Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on March 19, 2023 Updated on February 14, 2024
$1,500 - $61,800
$100,000 - $500,000 p.a.
Time to build
$50,000 - $125,000 p.a.
The dusty, musty scent of an antiques shop often sparks feelings of nostalgia and the urge to meander around seeking treasures. If you’re an antique lover, you understand the passion people get around antiques. So, why not put that passion to work and open your own shop?
You could go brick-and-mortar or web-only, open an antique mall or rent out a flea market booth. Thanks to shows like Antiques Roadshow, antiques are booming, with online sales more than doubling since 2012 to reach nearly $3 billion, so there’s real money to be made.
But you’ll need more than your love of antiques to succeed. It’ll take hard work and real business savvy, and fortunately, this step-by-step guide has all the information you need to become a big time antiques entrepreneur.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
This article focuses on starting an online or physical antique store, but a third option is to open an antiques market or mall. That requires finding a large space for purchase or rent, dividing it into booths, and renting them to dealers. The mall takes a commission on each sale, so it can be quite lucrative.
Share your passion with fellow antique lovers
Good profit potential
Several business model options
Much time required to find items to stock the store
Average level of education – The average antique dealer has a bachelor’s degree.
Average age – The average antique dealer in the US is 42.5 years old.
How much does it cost to start an antique store?
Costs to start an antique store range from $1,500 for an online shop to $60,000 or more for a brick-and-mortar store. Having a physical store requires much more inventory, which is its main expense. A physical store also needs to be rented and outfitted.
You’ll need a handful of items to open your antiques shop, including:
Setting up a business name and corporation
$100 - $500
Business licenses and permits
$100 - $300
Initial Marketing Budget
$200 - $500
$1,000 - $50,000
Space rental and preparation
$0 - $10,000
$1,500 - $61,800
How much can you earn from an antique store business?
Prices vary widely, so earnings are difficult to predict. You should aim for a profit margin of about 50% if you have an online store, while a physical shop would likely have a margin closer to 25%. These calculations assume an average item price of $100.
In your first year or two, you could work from home and sell 1,000 online items in a year, bringing in $100,000 in revenue. This would mean $50,000 in profit, assuming that 50% margin.
As you gain traction, sales could climb to 5,000 items a year. At this stage, you might have a physical store and hire staff, reducing your margin to around 25%. With annual revenue of $500,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $125,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for an antique store. Your biggest challenges will be:
Funding the startup costs of a brick-and-mortar store
Finding affordable goods to purchase for resale
Competing with numerous online sellers
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting an antique store, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is crucial, as it can help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the business landscape
Analyze your competitors
Research antique stores in your area and online to examine their products, price points, and what sells best.
Make a list of antique stores in your area and online
Look at competitors’ goods, their features, pricing, and quality, and review their marketing strategies
Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Get an idea of what their customers like and dislike
Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
This should identify areas where you can improve your business and gain a competitive edge. It can also help you understand the market and make better business decisions.
Why? Identify an opportunity
You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing an antique store specializing in advertising pieces or vintage clothing.
You might consider targeting a niche market, such as collectibles. This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
Your product choices are up to you. You could specialize or just look for great finds. You’ll likely purchase most of your goods at garage and estate sales and thrift stores.
You could add another revenue stream by opening a little café in your shop, or a wine bar.
How much should you charge for antiques?
Prices for antiques vary greatly, from $5 for small items to up $10,000 or more for rare furniture or art. Base your prices on what you buy them for, plus a mark-up of 30% to 50%. Check antique price guides as well. You may be able to get more than you think.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Antiques have a fairly broad target market, as many millennials now view them as more sustainable. Unless you’re specializing in a certain item that will appeal to a specific group, you’ll likely want to target your potential customers on Instagram and Facebook. TikTok may also deliver results if more Gen Zers become interested in antiques.
Where? Choose an antique store location
In the early stages, you may want to run an online shop from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you may be ready to open a physical store. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices. Old homes that can be zoned commercial are often a good choice for antique stores.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
Central location accessible via public transport
Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm an Antique Store Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “antiques” or “antique shop”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Timeless Wonders Emporium” over “Heirloom Haven”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation.
Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. Therefore, carefully consider your choice before moving forward.
Step 4: Create an Antique Store Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: Summarize the antique store business plan, including its unique value proposition and market opportunity.
