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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How much does it cost to set up an antiques business?

Typical running costs for an antique dealer will be rental, be it shop or stall, antique fairs stand costs, insurance, car upkeep costs, petrol costs, plus phone and mailing costs. Stands at antique fairs can vary considerably  depending on venue type, for instance table top church hall type fairs will cost less than a bigger county type fair, where as the big national events like Grosvenor House can cost tens of thousands.

Promoting your antiques business 

For most antique dealers advertising is a hit and miss affair.  “You can get a picture in something like Country Life and get nothing or you get a phone call from America,” says Nilson. Most costs are on regular mailings to the established clientele and sending out free tickets to fairs and shows you’re exhibiting at.

If you do want to advertise then auction catalogues, specialist magazines, websites and telephone directory yellow pages listings are some of the most effective places. But don’t expect miracles overnight. “It takes several years at sending out flyers and newsletters to build up a clientele even if they don’t buy something every year it’s still worth sending,” warns Nilson. Another good place to advertise your business in on social networks, especially image heavy sites like Instagram and Pinterest where you can post pictures of your merchandise and perhaps get some direct sales.

Also don’t forget to get the initial stock you almost always pay cash so you should expect an initial investment of £25,000-£35,000 to get started, which represents around 65% of your start up costs.

Additional investment factors to consider include:

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It may be worth considering seeing if you can get a Start Up Loan (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) to help you with financing, and mentoring to start this business idea.

You'll also need to think about registering your business, either as a sole trader or as a company - if a company, then Smarta Formations (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) are an organisation that can help you set up.

  • How will you need to operate the business until the break-even point is reached (which could be several years after you start)?
  • How much will be needed for wages, six months of working capital, unforeseen expenses, supplies and equipment inventory?
  • What types of insurance coverage are necessary and what will they cost?
  • How much will premises cost?

One way of getting the initial stock and reducing your start up costs is to resell other dealers stock on a commission basis. Talk to other dealers and offer to help them offload their difficult to sell items.