Starting a Thrift Store

By Donald Michael Schwartz
starting a thirft store

Job Duties

When starting a thrift store you will need to carry out all the basic duties of a retail store owner.
A thrift store may be a good business for an Ebay or garage sale enthusiast, but it takes more than just enthusiasm to make a thrift shop business last for the long haul. First, you will need to choose a good location – one with fair rent and a reliable landlord. You will need to develop a business plan which will outline the startup costs and monthly costs. You will need to define your market and how much you will specialize or generalize. You can decide to sell a wide variety of things in your thrift store or specialize in a certain niche. You will need to keep good accounting books and track of which type of merchandise is moving and which is not. You will need to attach a sales value to the merchandise you purchase. You should be able to educate your customers on merchandise being bought and sold. Being able to fix the merchandise you acquire is a big plus.

Where will you work?

When starting a thrift store a big advantage is that you can open it in a lower rent district. Thrift seekers are a loyal and determined target market. They will not only seek out an out-of-the-way location, but be proud to tell others about finding your store. People who are down on their luck will want to get cash for some of their personal items, and others will want to buy used treasures for bargain prices. Ideal locations for opening a thrift store are urban areas with a large population of low income people.

Basic Costs

When starting a thrift store you will need to buy up a starting inventory of merchandise. There are the usual expenses with opening a store front, such as, rent, utilities, display racks, and remodeling costs. You can consider hiring a lawyer and an accountant to make sure you are doing business properly. However they can be quite pricey. You can also get advice from experts at little to no cost at a Small business development center near you. You can also consult with experts at a SCOREs Chapter near you. Check with your state, county, and municipality to find out about the cost of permits, licenses, and insurances.

Tips for Starting a Thrift Store

  • Identify your knowledge and skills – When starting any business, it is to first start identifying what is generally needed to start and run a business, and what knowledge and skills are needed specifically in your type of business. The retired executives at SCORE can help you make that assessment.
  • Hire at least one part-time employee to start – You will need to at least one part-time employee to help you cover the storefront hours, for when you need to leave the store on outside store-related business or when you sick, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help– The start up period can be very stressful. You might be able to ask friends and family for help, based on barter arrangements. A diversity of startup helpers can give you tips and feedback on everything from different business considerations to thoughts on the layout and decorating of your store.
  • Licensing and Registration – When starting a thrift store make sure you have all the proper licensing, permits, and registration.
  • Have good insurance coverage – Get ample insurance to cover loss of merchandise and liabilities.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open – Be on the constant lookout for opportunities to acquire merchandise. Take notice of sales on Craig’s List, and what is lying around your friends’ basements and garages they may no longer need.

Advertising a Thrift Store

When starting a thrift store you can advertise through the following methods. You can test various forms of advertising to see which are the most effective for your business in your location.

  • Walk by Traffic- When starting a thrift store your location can be a big factor in attracting walk by traffic.
  • Flyers- Determine if you can put up flyers in local grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, community centers, and more. It is best to ask the owner of these businesses for permission first. Also hand out flyers to passer byes on the street.
  • Thrift Store Business Cards- Create business cards and hand them whenever an opportunity appears. Network as much as possible.
  • Yellow Pages- Consider buying an advertisement in the yellow pages of your local phone book. You can also include your business in the online version: YellowPages.com.
  • Yahoo Local Searches- If you include your business in the Yahoo Local Searches, when people search for your service in your local area your business will appear in the list. To add your business to Yahoo local search, enter the term “add business to yahoo local search” in Yahoo.com and click on the first link.
  • Google Local Searches- Google has a local search as well. To add your business to Google local search, enter the term “add business to google search” in Google.com and click on the first link.
  • Newspaper classified ads- Newspaper ads in your local newspaper can help spread awareness of your thrift store.
  • Website- You can decide to develop a website to provide clients with access to general information about your thrift store as well as sell your products online.
  • Ebay- You don’t have to limit your selling to just your thrift store, you can also sell items online in Ebay.com.
  • Craigslist.com- You can sell items on craigslist.com which can attract people in your local area looking for certain goods to your thrift store.

Not sure about starting a thrift store? See a list of small business ideas

Do you have a business story or experience you would like to share?

Share with us your story on starting a thrift store.

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Resources


Small Business Development Center- consult with experts

SCOREs - find a SCORES chapter near you to speak with a business consultant.

Small Business Administration- provides information for starting a small business.