The recent TV show This Old Thing: The Vintage Clothes Show has reignited the interest in retro and vintage clothing. There has always been a strong cult following and some of the most well-known vintage shops in the UK such as Rokit, Beyond Retro and Marshmallow Mountain are thriving businesses that started up from virtually nothing.

Setting up a vintage business appeals to many people because it is completely scalable. Before starting out think about the reasons for deciding on this type of business model – of course it is fashion based and with many people now wanting to create their own look, selling clothing from 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s can be fun, enjoyable and profitable.

how to start a vintage clothing businessDon’t forget the eco aspect too where re-cycling clothing can be very self-satisfying and personally rewarding. It is also one the best UK small business ideas because you can start from almost zero capital.

Starting up from Scratch
You can pick up vintage clothes from a variety of sources but if you are on a tight budget and cannot afford to go out and buy a batch of clothing from a vintage wholesaler then checkout your local charity shops and car boot sales. You would be surprised what you can pick up but make sure you know your labels and can spot fake brands because if you plan to sell on online auction websites such as Etsy or eBay then you obviously cannot pass off authentic clothing if they are fake.

Another way of starting is to ask family members if they have any old clothing that they no longer need. You can even cut them in on the profits – people do get attached to clothes but some of the best quality items can be found in wardrobes that have been stored away for many years, even decades.

Equipment Needed for a Vintage Clothing Business
Firstly, do you plan to sell online or at fairs? Net savvy sellers can get going almost instantly provided they have a decent camera (smartphone will do) and either a mannequin or real life model. Don’t start off by hanging clothes on the back of a door – they look unprofessional and you will not get the best prices. The most successful online sellers are on eBay. Tups Vintage is a classic example of a business that works.

Online Vintage Selling
They have a simple business model but work incredibly hard. On closer inspection they list over 400 items per month. If you take that there is on average 20 working days per month then they are photographing, uploading, listing and posting out 20 vintage dresses, coats, skirts, jackets and other items per day. That does not include customer support but this example should be used for all budding vintage fashionistas would want to build their own retro clothing empire.

You can also try to sell on Facebook and Etsy. The key is to obtain quality items that are fashionably in season.

Selling at Fairs, Pop-up Shops and Markets
If you would prefer to sell offline then there some places that you can try out without investing a lot of money. In the UK, markets, pop-up shops and fairs are the best places to sell vintage. Even a car boot sale could yield decent returns but plan ahead and try to build a brand before you start so people will remember your name. Vintage sellers can build up a sizeable customer base and it’s easy to see why.

Using Social Media to Power up
Let’s take an example of servicing a vintage demand and you could use this as a brainstorming idea. Search on Facebook for groups of people who would not want to wear mainstream fashion. Take the Mods for example – this is a classic example of how social media can help your new business.

What do the men and women wear and is there a gap in the market for good quality authentic vintage? The Mod example shows us that the girls like to wear miniskirts, 60s dresses and parkas. The boys are always looking for 60s suits and parkas too. They are extremely well turned out and would be happy to pay good prices for authentic quality clothing.

This is just one example of drilling down further and thinking out of the box when it comes to selling retro and vintage clothes.

Pitfalls to Avoid and How to Expand
In order to expand your business it’s important not to get bogged down with matters that an only hinder growth. For example, in vintage selling it is very easy to get caught up in chatting on Facebook or on forums about the subject.

This only wastes time and because generally, retro clothes are fairly low profit margin goods you can soon discover that are only making a few hundred pounds profit each month. Think about the long haul and profits first. The satisfaction in selling cool clothing from years gone by is an added bonus but if you find out that all your hard work and slog counts for losses or minimal profits then you are likely to give up.

There are many people who enjoy selling vintage and make a good living by running their own business – follow the tips on this small business guide webpage to get you off to the best start.