Basic principles for running an antiques shop

Establishing and running an antique business in a physical shop is not a simple matter, but can be profitable if certain basic principles are addressed.

Location is the first consideration ….

One may wish to sell high end items but establishing a retail outlet must depend on the clientele that will either walk in the door or drive to visit, so understanding the people who live in a community is key to assessing both the buying and the spending power of the area.


Learning to ” cut your cloth” accordingly is fundamental to whatever business you start.


Knowing your stock is the second consideration…

There is nothing worse than selling items you cannot give at least some description as to …so Period, Age, Style, and Technique (PAST) are what you need to know…..after all,  everything has One! Research is the key …

Good books, and the ability to access information is imperative…the Internet is both a help, and a hindrance, at times.

If you are starting out, with little background then visiting fairs, markets, second-hand stores and local jumble and bric a brac places is a must.

Even if you are not interested in stocking an item, handling and understanding about all manner of things puts items into perspective …comparing old to new in all areas visually and actually handling them educates your brain and hand coordination in recognition of items…. Seeing how joints are made on furniture, glass is molded or blown, silver is hammered, or plated are all parts of a learning curve that will add knowledge you may need at some point.

Always ask questions of others, even if it seems ridiculous, don’t be afraid to question and ask, but choose your mentors wisely, those with good experience, and knowledge will share the interest if you ask intelligent questions.


Have a good storage area or space and an interesting shop layout.

Everything in cabinets does not allow folk to handle or ask things… Always have a good ” rummage area” a box of interesting items which enables you to engage in conversation with folk, so they can fiddle and talk to you easily… Display items in colours, or subjects, or sections…have a section where men feel happy to look at bits, and one for ladies with pretty items perhaps…and always have a box with items that are pocket money pieces,  so the customers feel happy that they can purchase something, even its small….. Fossils, watch parts, buttons, badges, beer mats, postcards.

Anything that has age and interest….

Fourthly …

Get to know your customers, ….if you have regular folk who pop in, find them something in their  collecting field, or better still talk to them about something you have seen, read about or watched that shows them that they have been thought about…there  is nothing better for customer relations than to be able to bring out a special box of items that you have kept back for them… Having ” first dibs” on an item is special!

Fifthly ….

Advertise…drop leaflets, give out fliers, leave handouts in hotels …do whatever you can to bring folk to you…and make their time special when they call or visit.

Coffee and biscuits if they want to spend an hour or more!


Offer financial terms to suit your clientele… ” layaway” with a deposit and interest-free payments for three months. … Discount


for multiple purchases or cash but not on using a card.?… If it’s your own stock even consider part exchange on items they may have and no longer want, for something different you have… I’ve found this often works to my advantage.

Finally… Have fun….!

Be professional but always approachable, be firm on your prices and be clear about discounts you may offer. Buy and sell with integrity, because your name on the shop is your reputation….

Antiques are about trust, reputation, and understanding…not about money.

Folk will come back to you if they trust you, if you are honest and if you are reliable., the money will then follow…..

I’m now selling to the grandchildren of my original customers…so it must work somewhere!

Helen Chugg


Hi, I’m Helen Chugg, Antique Dealer and lecturer….. I trade and  I teach antiques to students and mature College folk, and having been doing so for over 30 years.
I sell through a physical shop in Barnstaple, Devon, England with all my own stock and have been trading locally in this way, also doing  international markets and fairs.  I have an eclectic and varied stock at Selected Antiques & Trinkets on Facebook ..and in the Talking Antiques shop, using the same name.
Our ever changing range of small, interesting and unusual items spans all periods of history, and items range from mid range antique gold and contemporary silver jewellery to an assortment of toys, collectables, ephemera, pottery , porcelain and glass.
You can find me on Facebook and here is my Talking Antiques Shop