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15 growth hacks for your vintage-selling business
Photos: Jasmin Chew/Pexels

15 growth hacks for your vintage-selling business


Growing vintage slinging into a sustainable business takes planning and dedication. Here's how you can kick your shop into high gear

When it comes to running a business, we always want to do more.

That’s true of resellers — 73 per cent of people who run a vintage business part-time say there is a big gap between what they want to do versus what they have time to do, according to a recent informal survey of our Instagram followers.

And with the same survey indicating that more than 50 per cent of a full-time seller’s schedule is devoted to sourcing, listing and inventory management, there’s limited time to commit to improving and or even developing other business operations.

So we corralled our followers’ feedback into 15 ways to streamline, grow or otherwise expand your vintage selling business that you can tackle as your schedule allows. If you missed our Six Time Management Tips for Vintage Sellers, check them out before reading the below — you might just find you have the capacity to take on a new goal or two!

1. Organize and manage your inventory.

Everyone needs to figure out their own system when it comes to inventory storage. One way is to install open shelving to store items so you can easily see what you have on hand.

If clutter makes it hard to clear your head, make them enclosed cabinets. Or use clear, stackable bins, especially for foldable clothing or smalls.

Bins and/or hanging racks can be used to divide clothes into “to be repaired,” “to be cleaned,” “to be photographed” and “to be shipped” piles. Organizing by type of product and then by colour can help to easily access items as you are planning drops, images or collections.

Ideally, items will be stored at room temperature in a humidity-controlled area, but if you need to use a basement or garage, consider investing in a dehumidifier to ward off dampness, or in additional insulation to protect from major temperature changes, which can compromise the integrity of vintage products.

Keep separate bins for seasonal items that you can store away until a more appropriate time to sell. If you’re in a small space without a lot of space to dedicate to storage (i.e., a condo) but you have a lot of inventory, see if there’s an additional storage unit available in your building, or even a unit somewhere off site that you could split with someone.

If you’re finding storage solutions cost-prohibitive, assess your inventory and make sure it’s what really works for you. Maybe you’d be best suited to doing smaller collections that you can curate over time. Managing inventory amounts can also help to hone in on what you really want your brand to be.

“As an antique/vintage dealer, I try to have quality over quantity regarding inventory,” said one seller in our survey.

2. Track your sales.

If you’re just starting out or selling casually, create a simple spreadsheet to keep track of what sells. If there are pieces in your inventory that have been there for months or years (whatever your personal threshold is for turnover), make note of them.

The next time you’re out sourcing, you’ll have a better idea of what your customers are looking for — and what they aren’t. Having that information at the back of your mind can help swing decisions if you are undecided on whether or not to add an item to your stock.

More established sellers or those with retail spaces may want to investigate more involved sales tracking and customer relationship management (CRM) or point-of-sale (POS) systems. With the nature of vintage and secondhand items, no two sales are the exact same, so traditional management platforms may need to be modified.

A built-in wall unit with shelves covered in books, vases, and tableware with flamingo-patterned wallpaper visible behind.
Photo: Maria Orlova/Pexels

3. Develop and understand your customer personas.

The more you can hone in on your customer profile, the better differentiated you’ll be in the market. Just because something’s popular right now doesn’t mean it’s what your particular customers are looking for.

Think about the customers you interact with the most. Who are they? What are their ages and demographics? What are their likes and dislikes? What is their personal style? Write all of this down in a digital note or on paper, and keep referring to it when you are making decisions that affect your brand.

Shut out the noise of what everyone else is doing and selling and focus on the people who have actually been buying your products and/or engaging with your content. One seller who participated in our survey says they focus their inventory on items they’d only want in their own home. That helps them find like-minded buyers.

4. Streamline your photography process.

We discussed the idea of batch working in our time management article. But if you list on an ongoing or daily basis, take photos as soon as new pieces come in and post them online.

If you’re on more of a regular drop schedule, plan to photograph products in batches. Let a reasonable amount of pieces accumulate — this may require some trial and error depending how long it takes you to photograph your items.

To streamline your process, consider setting up a dedicated photo area where the background stays fairly consistent. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel on setups all the time — yes, it’s fun to do, but unless it is integral to your brand to shoot creatively or editorially every time, give yourself some space on this one.

