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.
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.
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.
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.