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Setting up an Antique Business

All you need to know about starting and running your business

Business guides » Setting up an Antique Business

What is an Antique Business?

An antique is an item that has value because of its historical significance or age. To be classed as an antique, the items typically need to be at least 100 years old. Items that are less than 100 years old are classed as being vintage or retro. Antiques often show strong craftsmanship, collectability and attention to detail. They are usually made from strong, desirable or valuable materials and often represent the decorative arts.

Antiques have enhanced value because of their age, with the time period or era the item comes from having a significant impact on the perceived value. Antiques also have aesthetic, historical and financial value.

To be classed as an antique, the item should not have been mass-produced and readily available. For example, mass production became increasingly common in the mid-1800s. Even though mass-produced items from this time are more than 100 years old, they are usually not collectable because they are not considered rare and unique. To be considered an antique, the item will likely be artistically or historically significant.

Antiques are collected or desired because of multiple factors, such as:

  • Age.
  • Historical significance.
  • Beauty or aesthetic.
  • Rarity.
  • Condition (e.g. still packaged or in mint condition).
  • Unique features.
  • The quality of the craftsmanship or the item as a whole.


Antique items can come from any country around the world, including from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Many different items can be considered antiques, including furniture, clocks, cars, works of art, ceramics, pottery and jewellery. Antique items can be made from many different types of material, including marble, glass, ceramic, wood, metal (e.g. gold or silver), textile, clay and stone. They may also feature precious gems (such as diamonds or sapphires) and be highly ornate or decorative, for example with intricate carvings.

Many antiques represent or are associated with a specific time period in human history, including the following periods:

  • Medieval.
  • Renaissance.
  • Tudor.
  • Victorian.
  • Georgian.
  • Edwardian.
  • Empire.
  • Regency.
  • Art Nouveau.
  • Art Deco.
  • Chippendale.
  • Ming Dynasty.
  • Wing Dynasty.
  • Qing Dynasty.


If you are thinking of starting up an antique business, a skill you will need to have is the ability to identify the antique, the place and time period it came from and its likely value. Sometimes, antiques feature markers or symbols that can help you identify the place and date it was manufactured. For example, the item may feature a hallmark, a maker’s mark or a tag or label. Where possible, an antique should be in original condition with few or no modern alterations.

There are many different ways to run an antique business, including restoring, purchasing and selling antiques. One of the first considerations you will need to make when setting up your business is the type of antique business you want to focus on.

Some of your options include:

  • An antique shop business: This is a retail shop that specialises in selling antiques and collectable items. An antique shop can operate in-person or online. Antique shops sometimes also offer a restoration service.
  • An antique auction business: Antique auctions feature antiques and collectables that can be bid on, either in person, over the phone or online. The auction is overseen by an auctioneer and can take place in one set location or operate as a travelling auction.
  • An antique restoration business: Antique restoration focuses on restoring antique objects back to their original condition. The aim is to retain the quality and value of the item. Restoration can be painstaking. In many cases, restoration involves carefully cleaning the objects using specialist materials.
  • An antique dealing business: Antique dealers buy and sell antique objects and collector items. The antiques can be bought and sold in many different ways, including from markets, auctions, salesrooms, car boot sales and private owners.


There are many responsibilities associated with running an antique business. The day-to-day responsibilities can vary, depending on the type of antique business you set up.

However, some examples of the types of tasks you can expect to be responsible for include:

  • Visiting auctions, auction houses, markets, antique shops, car boot sales, trade fairs and meeting with private clients and collectors.
  • Purchasing antique items from different sources, including auctions, salesrooms, markets, private owners and other sources.
  • Meeting potential clients.
  • Negotiating prices and sales.
  • Assessing and analysing each object carefully.
  • Researching each object to identify it, including identifying the background, country of origin and time period.
  • Determining the value of each object.
  • Acquiring antique items.
  • Selling antique items to collectors, members of the public, businesses and establishments.
  • Valuing items for insurance purposes and communicating with and providing documentation to the insurance provider.
  • Carrying out minor restoration work and cleaning.
  • Carefully packaging items for postage, collection or courier transport.
  • Maintaining a high level of knowledge of antiques, their origins and their worth.
  • Keeping up to date with antique trends.
  • Carrying out product preparation, e.g. for a potential buyer.
  • Advising and assisting clients and providing guidance.
  • Communicating with sellers and buyers on multiple channels, including in-person, over the phone and online.
  • Safely and correctly storing antique items.
  • Providing detailed information about each antique item.
  • Creating and maintaining advantageous professional relationships, e.g. with auction houses.
  • Handling bids, orders, payments, receipts and invoices.
  • Handling collections and deliveries.
  • Managing inventory and maintaining accurate records.
  • Managing staff (if applicable).
  • Keeping accurate records.
  • Managing your website (if relevant).
  • Ensuring your business complies with all health and safety regulations and legal guidelines.
  • Ensuring the cleanliness of your premises (if relevant).
  • Marketing and advertising.
  • Completing business and administrative tasks.


Starting up an antique business can be both financially lucrative and personally rewarding. To help your business succeed, certain personal qualities and skills can be extremely advantageous. This includes in-depth knowledge and experience of antiques from different countries and time periods, good negotiating skills and excellent communication skills. You will also need the ability to pay attention to detail and be thorough in your analysis of each object.

Types of Customers

The types of customers that are likely to use the services of your business can be wide-ranging and vary, depending on multiple factors.

Determining your target market more precisely can be very beneficial as it makes it easier to focus on the specific customers who are most likely to use the services of your business and determine exactly where and how to market your business.

Some factors that can determine your typical client base include:

The type of antique business you set up

This is an important factor in determining your typical customer base. For example, if you set up an antique restoration business, your typical clients will differ compared to if you set up an antique auction house. When setting up your business consider the services you offer (e.g. buying, selling or cleaning antiques) and who is most likely to use your services.

The types of antiques you specialise in

Some antique businesses choose not to specialise their business and instead offer a wide range of antique items from different time periods and countries of origin. However, other businesses opt to specialise, for example by focusing on a specific type of antique (e.g. antique jewellery), a specific time period (e.g. items from the French Renaissance), or items from a specific country or area of the world (e.g. antiques from Eastern Asia). By opting to specialise your business, you can become an expert in your chosen field, grow your skills and reputation and develop a specific client base. However, not specialising your business and choosing to trade many different types of antiques opens your business to a wider customer base. Consider how your speciality (or lack of speciality) could affect your typical client base.

Your primary selling or operating strategy

This is another important factor. There are multiple ways you can choose to buy or sell antiques, including:

  • In-person.
  • Online.
  • Via auction.
  • Directly to the public and private collectors.
  • To other antique businesses and auction houses.


The way you choose to buy or sell antiques and operate your business will have a significant impact on the types of customers that are likely to use your services.

