4 Challenges to Starting a Second Hand Store

4 Challenges to Starting a Second Hand Store

In this pandemic wrecked economy, second-hand stores are going to get a lot of business. Interested? Starting a second-hand store will require a lot of business planning and time sacrifice. And money. It may cost you between $10,000 to $50,000 to open a second-hand store. Here are a few challenges you will face starting a second-hand store.

Sourcing Free, Cheap, and Quality Inventory

One of the biggest challenges of starting a second-hand store will be learning how to source free, cheap, and quality inventory.

As a second-hand store, you won’t be dealing with wholesalers to regularly replenish your inventory. And since you won’t have to buy clothes and items at wholesale prices regularly you will save money on your budget.

However, this presents another problem – how will you source your inventory? You will have to replenish your inventory regularly whether you own a retail or second-hand store.

You can start by placing online ads to buy used clothing at pre-set prices suitable to your budget. Even if you bought 10,000 pounds of clothes at $0.10 per pound, you would still end up paying over $1,000.

While paying $1,000 every time you need to resupply may sound cheap, it may often add up if you need to replenish inventory.

When starting a second-hand store, your best option to save money is to source clothes for free whenever possible.

Starting a Second-Hand Store – Wardrobe Giveaways and Estate Sales

Logistics may be the greatest challenge in every aspect of starting a second-hand store. It is relatively easy to find opportunities where free clothes are given away.

However, successfully getting those free clothes is another issue.

As I mentioned earlier, don’t count on having a lot of free time in your life after starting a second-hand store. You need to spend as much time as possible on research, logistics, and expanding your sourcing network.

For example, you should become well versed in sourcing free wardrobes. Retail stores going out of business and private individuals with large wardrobes give away free clothes all of the time.

You just have to make the right connections or know every classified online platform to find them.

The best way to source free clothes is to keep situationally apprised of estate sales and retail clothing store closures.

Estate sales are normally after the death of a homeowner, many people look to quickly discard clothing belonging to a loved one. You may find great deals this way.

Many public auctions are where the local government has seized private property and then commenced a public auction of goods from that property to satisfy a debt.

A lot of these public auctions are not as successful as planned. So, like a lot of restaurants with excess food, a lot of clothes, furniture, and household items that don’t get sold get thrown out.

You can research public notices for estate sales, and other second-hand stores and retail stores for that matter, and begin making contact.

There are a lot of estate sale administrators who would love to have someone take entire wardrobes off their hands.

However, never make assumptions about your inventory sourcing ambitions. Not every source you contact will just give you the goods.

You should check out estate sales in several cities and neighboring states.

Here are two sites with regularly updated estate sale directories:

Make several long-lasting connections with sources who will happily agree to give you wardrobe goods not sold at estate sale auctions.


OK, let’s assume you’ve made some great inventory sourcing contacts in the hopes of starting a second-hand store.

Well, second-hand stores are known for being thrifty in terms of their operating budgets. You may not be able to afford to have more than a few people working for you.

You will end up doing everything, especially in the beginning. So, let say you source 10,000 or 20,000 pounds of clothes.

How are you going to get them?

You are going to need to own or rent one or two vans, trucks, or box trucks to pick up the wardrobes or piles of clothes they give you.

That also means that you will have to develop a gasoline fund – you are going to be putting a lot of miles on your vehicle. Remember – you will have to replenish inventory regularly.

And that brings us to your next challenge in starting a second-hand store – cleaning and drying.

Cleaning and Drying

When starting a second-hand store, you must remember that your relative success will hinge on word of mouth.

Of course, you must develop a business plan and target a local consumer demographic. But you must also develop quality standards that will augment your proprietary reputation and word of mouth.

So, once you source your clothing inventory, you should clean and dry them all at least once. This will be a time-exhaustive process – you can try to make a deal with a local laundromat.

You don’t have to do this – many second-hand stores do not. However, since you are sourcing from residential estate sales and private individuals, you may encounter bed bugs in your inventory.

Don’t just think about the damage to your reputation in that situation – think about coming to work every day and dealing with bed bugs yourself.

Also, maintaining quality standards like this will definitely set you apart from your competition.

You can advertise your cleaning controls as a marketing hook and even adjust your pricing accordingly.

Sorting and Displays

Once you have successfully sourced a few thousand pounds worth of clothes, you will have to sort them.

You will have to sort clothing according to style, size, and quality. This will take a lot of time and effort, so you should have some staff or motivated volunteers helping you.

Of course, you will try to sell every item of clothing you source, but invariably, some kinds of clothes will sell better than others. So, you should think a lot about how your items will be displayed in stores.

Starting a Second Hand Store

Think about your business plan. Your second-hand store can sell clothing, appliances, household goods, and other varied items.

Develop a clear business plan and get the advice and help of a consultant.

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