Before I get into how to make money selling antiques, perhaps I should answer the question, “Can you make money selling antiques?” The simple answer is yes, you can. But you have to run it like a business if you want to make money selling antiques.
Make Money Selling Antiques
Too many people get into the antique business because they collected antiques for years and now they want to start selling them. This is especially true for baby boomers who are wanting to start a business to supplement their income. But it is not as easy as it looks. We owned our own antique stores for over 25 years. We started as antique mall dealers with one booth. Then we expanded into other malls with more booths and finally opened our own store and refinishing shop. We had four antique stores over the years. We started in a very small space, then went to a larger space in a weekend market, and then went full time into the business. We had a 10,000 square foot warehouse store and refinishing shop where we imported our containers from England. This led to our taking people on buying trips to England. Finally we opened our dream store in an upscale part of Dallas. So I will share what we learned through these experiences, both the good and the bad.
The Best Place to Make Money Selling Antiques
You can ask several antique dealers this question and will get that many different answers. I have friends that would say the best way to make money selling antiques is doing antique shows. At one time this was pretty easy to do because of the number of good shows. Now there are fewer good shows and you will probably have to travel further. Others like being mall dealers and not having to worry about all of the problems of owning a store or a antique mall. There are still others that make money selling antiques by selling online.
But what I want to stress the most is you have to treat your antique business as a business and not a hobby, unless you don’t care whether it makes money or not. So there is not a one answer fits all solution. On the other hand, nearly anywhere it is possible to make money selling antiques in any of these ways.
I have written separate more detailed articles on selling antiques each of these ways. You can find them on this site Buying and Selling Antiques. But I will give some more general principles that should help anyone considering an antique business.
In my opinion the two most important factors that will determine whether you make money selling antiques, or don’t make money are overhead and cash flow. Most antique businesses simply don’t make as much money per square foot as many other retail stores. So whether you want to own an antique store, antique mall, or even have a booth or booths in an antique mall or even an antique show, the cost per square foot is VERY important. You know the old saying about location, and yes it is very important, but you can’t afford to overpay. I would also say that if at all possible, find a location with other antique stores close by. With antiques, the more stores for antique shoppers to shop, the better they like it. That is also the positive of a large antique mall, there are lots for shoppers to see. That even holds true online, find a large site that drives a lot of traffic to the site.
Today, I think many successful antique dealers combine tow or more of these ways to make money selling antiques. I strongly believe that every antique dealer needs to have an online presence. I know this may be scary for baby boomers who didn’t grow up with the internet. But I am one of them and I learned it the hard way. If you can’t do it, hire someone who can. There are many people like me who can help you. I think everyone now knows the importance of having a presence online. But so many small businesses still don’t have even a simple web site. Two of my friends in Dallas who have very nice stores still don’t have web sites, even though one of them has been in business for over eight years.
Beside being realistic with your overhead, you must have cash flow. If it means running a 50% off sale once or twice a year, do it. You have to have adequate cash flow to continue to buy new stock. Customers will stop shopping if they keep seeing the same merchandise. I learned this lesson too late at my last store. We started using all of the money from sales to pay the bills and very little was left for new inventory. When we closed our store, we had a going out of business sale and were amazed at how much money we made in a very short time. If we had done that a year or, for sure two years earlier, we would probably still be in business. But, also be warned, don’t overdo this unless it is the last resort. Customers start waiting for these big sales if they happen too often and will not buy any other time. So you can create a monster by running too many sales.
Also learn who your target customers are. When we first started importing our own containers in 1991, our average customer age range was 25-45. After 2000, the customer age range was 45-65, where our store was. Today’s young people are more into mid- century modern, if they want anything old at all. So you have to know who your prospective customers are and what they want. Also this changes as you can see from the ages of our customers through the years. It is hard for some to change and they usually don’t make money selling antiques. Look at what is being featured in the home and decorating magazines to help stay tuned to what is popular. Don’t get caught jumping on a trend that is about over, most of us have done that one before.
I hope the information I have provided here will stop you from making some of the same mistakes we made and allow you to make money selling antiques.