Tuesday, 17 May 2011

How to be a Vintage Fashion Trader

Image from Time Out London

There comes a time when your vintage clothing and accessories collection goes feral and you need to whittle down. You can either impose discipline on yourself, or start to sell things in order to make space for and fund new acquisitions. Behind most vintage traders is an out-of-control collection. If this strikes a chord with you, you've come to the right place.

Being a vintage trader is not all fun and glamour. As with any self-employment, it requires a good business head and more often than not, fortitude.


❤  Passion
You're truly in love with vintage clothing and lifestyle. You're not doing it because it's 'all the rage'. If you're in it for fast money, forget about it. The first few months will be hard work and you'll need to deal with issues along the way. You need to be enthusiastic about your items, and focusing solely on profit will distract you from your main goal – enjoying one of the best jobs in the world, when done right.

❤  An eye for detail
Your collection or stock must be in good order. It needs to be clean, free from damage, and true vintage – i.e. not recent and vintage-style. In time, you'll know you've become an expert if, with one glance at the item, you know its age and origins. If you sell online, the items must be well-photographed. Make sure your packaging is sturdy and reflects the postage fee you charge your clients. If you're in a shop or at a fair, your items should be well-displayed to attract buyers.

❤  An enterprising mind
A proven business method is to source an item for as little as possible, and sell for the highest possible profit. Self-discipline will save you from financial ruin. Always buy with your head rather than with your heart. If there is no profit in an item, simply don't buy it. Be aware that your prices should reflect the current market situation. Any potential client will be put off when they that see your items are too expensive. Factor this into the prices you buy at.

If you're successful you will run out of stock frequently. You'll need sources locally, nationally, and internationally. This aspect can be difficult for some traders as it involves long hours of research and networking.

If you have regular customers, contact them when you see something they might be interested in. Remember, you must be able to move your stock as quickly as you can. This allows you to change your display in a shop or on-line store constantly, to maintain interest.

❤  Social networking skills
The digital age has peaked. Businesses with professional-looking websites and blogs perform better than those without. Use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking outlets, for maximum exposure.

❤  A thirst for knowledge
Never stop learning. If you're passionate about vintage you should enjoy researching your subject area. Knowledge is power.

❤  People skills
Whether you sell online or in a shop, you need good communication skills. Any problems encountered must be sorted fast. Clients expect personable and professional service, as well as quality merchandise. However, there will be frankly painful clients who will bring you down. Don't let them – it's just part of the job.

Ultimately, if you operate with integrity you will gain a good reputation. You'll build a repeat-customer base, which will recommend you. This is essential to a successful business venture.

❤ A versatile handbag
Standard kit for the vintage trader: tape measure, camera, notepad, pen/pencil, scissors, emergency sewing kit, cheque book.

It's useful if you can sew. This is handy for last-minute alterations, should a client need something urgently – which can clinch a sale.

Image from myshutterstocks Flickr

What to do next:

❤  Sell in a shop
Cooperatives in some countries, and in the UK vintage or antique centres, are always looking for new traders. Chat with the owners and the other traders to 'get a feel' of the place. The shop should be located in a place with good customer traffic. It should be clean and well-maintained, and the monthly rent must be reasonable.

If you're thinking of running your own shop, be aware of what it involves. The expenses involved are diffuse and frightening – rent, insurance, music tariff , card machine rentals, utility bills and marketing costs. If there is free business advice available for start-ups in your area, get it.

❤  Sell on Etsy or Ebay
Online selling has never been easier, especially on these two leading sites. You need to register and there are fees to pay, but they are much lower than the costs of a shop. Your postage fees should be reasonable. Clients do consider these before making a purchase. If someone charges disproportionately high postage or shipping fees they appear greedy. Simple.

You may also want to sell from your website, but you'll need to work hard to market it.

❤  Sell at fairs
Most organisers will take on-line payment of your stall fee. You must then select a good representation of your stock, wrapping materials, business cards and any props you need for display (tip: a screen and mirror to create a changing room is a huge friend to clothing dealers). Make up sandwiches and a flask. If you can, convince a friend or a family member to help you, bring a credit card machine if you have one or a laptop or iPad to access your Paypal (this will guarantee sales especially since non-trade customers don't always bring a wad of cash to fairs).

❤ Sell at auctions
Highly recommended when your items are quite valuable. The leading clothing and textile auction house in the UK is Kerry Taylor Auctions, based in West Dulwich, London. Fees apply whether you're buying or selling.

Finally, enjoy the experience and the people you meet (you will meet a multitude). It's a once-in-a-lifetime, special experience which I'd recommend to anyone.




  1. Extremely informative post :)
    thank you for this post!


  2. Hi! Thanks so much for visiting! I hope this helps other traders :)
    Cheers, j❤Y xx

  3. Thanks for this post. :) It's very helpful!

  4. I once tried to set up a vintage shop on eBay.. failed horribly! It is a LOT of work, and I highly commend anyone who manages to do this:)

    xx, Melanie

  5. Fantastic article Joy - very useful advice to anyone trying to set up as seller. Good tip about the laptop for paypal payments especially.

  6. Thanks guys! Definitely not an easy job. But...persistence works :)

  7. Very nice post,I liked all your advice!

  8. Really good post! It's a pleasure to read tips coming from you as you clearly have passion for vintage and certainly know the subject very well.

  9. Hi LittleRus,

    Thanks for your kind words. Hope your Thursday is better than mine :) Ha!ha!
    Cheers, joy xx

  10. Thanks Rania. I hope I really help someone with this :)

    J x

  11. hello!i follow you!great blog!can you follow me?thanks!http://thestyle-guide.blogspot.com/

  12. Hi Joy! Just wanted to stop by and thank you for the comment you left on my blog. Really appreciate it. x

    P.S. Following you now, so I can learn more about vintage and just read good posts, so if you want to follow my baby blog, it would be amazing and you will certainly put a huge smile on my face. Like this -----> :-D

  13. Hi Eleutheria88 and Li'lRuss, following you now guys. Thanks so much. More power to quality blogging! :)
    Joy x

  14. hey joy

    this is a very interesting read. i have sold a few things on eBay before - both new and vintage - but never got a great reaction from the vintage things. i think because it is really hard to market and therefore for people to find your things.

    either way i gave up! :S

    -fb X

  15. Hi fb!
    Thanks for popping by. It's hardwork indeed. Sorry to hear. Sounds like it was a horrible experience. Hope you find something worth your while :)
    Joy xx


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