Your customers are likely following you because they like your taste, and they’re okay with the background being the same in photos. They’re looking at the products. A consistent background is especially valuable if you’re selling on a website and want the focus to be on the product itself, not everything else around it.

If you have enough room to leave your photography setup in place, do that so you don’t have to take it down every time. Even if you have to dismantle it after every shoot, having a set number of elements makes it easier to be consistent every time. The same patch of floor, the same piece of wall, the same plant as an accent.

Shoot at roughly the same time of day or evening to achieve more consistency and make editing easier. You don’t have to invest in fancy lighting and backgrounds — some simple Bristol board and an inexpensive ring light are good ways to get started. Expedite editing by using Photoshop or another app where you can pre-set and save edits to create a batch process.

5. Plan drops based on space and time.

If you’re selling online, drops take different forms. Maybe you trickle out listings as they come in, or you release batches of products at one time.

Whether you’re looking to schedule more regular drops or explore the idea of themed drops or collections, think about what will work best for you and your customers. Themed drops could be seasonal, by colour, by style, by theme, by mood, etc.

Poll your audience on the platforms you use the most (i.e. using Instagram or Facebook Stories), or reach out to some of your best clients to ask them directly what they prefer. Then create a realistic schedule and stick to it.

Start smaller than what you think you’ll be able to do, so you can add on as needed, and so that you don’t overpromise. Consistency is key when building up a regular client base.

6. Grow your audience.

If gaining more followers or expanding your customer list is a priority, set aside a chunk of time each week dedicated to just that.

Create your own “Follow Friday” and use time that day to follow other sellers. Learn how to stitch together Instagram Reels, spontaneously go live for your followers to show them a new haul, or take some time to explore TikTok to see if it’s a fit for your brand.

If you do paid advertising, visit your insights dashboard to see what types of posts or products have performed well — and then plan to do more of those.

One survey respondent said they want to share more of the interior styling from their own home as a way to connect with their audience. Just keep building that online presence. “High-quality images and being creative with the Reels,” is a perennial goal of another seller.

7. Build your vision.

One thing survey respondents said they don’t have enough time for is planning. There’s an easy fix: Plan to plan.

That’s right: just like with everything else, you need to schedule blocks of time for planning if you want to continue growing your business. Maybe it’s once a month, maybe it’s weekly, but pencil in an uninterrupted block to delve into some deep thinking about what you want to do — and how you’re going to get there.

Goal-setting is an important exercise, and can help make an overarching plan much more manageable.

Choose a few goals (three or four for a year is achievable) and document in writing, via voice memo or on a vision board how you are going to achieve them.

How often will you measure your progress, and your success? Plan check-ins for yourself by adding them to your calendar or scheduling tool so that you can determine if you’re on the right track to getting each one completed.

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8. Create a website.

A shared goal among several survey respondents was to develop a shoppable website to list products.

There are several advantages to having your own website as a vintage seller, including retaining more of the profits for yourself (if you use an e-commerce platform like Shopify, there will be some fees) than some of the available buy-and-sell marketplaces or apps.

With a website, you have a permanent home that clients can bookmark and return to. It can lead to more passive sales as people find the site organically.

And, if you’re advertising a new website drop on social media, it’s more streamlined for the buyer to click your link in bio and check your website rather than refresh your social media page waiting for you to post more items.

Buyers don’t need to compete in the post comments or direct messages, and, similarly, the seller doesn’t have to keep on top of any of that. If someone wants the item, they can add it to the cart.

A website is a place where you can continue to expand your business. One seller in our survey said their business goal is to create a website, and then develop a service-based offering as an add-on to their product sales. Service-based offerings might be styling services, branding, or something else entirely.

Check out more ideas in our post on 5 Ways to Expand Your Vintage-Selling Brand.

9. Establish a newsletter.

If you’re looking for new ways to engage with your audience, consider a newsletter.

Newsletters help your customers stay on top of the latest news and information about your business — collaborations, events, markets, pop-ups, retail openings, new products or collections and whatever else you want to include that helps them get to know you.

It’s another touchpoint for clients to connect with you and build brand affinity. Newsletter sign-up forms are also a good way to start collecting more data on your customers. (And, if you have a website, you can promote newsletter signups there.)

