How to start a vintage clothing store business

Have you ever thought about turning your love for vintage clothes into a money-making enterprise? Here's what you need to know.

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If you have a passion for vintage clothes, you might be looking at how to get more out of it with a business. You will need a few things to make a successful venture, including a good deal of planning.

Read this guide to understand how to get your clothing business off on the right foot, including marketing, pricing, legal requirements and more.

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What skills do I need to start a vintage store clothing business?

Running a vintage clothes store requires a few skills that will not only improve your sales but also build a customer base. Here are some skills that will help you build a successful business:

  • Retail experience. Working in a store will give you a great basis to build your business. If you have no retail experience, you'll need an understanding of the retail industry to understand product development and get access to resources.
  • Marketing and sales. Much of your business will be about marketing to a target audience. If you haven't done this before, you could research online advertising strategies or take a marketing course.
  • Vintage clothing knowledge. It's important to have experience with vintage clothes so you know how to price your inventory and what styles sell. Make sure you're keeping up with your competitors by browning vintage clothing markets and stores.
  • Financial knowledge. If you don't have the budget for an accountant, you can take a finance course. Some institutions to consider include the Australian Institute of Management, Melbourne Business School, Macquarie University and The University of Sydney.

What courses or qualifications do I need?

woman shopping at a vintage shopping store

There's no specific requirement to have qualifications to get into this type of business. However, if you're unfamiliar with the fashion industry, then it may be good to start by applying for a course. For example, a certificate in fashion. The Australian Academy of Fashion Design's home study courses start from $695. You can also consider these institutions:

Read about how you can broaden your skillset and get qualified with an online course.

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    What equipment do I need to start a vintage store clothing business?

    If you're planning on setting up a physical store, you will need various items including store signage, shelves and a payment processing system. Setting up an online store requires less physical items but you will need to set up a website, photograph your items and organise packaging to send your clothes in.

    Here are a few things to consider getting before you set up:

    • Shelves and racks
    • Mirrors
    • Hangers
    • Display cases

    Personal loan options to consider

    When you're launching a business it can be a challenge to get approval for a business loan. That's because lenders typically want you to have been operating for at least 12 months. Our guide to personal loans has more details on how to compare your options for borrowing. Or take a look at the table below.

    Before taking out any type of loan, make sure you can afford to make all repayments, along with any additional fees or charges.

    Data indicated here is updated regularly
    $
    Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Application Fee Monthly Service Fee Monthly Repayment
    Symple Loans Personal Loan

    From 5.75% (variable)
    6.47%
    $5,000
    1 to 7 years
    from 0% to 5% of the loan amount
    $10
    You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 5.75% p.a. to 25.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
    Borrow up to $50,000 to pay for what you need.
    Plenti Fixed Rate Personal Loan

    From 5.99% (fixed)
    6.27%
    $2,001
    3 to 5 years
    From $99 to $499
    $0
    You'll receive a fixed rate between 5.99% p.a. and 15.89% p.a. based on your risk profile
    A flexible loan with amounts from $2,001 and terms starting from 3 years. Interest and comparison rates calculated for a loan term of 5 years.
    Harmoney Unsecured Personal Loan

    From 6.99% (fixed)
    7.79%
    $2,000
    3 to 5 years
    $575 ($275 for loans of below $5,000)
    $0
    You'll receive a fixed rate between 6.99% p.a. and 25.69% p.a. based on your risk profile.
    Apply for a loan up to $50,000 and repay your loan over 3 or 5 years terms.
    OurMoneyMarket Personal Loan

    From 6.75% (fixed)
    6.96%
    $2,001
    1 to 7 years
    1.5–6% of your total loan amount
    $0
    You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.75% p.a. to 20.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
    A personalised loan from $2,001 to $75,000 that varies based on your credit history and financial situation.
    Alex Personal Loan

    From 6.95% (fixed)
    6.95%
    $2,100
    6 months to 5 years
    $0 (waived $295)
    $0
    You'll receive a fixed interest rate from 6.95% p.a. to 19.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
    Borrow between $2,100 and $30,000 from 6 months to 5 years. Benefit from no ongoing fees. Note: Waived $295 establishment fee for all applications submitted before 15 February 2021.
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      What business structures do I need to consider before starting a vintage clothing store business?

