How to Start a Second Hand Store

Find out how to start a second hand store and step by step guide to make it profitable  Starting any business, including a second-hand clothing store, is going to be fairly difficult. Many people will, however, claim that starting a second-hand clothing store is a touch easier. This is because it is one of a few businesses which is ‘recession-proof’. After all, people are still going to need clothes. Even when the economy is flourishing, these stores do very well by attracting trendy youth, the eco-friendly kind and stingy parents. For people who are short of funds, these stores are a blessing in disguise.

It’s fun to run a used clothing store, especially for those who love accessories and clothing. Just like any other business, you need to have proper talent to run a business and business acumen. If you have worked earlier in the retail business then it will be an added asset. Launching a clothing thrift store is not as costly as a normal clothing store, as it is quite simple to create an inventory. If you belong to the fashion industry then it will be ideal to launch your own second hand store.

On this page, we are going to take a little look at how you can start this type of store. It is not a complete guide by any stretch of the imagination. However, it will certainly point you in the right direction.

Define Your Target Audience

Whilst you could, in theory, start up a second-hand clothing store without knowing who your target audience is, it is not generally recommended. It makes marketing difficult. It makes planning your stock difficult, and it makes the design of the store difficult (including pricing). Therefore, before you even start to find a location, you are going to need to decide who your audience is. Will it be families? Will it be those who are interested in retro clothing? Are you looking for high-end clients? This all needs to be thought about.

It will also be beneficial to visit similar stores to see which designs appeal to the customers. Take a note of what works along with the price range, the client flow, how things are being managed, how they are displayed, how they cross sell or team up various items. Pay your attention to the target customers and look out if you have overlooked any particular group. Find out more about how to pick a niche.

Develop a Business Plan

The next step is to start on your business plan. Thankfully, there are plenty of guides out there in cyberspace which will give you hints and tips on doing this. You will need to factor in who your target audience is into your business plan. A business plan will help you to determine what your expenses will be, how much you may be selling products for, and ideas for market research. A good business plan will constantly be worked upon. Most of your time during the early stages of starting up your second-hand clothing store will be focused on the development of your business plan.

The most important part is to plan the budget well. Include the cost of inventory, rents, deposits to be paid, space and other essential overheads. Do not forget to keep some amount aside for advertisement and other unexpected expenses, which you may have overlooked.

If you plan to appoint additional staff then you also need to maintain the accounts related to payroll along with tax records. Having a well chalked out plan will help you to be successful in the long run. Conduct a proper market survey to know the way of the world and be up to date with the latest styles and the changing trends. Read more about business plan.

Choose Your Location

This is where everything starts to come together. Your target audience is going to be important here. You will want to choose a location where your target market will be. For example, if you are looking to sell to low income families then it is unlikely you will want to place your business in the center of an incredibly wealthy area.

You should also try and find out about the footfall around that particular location. The more people walking by, the better.

Rent is also going to be an important factor. Choose something which you can reasonably afford and that is not too over the top.

And another thing, you will have to make provisions for a fitting room and a room for storage. If your second hand clothes store has large front windows it will be ideal to display your products in order to attract window shoppers and potential customers. Read more about how to choose your location.


In some places you may need to be licensed. It is worth doing your research to find out whether you need to be licensed in your area. Find out more about legal obligations.

Purchase Inventory

Reliable source of used garmentsPlan if you intend to sell specific used clothing items such as formal clothing, maternity dresses or you just want to limit yourself to the usual clothes. If there is a dearth of specialty stores then it would be quite ideal for you to plan a specialty section as well. Although all second hand stores will have something for children, but being the only one catering exclusively to the needs of children can be an advantage.

Great, so you are well on your way to having your store set-up. Now for the most important part; clothing. You are going to need some. You are a clothing store after all. Now, if you are not a charity then you should not really be asking for clothing donations. Most people will not give them to you anyway. Instead, you are going to need to go out there and buy clothing. Look at local flea markets. Look at garage sales. Check eBay. You will even find a multitude of vendors who are looking to offload their clothing in bulk. If a clothing store closes down in your local area, head there too. You may be able to secure some pretty decent deals.

Remember, you are going to want to choose clothing which suits your target market (this is why it is so important!). Do not buy clothing just because it is cheap. If it won’t sell in your store, it is not exactly going to make you much money is it? No matter how cheap it is. Find out more about British used clothing suppliers

Set-up Your Store

A well maintained used clothing store with a variety of appropriately priced products will go a long way to pave your success story. Maintain the ambience of the store and keep it in line with the target customers.

It is now time to start kitting on your store with equipment. If you can do so, purchase temporary changing rooms (many shop fitting vendors will sell them). In addition to this, you are going to need a cash register, perhaps connected up to a computer system. You may need a card terminal for payments. You will certainly need clothing rails, and you may also wish for a few mannequins to show off some of the best clothing that you have in stock.

If need be then invest in a security system as well. Give customers enough space to move around freely between the racks.

Decide on how you are going to price your goods. Some second-hand clothing stores will price by the rail (i.e. everything on a certain rail is a certain price), although this can get confusing for both you and your customer. It also leaves very little leeway when it comes to pricing.

Plan the pricing system which uses the color coding or marking the older items. Keep signage that reveals the markdown process so that it is visible to the clients and they can compare the prices of the products easily. Perhaps the best option is to price every product that you have in stock individually. This will ensure customers (and you!) know the price of that item.

Maintain the standard of the clothes and accessories which you are planning to sell. Second hand clothes or accessories which are torn or look stained will reflect badly on the reputation of your store. Hence stick to the standards you have set and never compromise on them. You will have loyal customers only if you provide them with quality products.

Additionally, you can provide dry cleaning and alteration services at your store. You might also need a sewing machine to alter the clothes or to mend them at times. Read more about how to bring extra income in retail business.

Do You Need Staff?

Even if you plan to keep the store open for only 5 days per week, it would be a good idea to hire an assistant to help you. Try to hire someone who knows a little bit of everything and can substitute at the counter, display, help in cleaning and other day-to-day duties.

Generally speaking, you should have at least two people working in your second-hand clothing store. One of these people should be dedicated to helping out customers whilst the other staff member will work the cash register. You may not actually need staff right at the start. Your business may be quiet enough not to. However, eventually, if all goes to plan at least, you will want to start taking people on to work for you. Remember, check local laws about employment.

Market Your Business

The final step is to get word about your business out there. Newspaper adverts are going to be fantastic for this. It is fairly cheap to advertise in local newspapers nowadays. If you have a bit more of a budget, you can also look into radio advertisements.

Organize a show or an event, or if you can afford then sponsor a fashion competion. You can even start your own website and promote your business through social media. Moreover, you can donate second hand clothes that didn’t sell to a non-profit or a shelter as this will only help the word to spread.

Do not forget the most important form of advertising, however. This is word of mouth. If you keep a good selection of products in stock and treat your customers well then they will tell their friends and family about you. This will, of course, lead to even more customers in your store and even more money in your pocket!