How to start an antiques business

Could an antiques shop be your dream business? We look at what it takes to become a successful antiques seller...

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Setting up an antiques shop or business

Traditionally antiques shops tend to cluster together. Bath and its close neighbour Bradford-on-Avon seem to be the focal points for the South West. Portabello Road, Kensington Church Street and upmarket Mayfair are focal points for London, while Stockport Road in Manchester is a focal point for that region.

If you want a guaranteed passing trade and customers with antiques on their mind, then these hotspots are the places to look out for when it comes to leasing premises. Both Ford and Nilson recommend starting off from home at first and building up a clientele rather heading straight for a shop. Once you have an established clientele that you’ve built up from home you can set up pretty much anywhere.

If you do opt for a shop then Nilson offers this tip: “Don’t let the stock stand still, rearrange the goods in the shop as often as possible, particularly the shop window to make it look fresh and new.”

It’s also a good idea to set up a website accompanying any shop or catalogues you sell from. Just because you have goods on display at your premises it doesn’t mean potential customers won’t want to browse online first. If they see something they like online, it may be enough to get them down to the shop for a closer inspection. There are no special licences required to trade as an antiques dealer. However, some local authorities have legislation that requires antique shops to register with them before setting up, so make sure to do your homework.

You’ll also need to think about insurance. It’s vital you protect your goods against fire, theft or any other kind of damage. Unfortunately, as there’s no RRP or dealer prices set down when it comes to valuing your contents things may get complicated, so it’s best to go with a specialist insurance company that knows the business.

Getting your merchandise around

When it comes to hunting down your stock, make sure you have a solid large reliable car – one that doesn’t mind a bit of cross country travelling. A Volvo estate used to be the vehicle of choice for most antique shop owners in the 80s and 90s. Also be prepared to travel as moving around the country gives you access to economies of distance. What sells for £15 in Blackpool, may fetch £50 in London.

Many beginners may not be aware that regular auctions are held two to three times a week in most cities and even smaller communities may have weekly antique auctions. For antique dealers everywhere, the auction has been a major source of supply. But be cautious when purchasing, there are thousands of antiques that have no monetary value.

Have a business plan

An antique shop shares the same basic principles as any other business and hence it needs a business plan. As competition is considerable, topics that should be addressed include: whether or not the area can support the proposed venture; the existence of an unidentified market niche that may be exploited; the level of competition in the area; the current customer base, population, income, and growth trends; competitive pricing strategies; and a variety of other facets of the business that owners or managers need to know to develop a viable and profitable business.

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