10. Explore new platforms to sell your products.

Instagram’s been under fire recently for its changing algorithm — the platform is favouring big-bucks ad spends and, as a result, engagement for many of the small businesses that use the platform for marketing is way down.

So what about other platforms like Poshmark? One survey respondent mentioned one of their goals is to move to Etsy as a selling platform and use Pinterest to drive traffic.

For more options, check out our article highlighting some of the pros and cons of various online selling platforms.

A woman with a snake tattoo on her forearm sitting in a green wooden chair while holding a camera in front of her face.
Photo: Jasmin Chew/Pexels

11. Assess, refine and template your listings.

Examine what information you’re including. It might be faster to tag a clothing item “small, medium, large,” but many buyers shopping online are looking for proper measurements, particularly because vintage sizing can be so different from modern sizing.

This goes for furniture, too. Most people need to know the measurements to ensure a piece will fit in their space, so include it in the listing. You may find you get more serious inquiries when you do.

It takes more time, but your buyers will likely appreciate it — and it saves you from answering all the questions in the DMs asking what the measurements are.

Accuracy is important. “Be authentic and honest about product flaws,” advised one seller. If there is damage or a flaw, include a close up so that the buyer can make an informed decision. It builds credibility for your business.

And if you’re using a filter on your photos, make it clear in the caption and include the original image with the product in natural light at the end of your gallery. Or let buyers know they can request the original photo.

Once you’ve decided what information to offer in your listing, set up a template so that you can include the same specifications every time. It’s easier for the seller to move through listing more quickly with a template, and it’s easier for the buyer to scan a new listing if they know where all the most relevant information is going to be.

12. Make a sourcing or delivery map.

Here’s an easy one: To easily communicate your delivery area to buyers, sketch out a quick map of your boundary area using Google Maps that you can post on your social media and selling platforms.

Make it really easy for customers to find information about delivery boundaries, pickup instructions and shipping rates.

You can also create a sourcing map for your own personal use by dropping pins on some of your favourite spots to source, along with new places you want to try. Next time that you find yourself in a different part of town, check your map to see what’s around there.

Read about a cool vintage spot outside your local area? Drop a pin there too so the next time you plan a road trip, you remember where it was you wanted to go.

13. Attend events and markets in your area.

Whether it’s a vintage market or a pop-up for local businesses, community events are a fantastic way to get your brand out there and meet other sellers and potential buyers. Even if you decide not to run your own booth, attend events to shop, get ideas for your own business, and chat to community members.

There also may be opportunities at local events to give your business strategy a longer tail.

One survey respondent shared that creating upcycled accessories is a current goal — perhaps there’s a way to supplement your vintage business by mixing vintage products with modern ones, or bringing in cards or gifts by local artisans.

Doing so may open up a new category of your business that enables you to join other community events that are not vintage focused.

14. Foster and maintain relationships.

Whether we’re talking about relationships with other sellers or the ones you forge with your clients, building your network will always help to grow your business.

It’s also a key component of client satisfaction and stellar customer service, both of which were important to many of the sellers who responded to the survey.

Find other sellers in your local and the online community to collaborate with. You never know what ideas you might come up with! Make a point to check in with them regularly, not just when you want something.

15. Prioritize your community, but don’t forget yourself.

“Community over competition” is a common refrain on social media. It’s a bit trite, but it’s true. There’s space for everyone, and you’ll find that more and more as you drill down into what makes your brand unique.

Supporting others in the business and being kind to clients goes a long way, and will always benefit you in building a credible reputation.

If a fellow seller has a question, try to answer it or refer them to someone they can talk to. Share accounts you love in your Stories. You may find that goodwill delivered back to you, so that people think of you first when it comes time to collaborate on a giveaway or video.

But if you’re always giving and not getting anything back, it’s okay to step back from relationships that aren’t benefiting you. Remember to check in with yourself. “Make sure you’re enjoying it!” said one seller. “If it becomes too burdensome, you’ll start to resent the work.”

Another routinely asks themselves three crucial questions: “1. Am I having fun? 2. Is selling this item profitable? 3. Am I following my heart and my gut?”

For more ways to grow your business that focus on brand extensions, check out our post 5 Ways to Expand Your Vintage-Selling Brand.

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