      You will need to decide on a business structure before setting up your business. The Australian business structure you choose should serve your current business size and any future expansion plans you have:

      • Sole trader. You manage all aspects of the business and have full control of it. You are also personally liable for the business.
      • Partnership. A partnership business involves two or more people who share control, income and should operate under a partnership agreement.
      • Company. Companies are owned by shareholders who can be directors or investors. It is a structure that limits your liability because a company is considered a separate legal entity.

      You will need some business, financial and legal documents to get set up. These may include:

      • A business license. You will need to register with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), get an Australian Company Number (ACN) and apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN). The requirement for a business license varies by state.
      • A signage license. Apply for this permit to place an advertising sign on a building, road or footpath.
      • Goods and Services Tax (GST). If your turnover is $75,000 or more, you'll need to register for a GST.
      • Tax File Number. This is a personal reference number in the tax and superannuation systems.
      • Exemption from restricted trading days. This permit allows you to have your shop open on restricted trading days such as Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Anzac Day or Christmas Day.
      • Permits for importing goods. You will need to be aware of and comply with any customs legislation and procedures. Do this before you order goods from overseas.
      Data indicated here is updated regularly
      Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Any free legal documents?
      Lawpath
      Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
      $79 per month (billed monthly)
      Essentials: $288
      You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
      Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
      LawDepot
      Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
      $7.99 per month (prepaid for one year)
      $59.88
      You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
      Get free legal documents in five to ten minutes.
      Sprintlaw
      Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
      $699 (or choose a free template)
      $699
      Some documents are free to download. Get access to all documents with a membership.
      Pick between a fixed-fee package from $99 and a 12-month plan that unlocks a host of membership benefits for $699.
      Legal123
      Legal123
      Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
      Varies per template
      N/A
      No
      Get legal templates for any business type in Australia.
      LegalVision
      Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
      $199 per month (bill monthly)
      N/A
      Some documents are free to download. Get access to all documents with a membership.
      Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.
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      How can I build up my customer base?

      It's important to get the word out about your store quickly, and you can even do it before you set up your business. Create a website and any relevant social media profiles such as Instagram and Pinterest. Using these profiles, find people that might be customers such as those in the local area or that have an interest in vintage clothes.

      When sharing photos of your vintage clothes, make sure to capture details such as fabric texture, trims and closures to grab your customer's attention. You also have the option of running your shop on Facebook Marketplace to reach out to local customers. Another idea is to rent a booth at weekly flea markets to find vintage clothes-loving customers.

      How much should I charge my customers?

      When pricing your merchandise you should consider the garment's era, purchase cost, trend, quality, availability, designer and season of sale. To arrive at a fair price, you will need to decide whether the piece fits modern trends, its market availability and whether it's in season.

      Make sure you stay up to date on vintage fashions trends and what's selling in other stores. You can do this by frequently visiting your competitor's businesses, browsing vintage clothing markets and keeping up with vintage clothes blogs.

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      Frequently asked questions

      Should I set up a physical store or online-only?

      This is up to you and you can find success with either model. An online store requires less overhead because you don't need to pay for a physical presence, which requires additional costs such as rent and business insurance. If you want to try your hand at a physical store with a less permanent setup, consider hiring a space at local markets.

      Where can I purchase vintage clothes from?

      It's important to find a few good suppliers early on. You're also able to source clothes from other stores and online which you can buy cheaply and then profit from in your own store.

      Will I need to work in the store full-time from the beginning?

      If you're concerned about keeping your business afloat without a stable income, you might consider starting it as a "side hustle". This lets you keep working elsewhere while you build your business in your own time.

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