The value of the item

Antique items can vary significantly in value. For example, rare, highly valuable antiques have sold for more than £60 million ($80.2 million), whereas other antiques can sell for less than £100. You may specialise in antiques of a specific value, and this could impact your business’s typical customer base. Passionate collectors with more money are likely to purchase antiques of a higher value whereas amateur collectors or members of the general public who don’t consider themselves collectors are more likely to purchase items of a lower price point.

The reputation of your business

The renown of your business (how well known it is within antique circles) and your business’s reputation can depend on multiple factors, including:

  • The quality of the antiques.
  • The value of the items.
  • The client’s experience of working with your business.
  • How you interacted and communicated with your clients.
  • Your collection or delivery process.
Antique Business Cartoon
Antique Item Cartoon
Antique Cartoon

Equipment You Will Need

Equipment is an essential purchase, as without it you will not be able to run your business. The type of equipment you require will depend on the type of antique business you set up. For example, an antique auction house will have different equipment requirements compared to an antique shop.

Some of the equipment you may need for your antique business includes:

Humidity control equipment

Controlling the humidity in your shop or storage area is essential, particularly if you work with antique ceramics, pottery or artwork. Any dramatic changes in temperature or humidity can cause chemical and physical changes to the antique item. You will need equipment that stabilises the room at 50% humidity (+/- 5%). If you are working with pottery that has previously been buried (e.g. in an archaeological site), it will need to be stored at a consistently low humidity level.

Some pieces of equipment you can purchase to help you control the humidity levels in your antique business include:

  • A humidifier: A humidifier is a device that releases water vapour or steam into the air to increase moisture levels (humidity). There are many different types of humidifiers, including central humidifiers, ultrasonic humidifiers, evaporators and impeller humidifiers.
  • A dehumidifier: A dehumidifier is a device that removes water from the air to reduce the humidity. It sucks air from the room, removes the moisture and blows the air back out.
  • A humidistat: A humidistat is a device that is used to automatically regulate the humidity. The device measures the humidity in a space and automatically turns a humidifier or dehumidifier on or off based on the desired humidity setting.


Temperature control equipment

Similarly to controlling the humidity, you also need to control the temperature in any area where antiques such as ceramics, pottery, artwork and furniture are stored.

There are many different ways you can implement climate control in your business, such as:

  • A HVAC system: A heating, ventilation and air conditioning system can be used to heat and cool the room and improve the indoor air quality. It acts as a type of climate control system to ensure the rooms are always at the correct temperature.
  • An automatic thermostat: This device automatically measures the temperature of the room. If the room falls below or rises above the desired temperature, it will automatically turn on the HVAC system.


An air purifier

An air purifier removes contaminants from the air in a room. It is designed to improve the air quality, eliminate chemicals and reduce the likelihood of mould. An air purifier will filter dirty or contaminated air and release purified air into the room.

A payment system

The type of payment system you require will depend on your primary selling strategy. For example, if you accept in-person sales, you will likely require a Point-of-Sale (POS) system with a cash till. If you sell your antiques online, you may require an online payment system.

Transport vehicles

If you offer a delivery option or need to transport antiques from a seller or to an auction, you will need a delivery vehicle. Depending on the size of the antiques (e.g. furniture or large artwork) a van may be recommended. To help your business gain exposure, you should also install adhesive door and body panels with your business name and logo, your contact information and the typical services you offer.

A computer/laptop and a Wi-Fi system

A computer can be used for running your antique business’s website and social media. You can also manage your online orders, organise deliveries and advertise your antiques and any services you offer. A computer can also be used for business and administrative tasks, such as ordering stock and doing your accounts. You will also need a Wi-Fi system to enable you to use your computer or laptop online.

A website

A website is useful for advertising your antique business and will likely act as your primary selling strategy (if you operate an online store). Your website should contain photographs and detailed descriptions and information about the antiques (e.g. origin, time period, condition). It should also feature the price or an option to contact your business to discuss the price. It should also show the areas and locations you offer delivery to and your customer reviews. Your website may also feature an option to order online. Design your website to include your business logo and to reflect your branding.

A business phone

A business phone will enable you to communicate with your clients and be contacted by potential clients. Your business phone number should be advertised on your website, your delivery vehicles and any leaflets or business cards you use.

A camera

A camera is necessary for taking high-quality photos of your antiques. To ensure your photos are of high quality and show any decorative or ornamental features, you will need a high-quality, reliable camera.

The camera you choose will depend on multiple factors, such as:

  • Your budget.
  • The type of photos and videos you plan to take.
  • Where you plan to post or publish the photos.


Business cards

Business cards can be used for advertisement purposes and handed out to clients and potential clients. The business cards should include your business name and logo, the services you offer, your location and your contact information.

An email service

Setting up your own email service using your own domain may be beneficial as your business grows. A business domain can make your business seem more professional and official. Using a public email domain such as @google or @hotmail can look less professional compared to using your own business domain, for example, @antiqueslikenew. You will need to make sure your email service is fully secure and encrypted and abides by email security policies in the UK.

Electronic signature tool

To create a faster and more streamlined service, you will need an electronic signature (e-sign) tool. Having this tool will save you a significant amount of time compared to physically mailing each document when a signature is required (e.g. when you need an auctioneer’s signature). An e-sign tool allows you to email documents that need signing and receive an electronic signature immediately. Electronic signatures are legally recognised in the UK.

Antique Shop Equipment

An antique shop can operate in-person (a retail store), online or both. Some of the equipment you may require for an antique shop includes:

Object display units

If you run an in-person antique shop, you will need to display the antiques carefully (to prevent any damage) and in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Some ways you can choose to display your antiques include:

  • Strong sturdy shelving.
  • Display cabinets.
  • Glass-fronted display cases.
  • Locked glass containers or cabinets.


A cashier desk

This is the area where your customers will bring their items to pay or consult with staff. The desk should offer a degree of separation between your staff and the customers, which helps to ensure your employees’ safety and reduces the likelihood of theft from your cash till.

Your cashier desk may require:

  • A barcode reader.
  • A cash register and Point-of-Sale system (POS).
  • A receipt printer and receipt rolls.
  • A counterfeit money detector.
  • A stapler.
  • A telephone.
  • An alarm button or panic button.
  • Business cards.
  • Pens.



There are multiple types of signage you will need for your antique store, including:

  • Shop front signage (with your business name and logo).
  • Opening hours signs.
  • Pricing signs.
  • Promotional signs.


Ensure your signs are attractive and eye-catching, that they fit your business’s brand and aesthetic and that they clearly demonstrate the type of shop you are running.

Safety equipment

Some of the safety equipment your business may require includes:

  • Fire extinguishers.
  • Wet floor signs.
  • First aid kits.


A CCTV system

Because you will be storing expensive antiques, CCTV can protect your business from potential break-ins and theft. CCTV can also protect your business in the event of an injury or accident or if an antique becomes damaged and can provide vital footage to the police if a theft or incident occurs in your shop. You can choose the specification of the equipment and how many cameras you require.

A safe

If your store accepts cash, you will need a safe as a way of safely storing the cash from your till at the end of the day. You can also keep extra change in your safe in case your cash register runs out of change during the working day.


