Running a successful thrift store requires general business knowledge, a willingness by the community to participate in stocking inventory and the ability to run a clean, well-organized shop. One of the pitfalls of thrift stores is that they are generally organized haphazardly, which deters customers who are interested in rifling through the funky finds, but have little patience for the extreme disorganization that plague these shops. There are a few tips to help yours be a successful thrift store operation.
Place an emphasis on organization and cleanliness. Just because your customers are hunting for bargains and secondhand items doesn't mean they are willing to rifle through piles of stuff to find something. Organize your thrift store just as you would a high-end clothing boutique. Put prices on items in plain view. Organize clothing according to size and place clothing in a separate area from household items. The more organized your thrift store, the more appealing it will be to consumers of all types.
Gather inventory continuously. One of the unique aspects of a thrift store is that the inventory is ever-changing. Solicit items from the community on an on-going basis, reminding them that you are not a hotspot for junk, but rather a reputable thrift store where they can donate gently used items for resale. This is important because you don't want bags of items that actually belong in the town dump. You want items in good condition that individuals simply do not want or cannot use any longer.
Draft an operating budget and stick to it. As a thrift operation, it is important that you maintain the ability to operate on the cheap. You won't yield consistently high profits every day because the items you resell are at a very low cost. So you must find ways to cut down on overhead and general operating expenses to ensure that as much of the money as possible is reinvested into the business--including a paycheck for you.
Get involved in community events. The more that people know about your business, the more likely they are to patronize it. After all, your shop can be beneficial to school groups, teachers, artists, single parents, civic clubs and more. With that in mind, get involved in the community you serve. If possible, set up a booth at community festivals. Pass out fliers about your thrift shop. Find an area of specialization--such as vintage clothing--and publicize it, particularly if you are the only one in town offering these types of products.
Lynda Moultry Belcher is a writer, editor and public relations professional. She worked for a daily newspaper for 10 years and has been a freelance writer for more than 15 years. She has contributed to Divorce360 and Revolution Health Group, among other publications. She is also the author of "101 Plus-Size Women's Clothing Tips" and writes "Style At Any Size," a bi-weekly newspaper column.