage.

6. Advertise. Advertising can be very expensive, but it’s well worth every penny. Choose to advertise on and offline in places where they are likely to be spotted by your target customer.

7. Use social media and newsletters – have a newsletter sign up on your site as well as details of all your social media. Let your customers and fans know when you have new stock.

8. Take amazing photos. Another place to spend the money is on having amazing photos of your stock. I’d recommend taking your product photos on a tailors dummy with a plain background. Keep it simple and let the clothes speak for themselves. For your homepage and social media have a professional photo shoot done, with a professional photographer, make up artist and hairstylist working with professional models. Again this is a chance for your brand to stand out, and it’s great to have a stock of images to use on promotional materials. Adored 1 Adored 2

An example of beautiful simple photos on the Adored Vintage website which show of the product perfectly.

9. Don’t just sell online. There are so many sites out there that the best way to make money selling vintage is offline. Be prepared to give up your weekend and sign up for every vintage fair, market and vintage event in your area. Stalls can be a little pricey. When I sold at vintage fairs I teamed up with a friend who sold vintage jewellery and we shared a stall. It’s also worth looking into local pop-up shops.

Vintage Fair

10. Don’t expect overnight success, it takes a while to get your name out there. You can build hype for your launch by sending out press releases, working hard to build a social media following and even holding a launch party. Be prepared to put many hours into promoting your new business.

11. Start small. If you’re not ready to launch a full site and everything that goes with it, why not start by selling on Ebay, Etsy or Asos Marketplace. It’s a lot less complicated and it’s a great way of getting experience of what sells and for how much.

12. Keep records. Be organised and carefully catalogue every penny that goes in and out of your business, it makes filing tax returns so much easier. If you feel daunted it might be worth seeking help from an accountant.



13. Don’t buy every piece of vintage you see. It can be very easy to buy every vintage bargain you see, however remember to be selective and only invest in the right pieces.

14. Have somewhere to keep your stock. Vintage clothes need to be stored properly, so make sure you actually have room to store it all. The last thing you need is your business taking over your house.

I have to say I loved selling vintage for a living. You’ll never get rich selling vintage but it’s wonderful doing a job you enjoy and selling something your enthusiastic about. I hope my tips are helpful and if you have any questions or tips of your own please add them in the comments section below.

74 Comments

    • vintagefrills July 12, 2013 / 2:47 pm

      Thank you honey, I’m glad you liked it xxx

    • Paul July 9, 2016 / 1:45 pm

      Hi,
      We have been vintage sellers for over 10 years, having sold through our own web page as well as Ebay, etsy and ASOS Marketplace. We have found it increasing hard to get the visibility within these site so get our items seen. Ebay especially seem to constantly manipulate the best match so sales patterns are really erratic.
      As we couldn’t find a dedicated Vintage marketplace dedicated to the UK market we decided to create one ourselves. It is very early days but so far the response has been fantastic. We have some fabulous vintage sellers already signed up and it is growing here fast.
      There is no listing fee and we also provide a full product import service so can get all your products imported from other marketplaces very quickly for you.
      The UK needs a great alternative to the corporate giants, managed by staff with a passion for vintage. We are putting in a huge amount of effort and investing a lot of money to ensure that our sellers get the exposure their products deserve.
      Please help us to spread the word.
      http://Www.retruly.com

  1. vintagefrenchchic July 10, 2013 / 11:53 am

    Great post!.. I don’t think I have the energy or dedication to be a full-fledged vintage proprietor. I have an Etsy store but I don’t get involved with clothing too much because of storage and “presentation” issues. Even with the items I do have for sale, it is hard to find storage space for everything….and I hate clutter. : )

    • vintagefrills July 12, 2013 / 2:46 pm

      Yes, I’m the same I don’t like clutter so storage is a big thing to think about. I must check out your Etsy shop. Will have a look now xxx

  2. booketta July 10, 2013 / 5:45 pm

    Thank you for such an informative post. Useful for many small businesses on and offline.

  3. Jessica Cangiano July 12, 2013 / 1:03 pm

    This is such a thoroughly terrific post, dear Catherine. I’ve thought often myself of becoming a vintage seller (online), too, however the scarcity of vintage items where I love has thus far not even made doing so seem even slightly feasible or like a wise idea. If I found myself living in a big city with more available vintage again though, I honestly think I would (health permitting) become a vintage seller though – keeping all of your wise points firmly in mind if I did.

    ♥ Jessica

    • vintagefrills July 12, 2013 / 2:41 pm

      Thank you! Selling vintage is so much hard work, but also a very good excuse for constant vintage shopping! If you ever did sell vintage I’m sure I would want to buy everything you have a wonderful eye for choosing beautiful things! xxx

  4. mrsfoxfinery August 8, 2013 / 8:24 am

    Just come across your site and so pleased to have found this post. I am a new be to blogging and selling vintage, finding the whole social media side a mind field! I’m old school so like meeting people. Your post has given me some great ideas. Thanks and loving the site. x

    • vintagefrills August 8, 2013 / 9:33 am

      Thank you so much. I’m glad the post was useful to you. Please feel free to email me if you need any help or advise in the future.
      I love social media but nothing beats meeting people in real life and word of mouth.
      Good luck with blogging and selling vintage, there’s a wonderful vintage community online and we’re all here to help each other. xxx

      • mrsfoxfinery August 8, 2013 / 10:35 am

        Thanks Catherine for the email and your right I find people who like Vintage are so nice!