You may not choose to keep all of your antiques on the shop floor, particularly if they are fragile or valuable. You may need storage equipment to allow you to safely store items in your dedicated storage areas. Your storage areas will need to be temperature controlled and free from potential contaminants. Your storage area will likely include shelving, secure storage containers (e.g. with locks) and temperature and humidity control equipment.

Cleaning equipment

Keeping all areas of your shop clean is imperative. You will likely need different cleaning materials for different parts of your shop. You may need to invest in cloths, sponges, antibacterial surface cleaners, bleach, sanitiser, dishwashing soap and a sweeping brush and mop.

Packaging equipment

For transporting any antiques, you will need to ensure they are carefully packaged, particularly if they are fragile or valuable. You will need to ensure your packaging is sturdy and protective with added layers for extra protection. You must also ensure the packaging itself doesn’t cause any damage to the antiques.

Some packaging you could use includes:

  • Crates and pallets.
  • Foam cushioning.
  • Bubble wrap.
  • Large, sturdy boxes.
  • Packaging paper (to prevent bubble wrap from touching the surface of artwork or wooden antiques).
  • Moving straps and ropes.


Shipping labels

If you operate your business online or offer a delivery option for your antiques, you will need to attach shipping labels.

These labels will need to include:

  • Customer name.
  • Customer address.
  • The business name and address.
  • The shipping method.
  • The package’s weight.
  • A scannable bar code (if relevant).
  • A clear label stating the package is fragile and contains antiques.


Antique Restoration Equipment

If you set up an antique restoration business or offer a restoration or cleaning service as part of your business, you will need specific equipment to operate your business. You will need different equipment depending on the type of antique you are restoring.

Some of the equipment you may require includes:

  • Respirator masks.
  • Safety goggles.
  • High-quality work gloves.
  • Clamps (to hold the object in place).
  • Good quality paintbrushes.
  • Tack cloths.
  • Lint removers.
  • Wax polish.
  • Furniture polish.
  • Wood liming kit.
  • Scrapers.
  • Measuring tools.
  • Chisels.
  • Sanding tools.
  • Glue injectors.
  • Dowels and rivets.
  • Laser welder.
  • Buffing tools.
  • Jewellery pliers.
  • Goldsmiths hammer.
  • Link removal kit (e.g. for watches and bracelets).
  • Jewellery polishing bar.
  • Ceramic soldering board.
  • Needle files.
  • Ring clamp and wedge.
  • Jewellers screwdrivers.
  • Airbrush.
  • Chemical consolidants.


Antique Cleaning Equipment

There are many instances where you may be required to clean the antiques you buy, sell or restore.

To ensure you don’t damage or alter the item in any way, you will need to use specialist cleaning materials, such as:

  • Respirator masks.
  • Safety goggles.
  • High-quality gloves.
  • Soft cloths (e.g. microfibre cloths).
  • Small hoovers with muslin-covered heads.
  • Glass fibre brushes.
  • Rubber burrs.
  • Needles.
  • Electric vibro-tools.
  • Polishing creams (without oil, grease, bleach or other additives).
  • Solvents.
  • Cotton buds.


Antique Dealer Equipment

If you set up an antique dealer business, you will need to buy equipment that allows you to transport antiques to and from buyers and sellers. If you sell antiques at antique fairs and other events, you will also need equipment that allows you to display the items.

Some equipment you may need for your antique dealer business includes:

  • A vehicle.
  • A portable payment system.
  • Packaging materials.
  • A laptop.
  • A market stall.
  • Display boards.
  • Pricing signs.


As well as the equipment listed above, you may also need to purchase antique objects and collectable items to sell to clients.

Some of the antiques you may choose to purchase or trade in could include:


Furniture is one of the most popular types of antique items. Antique furniture represents the style and features of the time period it was made. The furniture may be useable (e.g. for sitting or storage) or may be used for display purposes only. Some antique furniture is also collectable because of its religious or symbolic significance.

Some furniture items you could stock in your antique business could include:

  • Chairs, including dining chairs, desk chairs, armchairs, settees and chaise lounges.
  • Tables, including card tables, side tables, writing tables, tea tables and dining tables.
  • Bureaus and dressers.
  • Lamps.
  • Bookcases.
  • Mirrors.
  • Cupboards and wardrobes.
  • Sideboards.
  • Chests of drawers.
  • Clocks.



Antique cars, also known as classic cars, are different to other antique items as cars are considered antique once they exceed 45 years of age. Antique cars are considered collectable items and can be extremely valuable, as long as they are still in good physical condition and the engine can run. Although any car made before 1978 would be considered a classic, certain makes and models are more valuable than others.

The most valuable classic car makes are:

  • Ferrari.
  • Aston Martin.
  • Mercedes-Benz.
  • Jaguar.
  • Alfa Romeo.
  • McLaren.


Ceramics and pottery

Ceramics and pottery can be the most valuable type of antique, depending on the age and origin. The most expensive antique ever sold was a Pinner Qing Dynasty vase from the 17th century that sold for $80.2 million in 2010. Ceramic and pottery antiques are usually highly ornate and decorative and are considered beautiful and unique. To retain their value, they will need to be in good physical condition with no or very minor imperfections and no damage.

Some antique ceramic and pottery items you could trade in your antique business are:

  • Vases.
  • Bowls.
  • Dishes and plates.
  • Ornaments.
  • Jugs.
  • Earthenware, stoneware and slipware items.
  • Porcelain items.



To be classified as a valuable antique, the artwork should be identifiable by the artist, country of origin and year or time period the artwork was created.

Some antique artworks you could trade in include:

  • Paintings.
  • Drawings.
  • Photographs.



Antique jewellery is usually valuable because any jewellery that was made more than 100 years ago was usually handmade and is often individual or unique, making the item rare. Vintage jewellery may be made from precious metals, such as gold or silver, and feature precious jewels, such as diamonds, emeralds, sapphires or rubies or decorative pearls.

Some antique jewellery includes:

  • Necklaces.
  • Rings.
  • Earrings.
  • Bracelets.
  • Brooches.
  • Watches and pocket watches.
  • Hair pins.
Antique Business

Typical Costs

When you are planning your antique business, you will need to calculate the approximate costs associated with setting up and running this type of business. Calculating your typical costs allows you to estimate your initial investment requirements, any monthly and annual costs, your pricing strategy, your profit goals and your acceptable profit margins.

There are multiple costs associated with setting up and running an antique business. Some of these costs will be one-off initial costs that you will need to pay when you are setting up your business. Other costs will be ongoing costs you will need to pay regularly – usually weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.

Although the typical costs can vary, depending on the type of business you set up and the size of your business, the typical costs you can expect to be responsible for include:

Your premises

Your business premises will likely be your biggest expenditure. Your premises may be a storage facility, an antique shop or an auction house. You will need to rent your premises on a monthly or annual basis. Rental prices can vary significantly, depending on the location and the size of the premises. City centres or busy locations usually have the highest rental costs. Rental costs are often calculated per square metre. They can range significantly, from £500 to £15,000 per square metre annually.

