Selling vintage merchandise takes place through several distribution methods including your own retail shop, participating in an antique mall, selling online and through shows and special events. Making money in the business requires knowledge of what vintage merchandise is popular, a sharp eye for acquiring bargains, and a well-thought-out marketing plan.
Narrow down the selection you offer by narrowing in on a product or era. For example, you could select the Roaring Twenties; focus on antique linens, china and silver, or toys and vintage children's clothing. Develop a reputation of being the go-to person for your type of merchandise. Obtaining customers through word-of-mouth has little cost and increases your profit margin.
As in any business, a profit is made when you sell your merchandise for more than what you paid for it. That holds true for vintage merchandise as well. Buying collectibles and vintage merchandise online is a challenge. You can't determine quality solely from photographs. For example, a slightly-worn gold decorative band on a tea cup can considerably decrease the value of vintage china. However, that defect may not be noticeable until you examine the tea cup in person. Contact estate sale services to put you on their announcement lists for sales. Garage and tag sales are other avenues to find merchandise at low prices where you can make a hefty profit.
Determine who the ideal customer is to buy your merchandise. For example, if you sell vintage guns, your ideal customers may include those interested in Old West revolvers, people who re-enact Civil War battles and those who collect Revolutionary War firearms. Interior decorators are another niche. For example, they may have clients who are decorating with a Western theme. The more data you collect on the members of your niche, the more laser-targeted your marketing strategies become.
While your vintage merchandise may be old-fashioned, that doesn't mean your marketing strategies have to be. Create a marketing plan that includes publicity, an online presence, advertising and social media. Take advantage of sites such as YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest to show off photos of your vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories. Align yourself with other vintage merchandise businesses that don't offer the same products you do. For example, you may offer vintage linens, while another business offers antique kitchen accessories. Post announcements about the kitchen accessories on your social media sites while the other business posts about your kitchen linens. You expand your customer base without much extra effort or expense.
Try events and promotions that go beyond a retail or online shop. Set up trunk showings of your vintage jewelry. Donate an item to be auctioned at a charity event. Your name and contact information will be on the sign-up sheet for the silent auction. Scout out arts and crafts shows that would be a good fit for your merchandise. Teach classes that fit with your products. Some home and garden shows have a section for antiques. If you don't think your sales justify exhibiting, contact the other show vendors and ask if you can place some your merchandise on consignment with them. You still own the pieces. If they don't sell they are returned to you. If they do sell you give the other vendor a commission. You can judge by your consignment sales whether the show would be an avenue for being an exhibitor the next year.