  5. Heather Silguero September 21, 2013 / 3:17 pm

    Great info!

  6. Tiwi November 6, 2013 / 11:36 am

    thank you for this post. I’m looking to start my own brand and it’s really scary when you don’t know anything.

  7. J hop November 7, 2013 / 1:45 am

    I want to downsize and start a business from my home…wthout stress…lots of new and vintage clothing and antiques..wher do i begin?…Only want to hav items viewed on weeknds because i hav a day job

  8. elkee November 25, 2013 / 5:03 pm

    Great tips especially when it comes to branding. How else are you supposed to stand out amongst a never ending sea of vintage sellers?

  9. Chloe November 25, 2013 / 7:44 pm

    Hello, I love your site! I would really like to set up my own Vintage business and run it alongside my A Levels. What is the best way to create a website?
    Thanks 🙂

  10. Ursula November 28, 2013 / 12:17 am

    Hello,

    I just started my Vintage Fashion small business…So time consuming, but I am loving it so far!

    I just launched my new website if anyone cares to comment?

    http://www.wandascloset.com.au

    Thanks for your tips,

    Wanda’s Closet

  11. Latoya December 30, 2013 / 10:33 pm

    Great information!!

  12. Ariana March 4, 2014 / 9:38 pm

    Hi Catherine, I was just digging in your archives and found this great post! Thank you for your insight! I was wondering if you would share one of your fantastic Press Releases that I could use as a guide. I’ve been selling vintage for years, but have never quite cracked the press nut. I’d love your advice on writing a great press release! Thanks
    ariana@modemarteau.com
    http://www.modemarteau.com

    • vintagefrills March 5, 2014 / 8:42 pm

      I’ll see what I can do. Xxx

  13. Mandy March 8, 2014 / 6:35 pm

    What’s a good website to look up info on a brand

  14. Penny March 13, 2014 / 2:41 am

    Thank you for sharing, such a informative post. I’m starting to sell vintage clothing on my Etsy store, but still have a lot to learn.

  15. Luna's Vintage March 14, 2014 / 12:48 am

    Thank you for the helpful information..

    Luna’s Vintage

  16. fireflyvintage July 10, 2014 / 9:27 am

    We read all the 14 points. Hope all should follow the points.

  17. fireflyvintage July 11, 2014 / 11:35 am

    If you want to start a business, you have to follow some strategies.

  18. Nancy M January 22, 2015 / 5:19 pm

    Just come across your site and so pleased to have found this post. I am a new be to blogging and selling vintage, finding the whole social media side a mind field! I’m old school so like meeting people. Your post has given me some great ideas. Thanks and loving the site. x
    ———————
    Nancy M. | Blogger at St.George Bank

    • vintagefrills January 22, 2015 / 6:02 pm

      Glad you like it! Xxx

  19. Juli February 21, 2015 / 5:42 pm

    I love your advice and thank you for that.

  20. Thomas donoghue March 2, 2015 / 10:46 pm

    Very useful information I love vintage clothing but I’m still learning I recently created creased at https://misfurd2015.wordpress.com it is very amature to say the least and not very organised but stepping stones is how we learn and your post has realy opened my eyes thank you

  21. Donna April 21, 2015 / 7:07 am

    I’m just starting up my own vintage business, we’ve just bought a shop

  22. Kris Grey June 25, 2015 / 1:01 pm

    What a great article – I have just set up an on-line vintage shop after many (too many to mention!) years collecting vintage. It is really interesting to read the advice about promotion (I have worked in PR and comms previously but still good to see it in black and white!) and still finding out new things. Anyway why not pop onto my site and see if there is anything you like in one of our rooms – http://www.vintageroombyroom.co.uk Cheers!

  23. Fien van den Acker October 7, 2016 / 9:53 am

    Love your article. Just stumbling into it in the hope to find more information about how to start a vintage business online. Thank you for sharing 🙂 My interest lies with the fifties and I started to blog about this era just this week(it’s in Dutch, sorry).

  24. mia November 5, 2016 / 10:15 pm

    I live in Denmark and really want to start a vintage shop. Maybe you can help me find a place were I can bye a big amound of clothes to start out with?
    I have heard it is possibel to bye a mix of known brands and not so known?
    Kind regards Mia

  25. Elle Tevel Steinbach February 6, 2017 / 12:50 pm

    Hello!
    I found your post really helpful. I’m very passionate about vintage for many years, and thought about opening on and offline vintage store. My biggest wonder is where do I get the pieces from? I need a suppliers from several countries and have no Idea how to get them.
    Do you have any Idea for me?
    thanks alot, Elle.

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  30. iwanttobeinterestingZen July 14, 2017 / 12:42 pm

    This is super helpful, thanks 🙂 I’m about to start a vintage store online- gulp!!!!!!!

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