Refurbishment and installation costs

Unless your premises previously operated as an antique business, you will likely need to refurbish or convert your premises to install the equipment you need for your business to operate and make the area fit for purpose. You will also want to refurbish and decorate your premises to fit the aesthetic of your business and make it attractive to customers. Renovation costs can vary, from £500 to £20,000 depending on the level and scale of work required. As part of your renovation costs, consider how you can make your premises safe to store antiques, easier to clean and easier to operate in line with health and safety regulations.


As mentioned above, your equipment requirements can vary significantly, depending on the type of antique business you set up. However, regardless of the type of business you set up, your equipment is still likely to be a significant expenditure. The cost of equipment can vary depending on the type of equipment you choose and the amount of equipment you require. You may choose to purchase less equipment initially and expand your equipment as your business grows. Equipment for your business can cost between £2,000 and £30,000.

Ongoing antique costs

Depending on the type of antique business you set up, you may purchase items to sell on to clients (e.g. if you run an antique store or antique dealer business). You will need to factor the cost of purchasing the antiques into your budget. To maximise your profits, you should aim for a high markup cost. Consider the value of the item and how much you are likely to sell it for when deciding which items to purchase. The ongoing costs associated with purchasing your stock can vary depending on the types of antiques you specialise in and their value.

Maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment

Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Although some of your equipment will come with warranties or guarantees, you may still be responsible for the costs of repairs and replacements. Maintaining and cleaning your equipment and ensuring it is used correctly can extend its life, but potential repairs and replacements should still be factored into your budget.

Running costs

These are the day-to-day costs associated with running your business. Your running costs can vary significantly depending on the type of antique business you set up, whether you have a premises and the size of your premises. Some running costs are paid monthly, and others are paid quarterly or annually.

Your running costs can include:

  • Utilities (e.g. electricity, gas and water bills).
  • Council tax.
  • Import fees and taxes.
  • Delivery fees.


To maximise your profits, try to keep your running costs as low as possible.

A vehicle

You may require a vehicle to transport the antiques or if you plan to offer a delivery option to your clients. The cost of a vehicle can vary, depending on whether you purchase it new or second-hand. Prices typically start at £5,000 for a second-hand vehicle and £25,000 for a new vehicle. You also need to incorporate your vehicle running costs into your budget, including your vehicle insurance, petrol, MOT, services and the costs of any repairs. These costs can vary significantly, depending on the age and condition of your vehicle, the level of insurance you choose and the amount of travel you need to do. Typically, you can expect to pay between £50 and £150 per month.


Depending on the type of antique business you set up and the size of your business, you may opt to hire staff. The typical costs associated with hiring employees include their wages (you will need to pay your staff at least the national minimum wage), holiday pay, sick pay, maternity/paternity pay, National Insurance and any company pension contributions.

Your business website

Your business website is an essential advertising tool, as it allows potential clients to find your business online. You should ensure your website is attractive, functional, informative and easy to navigate. You should also utilise search engine optimisation (SEO) so that your website ranks highly on search engines, such as Google. Your website will need regular monitoring, updating and upgrading. You also need to make sure your website is secure, particularly if you will be collecting any personal information or banking details. You may choose to set up and run your website yourself or hire someone to do this for you. You can expect to pay between £20 and £100 per hour for someone to set up and run your website.


When creating your brand identity, consider how you want your business to be perceived by potential clients. When creating your brand, consider the type of antiques you specialise in and your typical client base. Branding can include creating your business’s visual identity, design and aesthetic, your business name and logo and your website. You could hire a professional to help you with branding or do some or all of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of work required.

Advertising and marketing

Advertising is an essential practice to ensure the success of your business. Advertising and marketing help your business to attract customers and can help you to maximise your profits. It is recommended that you spend between 1%-3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover (or your desired annual turnover) is £100,000, you should spend between £1,000 and £3,000 on advertising and marketing. You may need to invest more money when you initially set up your antique business or when you are trying to grow your business and reach new customers.

Business insurance

Insurance is recommended to help protect your business, the antiques you work with and your clients. Some types of insurance are legally required whereas others are recommended.

Some insurance coverage you could opt for includes:

  • Public Liability Insurance.
  • Products Liability Insurance.
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance.
  • Antiques Insurance.
  • Legal Protection.
  • Buildings and Content Cover.
  • Accidental Damage Cover.
  • Goods in Transit Cover.
  • Business Interruption Cover.
  • Employers’ Liability Insurance (if relevant).


Insurance prices can vary significantly, depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you require. Prices typically start at £10 per month.

Typical Pricing for Customers

The prices your clients can expect to pay when purchasing antique items from your business or using your specialist antique services (such as restoration or cleaning) can depend on multiple factors including:

  • The value of each item (based on factors such as its age, country of origin, rarity, aesthetic and desirability).
  • The typical antiques your business deals with.
  • Your selling strategy (e.g. an antique auction can sometimes inspire a bidding war which pushes prices up).
  • Your business’s reputation and renown.
  • Your location (if relevant).
  • The delivery or courier costs.


The cost of purchasing an antique can vary significantly, with some items being less than £100 and other items having a multimillion-pound value. Ensure you conduct extensive research and implement multiple valuing strategies before setting a price point for each item.

Safely Running an Antique Business

Safe practices in your antique business are necessary to protect the health, safety and well-being of you and your clients. Safe practices can also help to protect the antiques you work with.

Some ways you can safely run your antique business include:

Use the term ‘antique’ correctly

When describing an item as an antique, it is important that you do not mislead consumers. In some cases, it may be more appropriate for an item to be described as collectable or vintage. Generally, objects should be more than 100 years old to be considered an antique.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule, for example:

  • Antique firearms: Only certain firearms that were manufactured before 1st September 1949 can be considered antiques.
  • Antique cars: Cars are considered antique once they exceed 45 years of age.


If you mislabel an item as antique that doesn’t meet the age threshold, you may be judged to be misleading consumers, which could have a negative effect on your business’s reputation.

Control temperature and humidity levels

Many types of antiques are sensitive to temperature and humidity. Extreme changes in temperature and humidity can cause chemical and physical changes and structural damage. It can also cause changes in the aesthetic of the antique. It is important that you protect your antiques from damage by ensuring the temperature and humidity in your premises are monitored and controlled. You should also ensure antiques are kept away from windows, radiators, fireplaces and exterior walls as these areas can create an unstable environment and increase the likelihood of damage occurring.

Avoid direct light

If any of your antiques, particularly artwork, are made from paper, wood or textiles or have paint or other intricate designs, the objects should be stored away from direct light. Artificial light should also be kept as dim as possible. This is because light can cause colours to fade and fabric to dry out, causing permanent changes to the antique item and a decrease in its value.

Take care when packaging

If you package any of the items for delivery, courier or customer transportation, you need to take extra care when wrapping the item. Ensure you do not wrap the items too tightly, as this can restrict air exposure which can cause humidity and dampness to occur. The type of packaging you use is also important; for example, bubble wrap shouldn’t be placed directly on the surface of artwork.