Business Overview: Provide an overview of your antique store, detailing its location, size, and the historical periods or styles of antiques you’ll specialize in.
Product and Services: List the types of antiques and related services you’ll offer, such as restoration or appraisal services.
Market Analysis: Analyze the antique market, considering factors like customer demographics, antique trends, and potential growth in the market.
Competitive Analysis: Identify competitors in the antique industry, emphasizing what sets your store apart, such as rare inventory or exceptional customer service.
Sales and Marketing: Describe your strategies for attracting customers to your antique store, including online marketing, antique fairs, and partnerships with other businesses.
Management Team: Introduce the team members responsible for running the antique store, highlighting their expertise in antiques or retail.
Operations Plan: Outline day-to-day operations, including inventory management, pricing strategies, store hours, and staffing.
Financial Plan: Present financial projections, including startup costs, expected revenue, expenses, and profitability for the antique store.
Appendix: Include any additional information, such as photographs of antique inventory, marketing materials, or lease agreements.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to antique stores.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your antique store will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding an antiques shop. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your antique store business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Softly, MicroBiz, or CashierLive, to manage your inventory, staff, purchases, and sales.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Create a website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace.
This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales.
Be sure to optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Now” or “Order”. This can sharply increase purchases.
Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:
Themed Events and Workshops: Host themed events or workshops related to antiques, offering insights into their history, restoration techniques, or even DIY projects, creating an engaging and educational experience for customers.
Collaborate with Local Influencers: Partner with local influencers or bloggers with an interest in vintage and antiques to create buzz and generate organic interest in your store through social media channels.
Storytelling Displays: Craft compelling narratives around your antique pieces by displaying them with detailed stories about their origins, previous owners, or historical significance, sparking curiosity and emotional connections.
Loyalty Programs and Discounts: Implement loyalty programs or discounts for repeat customers, encouraging them to return and build a connection with your store over time.
Strategic Partnerships with Complementary Businesses: Form partnerships with complementary businesses such as interior designers, vintage clothing stores, or local cafes, creating a symbiotic relationship that expands your customer reach.
Engage with Local Community Events: Participate in local community events, fairs, or markets to showcase select items, allowing potential customers to experience the charm of your antique pieces in person.
Visual Storytelling on Social Media: Leverage the power of visual storytelling on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, regularly sharing high-quality images of your unique antique finds along with interesting historical tidbits.
Themed Pop-up Shops: Organize themed pop-up shops in different locations or during specific seasons, introducing your antique collection to a diverse audience and generating excitement around your offerings.
Antique Appraisal Days: Host antique appraisal days where customers can bring in their items for evaluation by experts, creating a community-driven event while attracting potential sellers and buyers.
Curated Subscription Boxes: Introduce curated subscription boxes featuring a selection of small antique items delivered to customers’ doors, providing a taste of your store’s offerings and encouraging continued engagement.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your antiques meet their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your antique store business could be:
Quality antiques for your sustainable lifestyle
Antique collectibles not found anywhere else
Decorate your home in rich, traditional style
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running an antique store business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in antique stores for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in antiques. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for an antique store business include:
Store clerks – assist customers, make sales
Delivery drivers – deliver large furniture items
General manager – scheduling, accounting, inventory management
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run an Antique Store – Start Making Money!
Running an antiques shop can be a wonderful way to make a living – sharing your passion while providing your community with sustainable home décor. More and more people are getting the antique bug, so if you’re able to source quality goods you should do steady sales.
So pick your preferred business model, leverage the knowledge you’ve gained here and start putting together a great antiques show of your own!
Antique Store Business FAQs
Is an antique store profitable?
Antique stores can be very profitable, whether online or brick-and-mortar. Another option is to start an antique mall and rent antique booths to dealers.
What is the growth potential of an antique store?
Antiques are becoming more and more popular, so an antique store has the potential to grow. You could also sell online to bring in more revenue.
Can you start an antique store on the side?
It’s difficult to start an antique store on the side because of all the time you have to spend searching for items. You may, however, be able to have an online store as a side hustle.
How do antique stores get their products?
You can generally find many items at garage or estate sales. You also may be able to find items at thrift stores.
How to Start an Antique Store
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm an Antique Store Name
Create an Antique Store Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Antique Store Business Licenses and Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run an Antique Store - Start Making Money!
Antique Store Business FAQs
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