Business OverviewA furniture consignment shop can stock everything from a 100-year-old highboy to a 10-year young sofa. Just as in clothing, the trend these days is toward recycling, finding delightful ways to make everything old seem new (or just beloved) again. Furniture is one of the fastest-growing segments of the resale industry, with more and more nonfurniture consignment stores either adding furniture to their inventories or opening a second, furnishings-only location. So if you love interior design, you've got the nose for sniffing out both antiques and good quality, then a consignment furniture shop could be the business for you. You'll take clean, well-loved furniture and accessories, and display and merchandise them for their owners, splitting the profits when you make a sale. You can take on more than sofas and tables--like any good home furnishings or antiques shop, you'll also stock prints, paintings and decorative. You'll also spend a fair amount of time going out to people's homes to appraise furniture pieces, then taking them back to your shop. Because you're taking the items on consignment, you don't pay anything for your inventory until it's sold, which makes this business ideal for the startup entrepreneur. Some consignment shops mark items at a set price, then have the owners pick them up if they don't sell within a given period of time. Others mark down merchandise 10 percent for every month it remains unsold. The advantages to this business are that it's creative, your startup costs are small compared to most retail operations, you get the satisfaction of helping your customers get great buys for little money, and you never know what fascinating piece is going to walk through your door at any moment. The key to a successful consignment shop is an atmosphere that's clean, fresh and stylish, so you'll need a talent for display and merchandising. You should also have a good eye for quality as well as current fashion, and you'll want to know something about antiques and collectibles. And you'll need the savvy to properly price your merchandise so that shoppers get the discount they expect and you and your consignors make a profit. To complement all this, you'll need people skills, and last but definitely not least, you'll need the muscle--or the on-call assistance--to load heavy furniture onto your truck from consignees' homes and then from the truck into your shop, then back out to customers' vehicles.
The MarketYour customers will be the same sorts of people who shop at antiques stores and other home furnishings outlets. The trick is to attract their attention and sell them on the benefits of shopping with you. Besides routine advertising methods like local radio and newspaper ads, you can host furniture and collectibles shows or talks for local women's groups, give seminars or workshops on furniture design, antiques and collectibles for colleges and community centers, and hand out fliers in front of your shop. Shopper ads in your local Pennysaver-type publication are also a terrific advertising tool.
Needed EquipmentYou'll need a shop and not a whole lot else as far as display furnishings--a few glass cases for small collectibles should do it because you'll have plenty of tables and dressers on which to display larger items. You'll also need sales tickets and tags, a supply of shopping bags and tissue paper for wrapping collectibles, and a cash register. A computer with an inkjet printer and retail operation software will be a big help but aren't necessary for starters if you can't afford these things. Stock up on antiques and collectibles reference books; you'll also need a reliable pickup truck for collecting furniture from consignees' homes and a few furniture dollies and carts. In some states, it's illegal to sell used mattresses, so be sure to check with local authorities before doing so.