Seek advice when selling antique firearms or knives

You should seek advice from your local police force if you sell antique firearms or knives. There are restrictions concerning the type of cartridge chambers and the propulsion systems that are used in antique firearms. Additionally, although antique knives are exempt from offensive weapons controls, you should exercise care and control when selling knives. It is recommended that you seek advice from your local police authority when selling antique firearms and knives.

A room of Antiques

Comply with the Antiquities Code of Conduct

The Antiquities Dealers Association (ADA) has created a Code of Conduct that all members must abide by. Even if you are not a member of the ADA, their code of conduct sets out guidelines that can help you to run your business more safely and ethically.

Some points from the code of conduct you should be aware of include:

  • Conduct your due diligence before offering any items for sale, e.g. by ensuring the item is authentic, that it is lawfully available for sale and that there are no legal obstacles to the sale.
  • All transactions should be performed in good faith.
  • Record every transaction and keep the records for at least six years.
  • Establish the identity of new vendors.
  • Do not dismantle or sell separate parts of an object.
  • Record any repair or restoration work that takes place.
  • Guarantee in writing the authenticity of objects you sell.
  • Conduct auctions in an honest, ethical and transparent manner.


Implement an inventory system

If you run an antique shop, store antiques or operate antique auctions, an inventory system can help you to keep track of the antique items in your possession. This helps you to manage your inventory and protect you from theft (as CCTV helps you to quickly identify if a theft has occurred and allows you to access the CCTV footage and contact the police).

Properly maintain and set up equipment

Any equipment you use must be properly maintained, correctly set up and safe to use. You must protect yourself, your employees and your customers from accidents or injuries caused by equipment. You should also perform regular equipment inspections to ensure your equipment’s safety and help extend the lifespan of your equipment. Maintenance includes cleaning equipment regularly.

Carry out risk assessments

Although risk assessments are only a legal requirement for businesses with more than five employees, they are recommended to all businesses to ensure the safety of you, your staff and your customers. Risk assessments can help you to identify any potential hazards and risks in your business and how these can be reduced or eliminated.

As part of your risk assessment, you should:

  • Identify hazards.
  • Determine who could be at risk.
  • Evaluate any potential risks.
  • Implement relevant safety measures.
  • Record the results of the risk assessment.
  • Review the risk assessment regularly.


Implement security measures

If you have business premises or store antique items, security measures should be implemented to protect your business and the antiques. Some ways you can protect the antiques include installing a CCTV system, using secure and reliable locks and installing an alarm system.

Use a secure payment system

If you accept online orders or payments, this is a key way to protect your business and your profits. You must ensure all payments are completely secure and are made through secure and legitimate channels. This ensures none of your payments are lost or untraceable and reduces the likelihood that you will fall victim to fraud or theft. Secure payment systems can also help to protect your identity and your customers’ identities and other personal information.

Legal Requirements

Complying with legal requirements is essential when setting up and running your antique business.

The regulations can vary depending on:

  • The type of antique business you set up.
  • The antiques you work with.
  • Whether you buy or sell antiques in counties outside of the UK.
  • Whether you have a business premises.


Some of the legal requirements you should be aware of include:

Antique Business Legal Requirements

Register with your local authority

Depending on where in the UK your business operates, you may be required to register your business with the local authority. You may require a licence to operate your antique business. Contact your local authority for more information.

Apply for an export licence

If you export cultural items, including antiques, furniture and archaeological items, over a certain age and a certain value from the UK to another country, you will need to apply for an export licence. You will need to apply for a licence from the Arts Council website. Depending on the item you plan to export, your application may be assessed by an expert advisor (e.g. from a national museum or gallery). It can take up to 28 days for your application to be assessed.

Be aware of VAT and export fees

If you import or export antiques from other countries, you may need to pay VAT or taxes. Keep in mind that import taxes can differ for antiques and works of art. Taxes can also differ depending on whether you are importing or exporting to EU or non-EU countries. For more information about the duties, taxes and fees that may be payable at your destination or the destination of the buyer or seller, contact the Department for Business and Trade. Failure to pay the necessary fees and taxes could result in the item being held at customs or your business being issued a fine.

Apply for a BADA certificate

If you are exporting antiques to certain countries, you will need to apply for a BADA customs certification service. The service is designed to obtain duty-free or reduced-duty entry. Some countries also require a BADA certificate to assist with customs procedures at the port of entry.

You will need to include a pre-printed BADA certificate if you export to countries including:

  • Australia.
  • Bahama Islands.
  • Bahrain.
  • Barbados.
  • Brazil.
  • Canada.
  • Cyprus.
  • Iceland.
  • Jamaica.
  • Japan.
  • Kuwait.
  • Lebanon.
  • Malta.
  • Morocco.
  • New Zealand.
  • Nigeria.
  • Saudi Arabia.
  • Singapore.
  • South Africa.
  • Thailand.
  • USA.
  • Venezuela.


The BADA requirements differ for each country so consult the BADA website for more information.

Comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs)

Under these regulations, you are prohibited from misleading consumers, providing false information or omitting information.

Under these regulations, you must provide accurate information regarding:

  • The existence or nature of the item.
  • The main characteristics of the item (e.g. what the item is made from, the geographical origin, the method and date of manufacture and the usage or historical usage).
  • The price and how the item was valued.
  • Any specific price advantages.
  • The rarity of the item or how easy it is to find the item elsewhere.


Set up a system of checks when dealing in antiques

You should take all reasonable precautions and exercise due care and diligence when buying and selling antiques.

Some systems you should implement include:

  • Obtain a receipt for all purchases, including the name and address of the seller.
  • Request written information rather than verbal information.
  • Request specific information on any repairs or restorations that have taken place.
  • Keep detailed and accurate records of any items you buy and sell, including descriptions, photographs and the auction catalogue.
  • Items with a guarantee of authenticity should include proof that the item has been examined and is genuine.
  • Ensure any advertisements and descriptions are accurate.
  • Perform your professional diligence at all times.
  • Disclose any doubts, particularly relating to an item’s authenticity or origin.
  • Check an item isn’t involved in any legal claims or issues.
  • Provide an audit trail where possible (e.g. by paying using a cheque).
  • Notify the police if you suspect an item is stolen.


Comply with the Ivory Act 2018

The Ivory Act prohibits dealing (buying or selling) any objects containing ivory (taken from the tusk or tooth of an elephant).

Under the Act, you are prohibited from:

  • Buying ivory.
  • Selling ivory or keeping ivory for sale.
  • Offering or arranging to buy, sell or hire ivory.
  • Exporting ivory from the UK.
  • Importing ivory into the UK.
  • Advertising an ivory item.


However, certain antiques may be exempt from the ban on ivory. To be exempt, the item must meet specific criteria and you must apply for an exemption certificate from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) or register the item.

