How to open a thrift store

Editorial Team

6 min read
Woman holding up blouse at thrift shop

The demand for secondhand goods is accelerating exponentially and has experts anticipating that the thrift store market will triple in growth over the next 10 years.

With thrifted items becoming celebrated as a sustainable option when purchasing anything from clothing and accessories to kitchen wares and recreational items–there has never been a better time to consider starting a thrift store.

Though opening a thrift store can follow a similar process as opening a retail business, it comes with its own unique challenges and opportunities–especially when it comes to sourcing inventory without traditional wholesale options.

We’re here to help you navigate those processes and offer support in launching your thrift store business with success.

How to open a thrift shop business or online thrift store

Once you create a business plan for your thrift store and register it as a business, you’re ready to get started on the next steps in opening your shop.

Whether you want to know how to start an online thrift store or open a physical location, the processes are fairly similar. Below are some primary action items to get you started.

Open a business bank account

Opening a business bank account for your thrift store is essential in making it simpler to file taxes, keep your personal finances separate, and measure your profitability. Be sure to shop around to find a bank that offers the best features and rates for small business owners.

Fund your thrift store

Is owning a thrift store profitable? It absolutely can be! But how much does it cost to open a thrift store? Though the number varies depending on your inventory, where your store will be located, and related operational expenses–it can be incredibly beneficial to acquire a small business loan to help support opening your business.

If you are interested in finding out how to raise money for a business without a loan–the following alternatives can be helpful:

  • Loans from friends and family
  • Crowdfunding campaigns
  • Securing investors

READ: How should you fund your small business? Here’s how to choose.

Build your brand

It’s important to remember that personality does matter. Especially with the uptick in secondhand shopping–which increased 28% in 2022–resulting in a massive influx of competitors within the space.

When creating a business name and trademarking it, don’t lose touch of the brand you are building, the story it is telling, and how you want that to attract customers.

Differentiate yourself by creating a way to ensure all of these elements are strategically connected ahead of launching your thrift store by locking down your brand identity.

Building your brand identity can include, but is not limited to:

  • Brand logo
  • Color palette
  • Business name
  • Website design
  • Style of your store

Discover your niche

Specializing in a certain type of style, category, or time period can help you carve out a specific niche in which your thrift store can thrive. For example, you may want to curate vintage clothing, sell mid-century modern furniture, or corner the market on minimalist kitchen wares. Leaning into where your passion lies can be critical in determining ways of setting your secondhand shop apart from the competition.

Finding your niche can also help you more thoughtfully source for your thrift store as you build a dedicated community of customers who depend on you for the best thrift finds of a certain category.

Find a location

If you’re planning on opening a physical store, selecting a location for your business can be one of the most critical decisions you will make prior to launch–making it important to consider hosting pop-up shops, tabling at local makers markets, or even testing out an online thrift store prior to opening a brick-and-mortar.

This can help you see which types of inventory customers gravitate towards and which parts of your city have the best attendance, while also getting your business’ name out there. Launching your thrift store business with a built-in audience can help make opening a thrift shop, or even an online thrift store, a major success.

Once you have determined a target area and begin looking for a permanent location, keep the following in mind to ensure you have space for your business’ unique needs:

  • Ample storage for inventory
  • Affordable rent and utilities 
  • Accessible parking options
  • Complementary businesses
  • High level of foot traffic

Source inventory

Where do thrift stores get their inventory, anyway? Finding ways of sourcing inventory for your thrift store can be as simple as visiting garage sales, scoping out estate sales, attending flea markets, and taking donations from the community.

If you have determined your niche, it can also be helpful to check out online auction sites for hidden gems that are worth purchasing and marking up for a profit–aiming to buy items that are priced 50% below your anticipated sales price of your shop.

Select a POS system

This may seem like a small step, but in all actuality, not every POS system or source of collecting money from customers is equally beneficial.

It’s critical to seek out a thrift store POS system that goes beyond seamless transactions and can help measure profitability, schedule employee shifts, and streamline operations.

Whether you are opening an online thrift store or brick-and-mortar location, seeking a POS solution that offers the following benefits can help your business thrive:

  • Acceptance of most major payment types
  • Tracking and reporting
  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Inventory management
  • eCommerce solutions

Market your business

Before you even open your doors or push your website live, you will need to develop a marketing plan for your business. This should include how you plan on telling your customers why they should shop with you, what you are offering them, and where they can find you.

From starting an email list as early as your first pop-up shop, or creating seasonal content for your social media marketing channels, telling your thrift store’s story can be relatively inexpensive. The trick is to keep the cadence consistent, maintain your brand, and ensure the content adds value to your community of customers.

Start with building a website for your thrift store to act as a hub for your brand online and secure accounts for the social media platforms you are interested in using–such as Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok. This will help you better connect with people who are interested in shopping at thrift stores and encourage engagement with your brand.

Run a better thrift store with Clover POS

Still dreaming about starting your secondhand shop? Clover can help you design the right-sized POS system for your new business. Whether you need eCommerce solutions, a full-service POS terminal, or a handheld credit card reader, our payment offerings and business management tools can help support the full range of features your thrift store needs to start making sales.

To learn more about our easy-to-use thrift store POS system, schedule a free consultation today.


This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

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