Sourcing the Right Vintage Clothing for Your Boutique

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

If you have a passion for vintage clothing, opening your own boutique shop, either online, in a traditional brick-and-mortar retail store, or both, can provide you the opportunity to turn your passion for fashion into a rewarding, lucrative entrepreneurial career. Your store can benefit from carrying a wide selection of items, including accessories such as jewelry. But the product that catches the eyes of potential patrons and draws them inside your shop is usually a beautiful dress or other vintage clothing outfit. Therefore, it is important to know where and how to source top-notch vintage clothing.

Where to Find Inventory

Individuals, rather than a wholesale supplier, can often be good sources for inventory. Hand out your business cards liberally, and ask people to give you a call the next time they’re cleaning out their mother’s or grandmother’s closet.

Yard sales are a possible source, although you may have to check out dozens before you find something you want. Train yourself to move through them quickly and efficiently. Remember you’re working for your business, and avoid getting distracted by a collection of Beatles’ records.

Seek out and establish relationships with companies that do “clean outs” or whole house liquidations following a death. Make the effort to build good relationships with them, and they may be willing to let you pick through the clothes before an estate auction or sale.

If you can’t get a look beforehand, go to the estate auction or sale. You may be able to find a website such as AuctionZip.com that provides convenient listings of vintage clothing auctions near you. However, be wary with auction bidding; sometimes active bidding drives prices up to levels beyond what can be considered “wholesale.” Make sure to thoroughly check the condition of the items before bidding.

Don’t neglect checking out thrift stores and “rag houses”, which are textile recycling centers that accept shipments of overstock clothing from charitable organizations.

What to Stock

Be selective in what you feature in your boutique. Some shop owners carry a mix of truly vintage clothing and what is termed “retro,” or very distinctive fashion styles from just a few years ago.

You can attract more attention and enhance customer loyalty by establishing a strong brand identity for your store. For example, you might specialize in Victorian era or 1960s clothing, or be known for carrying clothing by a specific designer, such as Coco Chanel.

Daryn Belinsky, owner of the Etsy shop, Little Light Vintage, advises shop owners that the way to stand out on shopping sites such as Etsy or eBay is to be consistently true to their own personal taste, which naturally gives their store a distinctive look. Following that advice on how to approach stocking your boutique is also much easier than attempting to chase after every rapidly changing trend in vintage clothing.

Marketing Tips

Along with paid advertising and using other traditional techniques to generate traffic to your online e-commerce shop or real-world boutique, social media is an excellent, low-cost avenue for getting the word out. With clothing, visually oriented platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are prime marketing channels.

References & Resources

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