Items that may meet the exemption criteria include:

  • Items of outstanding artistic, cultural or historical value and importance that were made before 1918.
  • Portrait miniatures predating 1918.
  • Items with low ivory content predating 1947.
  • Musical instruments predating 1975.
  • Acquisitions made by qualifying museums.


Comply with the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013

If you sell an antique at a distance (for example, on the internet or over the phone), you are creating a distance contract.

You will need to comply with the Consumer Contracts Regulations including:

  • Provide an accurate description of the item.
  • Provide pricing information, including delivery charges and any other costs.
  • Provide details of the consumer’s right to cancel (within 14 days from the day the consumer receives the item).
  • Provide returns information, including who is responsible for paying for the return.
  • Provide information about the seller.


Comply with consumer protection legislation

Legislation is in place that is designed to protect the rights of individuals and prevent businesses from using unfair practices. If you sell antiques, you must comply with this legislation.

Consumer protection legislation you must ensure you comply with includes:

  • You cannot make false claims about any goods you sell.
  • The goods you sell must be up to the expected standard (e.g. as described).
  • You must provide a description of the goods and the total price of the goods.


Ensure all trades are lawful

All antique traders (buyers and sellers of antiques) should ensure all trading of antiquities is lawful and ethical. For example, you should not be involved in any trades where an antique is removed illegally from its country of origin. Ensure you research the laws and regulations of the country you purchase antiques from and ensure your compliance.

Comply with the export laws of other countries

If you ship items from other countries, you must ensure you comply with all export laws from that country and any other laws that apply to the movement of goods.

For example, you must comply with:

  • Export control requirements.
  • Trade laws and regulations.
  • Economic sanctions and prohibitions.


You must also ensure you declare items honestly and accurately.

Comply with the Bribery Act 2010

The Bribery Act makes it an offence for any person in the UK to directly or indirectly pay or receive a bribe. The Act applies to transactions that take place in the UK or abroad. You must put adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery or corruption from taking place. For example, gifts, hospitality or money may be considered bribes if they are given with the intention of retaining or obtaining business or securing services. If you engage or appear to engage in bribery, you and your business may be exposed to criminal liability.

Comply with anti-money laundering laws

Commercial transactions, including purchasing antiques, can sometimes be a cover for criminal activity (e.g. concealing the illegal source of proceeds, funding criminal activity or covering funds that were generated through criminal activity). It is a crime to accept or process the proceeds of criminal activity, including in the form of money or antiques or to allow your antique business to be used for money laundering activities.

General Business Legal Requirements

Comply with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013

RIDDOR states that you must report all injuries, diseases and dangerous events that occur in your business. Reports must be made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using an appropriate recording document. These regulations apply to any incidents that involve employees, customers or visitors to your business.

Comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

Manual handling regulations can help to protect you and your employees from sustaining an injury or illness as a result of manual handling tasks. The regulations apply to the lifting or moving of any objects, bending down and reaching high and repetitive movements. Ensure that you and your employees are aware of correct manual handling techniques and how to avoid injury.

Comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998

PUWER regulations apply to you and any employees you hire. You must ensure any equipment that your purchase or use in your antique business is fit for purpose and is maintained and inspected regularly. You must also ensure that health and safety risks are minimised to an acceptable level, that you have the correct knowledge and training to use the equipment, and that protective measures are put into place. Equipment should also only be used under appropriate conditions.

Comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The Electricity at Work Regulations state that any workplaces that use electricals must construct electrical systems in a way that prevents danger, maintain electrical systems to ensure they are safe, ensure electrical equipment is checked by a competent person annually and conduct Portable Appliance Tests (PAT).

Comply with gas safety regulations

If you have a gas boiler on your premises you will need to have it inspected by a gas safe engineer. If your equipment is deemed safe to use and complies with government requirements, you will be issued a Gas Safety Certificate. You will need to display your gas certificate clearly for your guests and other visitors to your business to see.

Comply with fire regulations

As the business owner, you are responsible for fire safety measures on your premises. There are multiple fire regulations you must ensure you comply with.

For example:

  • Perform a fire risk assessment.
  • Comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
  • Implement any necessary fire safety measures.
  • Implement emergency procedures and ensure these are clearly displayed.


Appoint a competent person

A competent person should be appointed to help your business meet your health and safety legal duties. You can act in this role yourself or appoint another person to fulfil this role. The competent person should have the skills, knowledge and experience to identify any hazards in your business and put controls in place to protect people from harm.

Prepare a health and safety policy

The law states that every business in the UK must have a specific policy for managing health and safety. Your policy should state exactly how you will manage health and safety in your business and state who is responsible for specific tasks and how and when these tasks are completed. Follow the recommended tips from the Health and Safety Executive when creating your health and safety policy. You should make your policy easily visible to any visitors to your business.

Appoint a first-aider

All workplaces in the UK must have an appointed first-aider. In the event of an accident or injury, you will then be able to administer the necessary first aid. Although a first aid qualification or certificate is not legally required, it is the easiest way to demonstrate your first aid training.

Comply with employment legislation

If you employ any staff, you must ensure you follow employment legislation, including the Employment Rights Act (1996) and the National Minimum Wage Act (1998). You must also comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.

Comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA)

You must comply with both pieces of legislation when storing or sharing personal information, such as your customers’ personal information, contact details and banking information. You must also apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data Licence. You will also need to apply for a licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office and renew your registration every year.

Ensure your website complies with the guidelines

If you set up a business website, there are several guidelines you need to comply with, including:

  • Privacy policies.
  • Cookie legislation.
  • Service descriptions.


Under the Equality Act (2010) you must also make reasonable adjustments to your website to ensure it is accessible to people with disabilities.

Register your business

You must register your business with HMRC before you begin operating. You can register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will need to register your business name and any other relevant information.

Register for self-assessment tax

This allows you to calculate and pay your own taxes each year. You will need to track your finances every month and submit any expenses as part of your tax assessment.

As part of your tax responsibilities, you must:

  • Record all forms of income and expenses.
  • Complete an annual self-assessment tax return.
  • Register for VAT if you earn above the threshold (currently £85,000).
  • Pay National Insurance contributions.
  • Keep a record of your business accounts for the previous five years.
Antique Book Business

Positives of Owning an Antique Business

Running an antique business can be rewarding in many ways.

Some of the main positives associated with this type of business include:

Choose your speciality

You can choose the types of antiques you specialise in and the type of antique business you set up. This allows you to develop your expertise and obtain a high level of knowledge about your specialisation. You can advise your customers and use your expertise to develop your business’s reputation. You can also sell a wide selection of antiques in your specific niche, which can be appealing to your customers. You can choose your speciality based on your own interests and what you think will be most profitable and allow your business to grow.

High profit margins

Selling antiques can be highly lucrative with high profit margins. Antiques can sell for hundreds, thousands or even millions of pounds. Depending on the costs associated with purchasing the antique, you could have significant profit margins. High profit margins help you to maximise your profits and your business’s income and make your business more successful.

