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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Tips for successful antique selling

Network with other antique sellers 

It’s important to communicate with other people in the industry. As said before you can never stop learning. You can also trade inventory which may not sell well in one geographic area but is in great demand in another area. In addition, other people in the trade can serve you well. “I have one very good supplier who have had for 20 years,” says Nilson.

Pricing goods

When it comes to pricing you have to consider numerous factors: the economic climate, the location, the object’s condition and its scarcity. The first tip is not to rely solely on price guide books on the market. Most price guides are, at best, a starting point and often based on anecdotal evidence. Guides don’t distinguish between the going price in one city or another, or between country and city markets. Books are also unable to accurately judge your object’s condition. To price properly takes experience and knowledge – hence the importance of networking with other dealers.

An antique seller’s workload

As with all business the workload is what you want it to be. However, dealing in antiques can be a seven day a week business. For Nilson a typical week when she’s not exhibiting at a show includes buying, dealing with paperwork and bookkeeping. “Finding stock is the biggest workload, for big fairs like the one in June I’m starting to collect now (Jan). I’m also following up on the wish lists of clients. There are always lots of balls in the air.”

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Customer satisfaction

If you want to reassure your customers of your authenticity then you could join one of the many associations like BADA and LAPADA. Both organisations are there to guarantee that the customer gets what they think they’re buying. If someone buys an antique from anyone in the BADA and feels the article is not ‘as invoiced’ then the association provides a free arbitration service, with an independent panel of experts.

In addition BADA also lobbies the government on its members’ behalf and gives you access to some of the more prestigious antique shows like the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair and the association’s own BADA fair. LAPADA offers a similar service and both have a code of practice you must follow and a set of criteria you must pass before you can join.

However it’s best to avoid disputes completely and to do this it’s important to be unambiguous from the outset. Ford recommends that you put on the invoice the date of the object and how much restoration has been completed on it.