How to Start a Consignment Store

A consignment store sells goods for consignors – people who pay a fee to a store owner to sell their goods. Consignment stores may have niche items or may contain everything from kitchenware to clothing. Though starting a consignment store may sound easy, it takes a great deal of knowledge and money to start such a business. Creating a business plan before diving into starting a consignment shop will help ensure that you stick to guidelines and budgets in order to minimize the riskiness of your new business venture. It is important to know where you will be getting your inventory from. Unlike a regular retail store, you will not be able to get your inventory from popular retail suppliers. Your inventory will be coming from individuals who are trying to sell your products. Before agreeing to stock a certain item, you must be sure that you are likely to be able to sell the item for a large enough profit. Being able to negotiate favorable terms with consignors is an essential skill to have.

Learn how to start your own Consignment Store and whether it is the right fit for you.

Start a consignment store by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your consignment store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What are the costs involved in opening a consignment store?

Some of the costs involved in opening consignment stores are yearly, some may be monthly, and some may be weekly or even daily. Costs may include:

  • Permits and licenses for local, county and state, including certificate of occupancy and a sales tax certificate. If you sell soda and water at your store, even via a soda machine, you may have to have a permit for that.
  • The cost of the building, whether you purchase it or rent it.
  • The cost of revamping the interior and/or exterior of the building, if applicable.
  • Counters, shelving and other display units.
  • Marketing to buyers and consignors.
  • Office supplies.
  • Point of sale system.
  • Security system.

What are the ongoing expenses for a consignment store?

Ongoing expenses may include utilities, rent or mortgage, permits and licenses, payroll if you have employees, office supplies, and taxes. Taxes may include state, local, federal and sales tax. Of course, you need to pay the consignor his or her share of the item that sold.

Who is the target market?

A consignment store has two types of clients: consignors and buyers. Consignors are usually those who want to sell items they no longer need. Buyers are those looking for a deal on an item that might be out of their reach if they were to buy it new.

How does a consignment store make money?

A consignment store makes money by selling consignor's goods. The store may charge an upfront fee to show items, take a fixed percentage of each sale, or it may do both.

How much can you charge customers?

How much you charge depends on your product. In most cases, the items you have are used, so you will only be able to get so much for those items. Don't forget the amount you have to pay the consignor. That price needs to be agreed upon prior to you accepting the item. Consignment shops take between 25 percent to 60 percent of what the item sells for. Thus, if a person consigns a cocktail dress for $500, the consignment shop owner would get up to 60 percent of that cost, depending on what your agreement with the consignor is.

How much profit can a consignment store make?

Consignment stores generally charge from 25 percent to 60 percent of the sales price of a sold item.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Make your business more profitable by:

  • Helping your consignors properly price their items. For example, you wouldn't take in a bicycle that is worth $20 and try to sell it for $50, or it will just sit in the store.
  • Choose a fee that most people in your neighborhood will pay. Those in higher scale neighborhoods might be willing to pay up to 60 percent for a consignment fee, while other neighborhoods may pass by your store if the consignment fee is over 30 percent.
  • Don't skimp on advertising. Advertise to consignors and buyers alike.

By keeping prices within reason and advertising to obtain new inventory and new buyers, you should be able to make a highly profitable consignment store.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. If you don’t have a name in mind already, read our detailed guide on how to name a business or get some help brainstorming a name with our Consignment Store Business Name Generator.

Then, when registering a business name we recommend checking if the business name is available in your state, federally by doing a trademark search, searching the web, and making sure the name you choose is available as a web domain to secure it early so no one else can take it.

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account ( Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your consignment store is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

Check out the Top Business Formation Services from our friends at StartupSavant.

You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

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You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
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Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a consignment store. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Certificate of Occupancy

A consignment store is usually run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease office space:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a consignment store.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build office space:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your consignment store will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

STEP 7: Get Business Insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Learn more about General Liability Insurance.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.

Recommended: Learn what business insurance for your Consignment Store will cost.

Business Insurance for
Consignment Store

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

How to promote & market a consignment store

Promoting your consignment store business is second only to customer service. Use social media, send out fliers, and advertise on television if possible. When you do open, hold a grand opening to entice customers and consignors to come in and see your store. Word of mouth travels fast, whether it's good or bad, so keep that in mind while you are working with customers and consignors.

How to keep customers coming back

As part of your business plan, you should have researched the type of product that would do well, and whether you would set up as a niche boutique or start out with something less difficult to market. A niche boutique for a consignment shop can specialize things like selling sports equipment, dance equipment, hardware, etc. Attract customers by designing window scenes, offering discounts, or even holding a contest to win a product. Retain customers by treating them right. Regardless of what you chose and the caliber of customer, treat all of them like they are the richest and nicest person in the world.

STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Start A Consignment Store In Your State

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Is this Business Right For You?

A consignment store owner needs to know his or her limitations and must also do well with dealing with people. It is essential that you are able to negotiate business terms, as you will be working with consignors in addition to your customers. If you are not able to negotiate terms with consignors that will allow you to make a large profit off of selling their items, then you will not be able to cover your operating costs or make a profit.

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Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

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What happens during a typical day at a consignment store?

The owner of a consignment store has several duties to do, some every day and some a few times a week, including:

  • Cleaning the store
  • Straightening out inventory
  • Marketing the store via mail, e-mail, social media and other outlets
  • Locating new consignors
  • Customer service
  • Paying bills
  • Ordering office supplies, bags and other inventory needed to conduct business
  • Closing out sales
  • Notifying current consignors of sales and the need for new product
  • Paying consignors

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful consignment store?

You'll need a myriad of skills to build a successful business, or you'll need to have the means to hire and pay people who have those skills. Consignment store business skills include:

  • Customer service
  • Sales and marketing
  • Inventory management
  • Accounting
  • Money management
  • Employee management

What is the growth potential for a consignment store?

In the ideal location, a consignment store could show extensive growth as long as the city has many people who want to put their items on consignment and you have buyers that are willing to purchase those items. In certain areas, clothing may sell better than furniture, while in other areas, you may do well with non-clothing items, such as furniture and other home and garden items.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a consignment store?

The most important part of starting any business is to create a business plan and to research the neighborhood. To jump start a consignment store business, you should also:

  • Make sure you can fill your shelves before you open the doors.
  • Ensure that you have enough inventory to rotate through as you sell more, and that you have consignors lined up to sell their products.
  • Make sure your inventory is what those in your neighborhood are looking for.
  • Create an attractive store.
  • Keep smaller items near the cash register to encourage impulse purchases.
  • Partner with local businesses to drive sales to them while they drive sales to you.

How and when to build a team

When customer service starts pulling you away from completing administrative tasks, such as paying consignors, taking inventory, pricing goods, and accounting; or when customers are consistently waiting for you to finish with another customer, it's time to get some help in the store. If a customer has to wait, he or she may not come back to your store.

Read our consignment store hiring guide to learn about the different roles a consignment store typically fills, how much to budget for employee salaries, and how to build your team exactly how you want it.

Next Steps

Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Generator.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

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