Value appreciation

Antique items increase in value the older they are. Unlike other businesses that need to be aware of new inventions, releases and technologies, an antique business never needs to worry about the items they sell depreciating in value. Instead, any antique items you own will likely hold their value or increase in value.

Choose your selling strategy

There are multiple selling strategies available for antiques, including an in-person store, an online store, auctions and directly to businesses and private sellers. Having the ability to sell on multiple avenues can increase your customer reach and increase your revenue streams. You can even change your selling strategy as your business grows and evolves.

Work in an industry you are passionate about

If you are passionate about antiques and have a genuine interest and love for the industry, setting up your own antique business can be extremely rewarding. You can do something you love every day and will have the opportunity to travel the country, examine different antiques, explore world history and constantly learn and explore. Profiting from your passion can be very rewarding.

A rewarding career choice

Running an antique business can be rewarding in many ways. You can work in an industry you are passionate about, connect with other people and see your business grow and succeed. If you love antiques and have a passion for history, running a successful antique business will not only be financially rewarding but also personally rewarding.

A growing industry

The antique industry is growing, particularly as people care more about protecting the environment. Many people also want to buy items that will last and are well-crafted (e.g. antique furniture) and see antiques as good investments. This means there is a growing demand for antique businesses, making now a great time to establish yourself in the industry. A growing market makes it easier to grow your business and maximise your profits.

Low barriers to entry

No formal training and qualifications are required to run an antique business. Instead, all you need is knowledge of antiques and different time periods and the necessary skills to make your business succeed. You can gain the necessary experience while working in the antique business and won’t need to go to university, meaning you can learn your craft while still getting paid. Starting your career with no debt can help you to begin building your personal finances early.

Connect with other people in the industry

You will have the opportunity to build connections with other people in your industry, other people who are passionate about antiques and other local businesses. Building both professional and personal relationships allows you to stay up to date with new antique trends and techniques for cleaning, restoration and trading and create useful business connections that can help you to grow your business.

Every day is different

Every day running an antique business will be different. You could be travelling to discover or purchase new antiques, delving into the history and determining the value, restoring the items, meeting with potential clients, attending antique auctions and fairs and running your business. You will be working with different clients and different items. A varied workday can help to keep your business interesting and enjoyable.

Start small and grow your business

If you don’t have an external investor or a large capital with which to start your business, you can start smaller and grow your business in time. Instead of setting up an antique shop, you have the option to initially start small, for example by selling at auctions or antique fairs. As your profits and your client base grow, you can then expand your business by opening a shop or an antique auction house. This gives you flexibility and makes starting your own business more accessible.

A scalable business

An antique business can have a simple business model, making it easy to set up this type of business. If you want to grow your business, antique businesses are highly scalable, as you will already have established strong business relationships with clients and will already have in-depth knowledge and experience of the most profitable and in-demand antiques. You will also already have a proven successful business plan that you can adapt and implement.

Unlimited income potential

There is no fixed income or limit on how much money your antique business can make. Antiques can be highly valuable and profitable. As your business and reputation grow, you can also work with higher-value antiques, expand your business and your customer reach, hire more staff and even deal antiques around the world. An antique business has a high income potential and, with a solid business plan, can be extremely lucrative.

Create a positive work environment

You will be responsible for hiring staff and creating staff policies. This gives you the opportunity to create a positive work environment. You could hire staff that you know will bring positivity to the business and will be an asset to your business. Your staff will also likely be like-minded people who are also passionate about antiques. You can make your business a positive place, increasing the likelihood that your clients will want to work with you again.

Client loyalty and recommendations

If your clients are happy with the antiques they purchase from you and the service you offer and have a positive experience, they are likely to return time and time again for other antiques. Not only does this give you the opportunity to get to know your customers, but customer loyalty can also help you to grow your profits. Loyal customers may even recommend your business to other people which can help you to grow your customer base.

Choose your own schedule

You can choose which days your business opens, the hours you want to work and the distance you are prepared to travel. You can choose the opening hours, based on your busiest days and your own preferences. As your business grows, you can also work fewer hours and allow your employees to handle the day-to-day running of your business.

Be your own boss

You can make all key decisions yourself and steer your business in whichever direction you choose. You can choose how involved you want to be, the type of antique business you open and how you want to run your business. You can make the best decisions for you and your business.

Antique Business Setup

Negatives of Owning an Antique Business

Although owning an antique business can be rewarding, there are some potentially negative aspects to this type of business, for example:

High start-up costs

An antique business has a lot of associated costs including the cost of the premises, staff, equipment and purchasing antiques. The high initial investment that is required can make it more difficult for you to start up an antique business yourself. Not only does this mean you may need to source outside investment, but it also makes your business high risk. Having a large initial investment also means it will take longer before you begin turning a profit. You will also need to ensure consistent profits to cover your monthly costs, which can also be high.

A lot of skill, knowledge and experience is required

To run a successful antique business, you will need to be highly proficient in a variety of skills and will need to have a high level of in-depth knowledge and extensive experience working with antiques. It can be time-consuming to gain the appropriate skills and experience to run your business, but without the required skills, knowledge and experience, your business is unlikely to succeed.

Complying with legislation

The antique industry is highly regulated, with a large number of laws and regulations you must be aware of. You need to ensure you follow all policies and procedures, particularly those relating to health and safety and protecting the antiques. Not only can it be time-consuming to ensure compliance, but failure to comply, even unintentionally, could have serious consequences. An antique business can have high liability which can be a lot of stress and pressure for the business owner.

The possibility of damage

No matter how skilled and experienced you are and how careful you are when storing, handling and transporting the antiques, there is always a possibility that you make an error or something happens out of your control that can result in an antique item becoming damaged. This can have significant financial repercussions for your business, particularly if the item is of high value.

High time commitment

You will be responsible for many different tasks, which can be very time-consuming, Your working hours will not be limited to the hours your business is open as you will also have additional responsibilities, such as researching and valuing antiques (which can be a laborious process), searching for new items, marketing and advertising, handling orders and deliveries and handling other business and administrative tasks. This can be extremely time-consuming and stressful.

High stress

Dealing antiques can be highly stressful, particularly because you are working with high-value, historical and sentimental items. The worry that something could go wrong, an item could become damaged or you are unable to sell an item can be stressful. Keeping your clients satisfied and growing your business can also be stressful. You will also be responsible for every aspect of the business, including the antiques you specialise in, your marketing and advertising and the day-to-day running of the business. This can be highly stressful, especially when your business first opens.

Difficult to grow your business

Many new antique businesses fail to succeed because they find it difficult to successfully market a new business and grow their client base. Successful antique businesses often spend years developing their reputation and building up their client base. This could mean you initially receive less custom and earn a lower income. If you have invested a lot of money into your business, this could result in your business failing.

Your profits may not be consistent

Certain days and times of the year are likely to be busier than others. This could mean there are times when you have few or no clients. It could also be that you receive more business at certain times of the year and during these periods you have to turn down potential business. Inconsistent business can make it difficult for you to predict your profits and plan your staffing.

High risk of your business failing

Starting up an antique business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your business could fail for several reasons, such as high local competition, an ineffective business plan or if the UK encounters another recession or period of financial difficulty. Because an antique business often requires a high initial investment, if your business fails, you will potentially lose a significant amount of money.

Managing staff

You will have a lot of responsibilities in relation to staffing, including hiring and firing, payroll and managing your staff. This can be stressful and time-consuming. It can also be difficult if the motivation of your employees doesn’t match your business values. If your employees demonstrate a poor attitude or don’t complete their tasks in line with your expectations, this can be viewed negatively by clients and can result in negative reviews.

Issues out of your control

This can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running a business, as things that are outside of your control can have a negative impact on your business and your profits. For example, a hold-up at customs, your equipment breaking or delivery issues can prevent you from properly running your business, which could not only affect your profits but also result in negative customer reviews.

No benefits

As you are self-employed, you won’t receive benefits such as pension contributions. You will also be responsible for doing your own taxes and organising your National Insurance contributions. You will also have a lack of job security.

Bad reviews

Although the majority of customers leave honest reviews, some customers are difficult to please and will leave a negative review because of the smallest complaint (even if it is something outside of your control, such as delivery delays). Sometimes a fake customer also leaves a fake review, which can be extremely difficult to disprove and remove. Negative reviews can be extremely damaging to your business, particularly if your business is new or you’ve had relatively few reviews.

Planning Your Antique Business

If you are considering starting up an antique business, an effective and well-designed business plan is essential. A business plan can help you to focus on the specific steps that will help your business succeed, plan your short-term and long-term goals, determine your financial needs and help your business to grow.

Your business plan should contain information such as:

  • Your company information.
  • Your company description.
  • The services you will provide.
  • Your branding, marketing and advertising plan.
  • The structure of your business.
  • The operational plan for your business.
  • The financial plan for your business.


When creating your business plan, some factors you will need to take into consideration include:

The type of antique business you set up

This is one of the first considerations you will need to make when setting up your business. Will you open an in-person or online antique shop? Will you offer antique restoration, repair or cleaning services? Will you run antique auctions? The type of antique business you set up will impact your start-up costs and running costs, your typical customer base and your premises and staffing requirements. Consider your available capital and the market demand when making this decision. You may choose to set up one type of business initially and then change as your business grows.

The type of antiques you specialise in

The majority of antique businesses choose to specialise in a specific type of antique. For example, you may specialise in antique furniture, antique cars or antique artwork. Alternatively, you could specialise your business by focusing on antiques that come from a specific time period or area of the world or by dealing in only high-value antiques. Specialising your business allows you to develop your skills, knowledge and expertise, raise your profile and reputation in your chosen field and increase the success of your business.

Your target market

Determining your target market is a key step to helping your business succeed. Different types of antiques and different antique businesses can influence your typical client base. The value of the items you trade and your primary selling or operating strategy are also key in determining your typical customer base. Once you have identified your target market, you can then focus on how to attract them to your business.

Your business location (if relevant)

If you open a physical antique shop, your location will have a significant impact on the types of customers you are likely to attract. It will also impact your premises’ rental costs. If your business is located in an area with high footfall or a place popular with your target market, the increased custom and higher profits will be extremely beneficial to your business. Consider your rental budget and your size requirements when choosing your premises.

Your competition

Your main competition will vary depending on the antiques you specialise in and your primary selling strategy. Analysing your competition allows you to look at what they do well and what you think can be improved upon. Being aware of your competition is an important step to ensuring the success of your antique business. You should also look at the types of antiques they specialise in, the value of the items and their typical customer base. Analysing your competition also identifies whether there is space in the market for your business; for example, if there is already a successful antique shop specialising in antique cars operating close to your location, you may choose to focus on another niche or change your business slightly.

Your brand and your unique selling point (USP)

Creating your brand is a key way to ensure you stand out from your local competition. Branding can help you to focus your target customer base, attract clients and concentrate your marketing and advertising strategies. Some ways you can create your brand are by focusing on the antiques you specialise in, your business’s visual identity and creating a brand story. Your business name and logo are also part of your branding so ensure you consider these when creating your business plan. A USP can also be part of your brand and can help your business stand out from your competitors. Consider what can make you stand out and how this fits into what defines your business.

Your marketing and advertising strategies

Marketing and advertising are especially important when you first open your antique business. Your marketing strategy needs to be effective and budget friendly. Consider your target clients and the best way to reach them.

Some ways you can market and advertise your business are:

  • Build a functional and attractive website.
  • Contact antique dealers directly.
  • Attend antique fairs.
  • Create targeted online ads.


Your equipment requirements

Consult the list above to determine your equipment requirements. The equipment you purchase from the above list will depend on the type of antique business you are setting up, the types of antiques you specialise in, the size of your business and your budget. Once you have determined what equipment you require, you can then calculate the initial costs of purchasing this equipment.

Your start-up costs and running costs

Consult the list above to help you calculate the approximate costs of setting up and running your antique business. Determine what equipment you need and the amount of equipment, as well as the cost of your premises, to help you determine your start-up costs and what your initial investment requirements will be. You can then calculate whether you can finance your business yourself. Determining your start-up costs and running costs can also help you to create a budget and predict when you will begin to turn a profit.

Financing your business

Consult the list of start-up costs and running costs above to determine what capital you will require. Can you finance your business yourself or will you need to source outside investment? If you require investment, you could consider:

  • A bank or building society loan.
  • A personal loan.
  • External private investment or a business partner.
  • A government grant.
  • Venture capital.
  • Personal investment.


Your sales forecast

How many antiques will you realistically sell each day, week and month? What will the average value of the antiques you deal in be? Are there certain times of the year that are likely to be busier than others? What are your weekly, monthly and annual sales forecasts? As your business grows, your sales forecast is likely to change.

Your strategy for growth

Your strategy for growth is the actions you will take to realise your goals for expansion and any potential challenges your business could face and how you will avoid or overcome them. This can help to make your business more successful.

Potential challenges could include:

  • Difficulties attracting clients, sales or bids.
  • Difficulties purchasing antiques for a high profit margin.
  • High import and export fees.


Some potential strategies for growth include:

  • Create business connections with antique dealers, businesses and private clients.
  • Ask the buyer to cover any import fees.
  • Use multi-selling strategies, e.g. online, at auctions and in-person.


Your business summary

Your business plan should include a detailed overview of your business, including the type of antique business you are setting up, the antiques you will specialise in, your typical client base, your staffing and equipment requirements and your business goals.

Your business goals

Your business goals or objectives are an essential part of creating your business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your antique business and help you to create a one-year, three-year and five-year business plan.

Your business objectives should be SMART:

  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Achievable
  • R = Realistic
  • T = Time-bound


Check you have complied with all legal requirements

Consult the list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements and regulations and that all your paperwork is accurate. Failure to comply with legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business or could result in a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious cases, prosecution.


Download our business plan

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