Start a Used Books Store: The Ultimate Guide

Have you ever thought about starting your own business? If so, a used books store could be a great option! Not only is it a unique and interesting business, but it can also be quite profitable. Plus, with the rise of e-books and online reading, there are plenty of customers out there who are looking for good deals on used books.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know about starting a used books store. We’ll cover topics like choosing a location, stocking your shelves, setting up an online presence, and marketing your business. By the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to start accepting customers and making sales!

Table of Contents

What is a Used Books Store?

A used books store is a business that specializes in selling secondhand books to customers. These stores may offer books at a discounted price compared to their retail counterpart, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious individuals or avid readers. Used books stores can also serve as gathering spaces for book lovers, creating a community hub for discussions and events.

For entrepreneurs looking to enter the bookselling market, starting a used books store can be a cost-effective alternative to opening a brand new retail shop. However, it’s important to consider the potential limitations of selling only used books, such as limited inventory and reduced margins. The successful operation of a used books store involves careful selection of books and strong marketing skills in order to attract customers and maintain profitability.

Overall, entering the world of used books can be a fulfilling endeavor for any book-loving entrepreneur.

Why would I want to start a used books store?

So, you love books and you’re thinking about starting a used books store. But is it really a good idea? After all, bookstores are struggling in the age of Amazon. Why would you want to open a bookstore when you could just sell your books online?

Here’s the thing: there’s still a market for brick-and-mortar bookstores, especially used bookstores. In fact, starting a used bookstore is a great business idea for several reasons. Used bookstores don’t have to compete with Amazon on price, they offer a unique browsing experience, and they provide a valuable community service. Keep reading to learn more about why starting a used bookstore is a smart business move.

There Are Still Book People Out There

Despite what you may have heard, people are still reading books. In fact, according to data from the Association of American Publishers, book sales rose in 2019 for the fifth consecutive year. Granted, e-book sales have been declining since their peak in 2014, but that’s not to say that people aren’t reading anymore—they’re just reading physical books.

What does this mean for you? It means that there is still a market for physical books, which is good news if you’re thinking about opening a used bookstore. Physical bookstores may not be doing as well as they once were, but they’re not going extinct anytime soon. There are still plenty of people out there who love buying and reading physical books.

Used Bookstores Don’t Have to Compete on Price

One of the biggest challenges facing brick-and-mortar bookstores is price competition from online retailers like Amazon. With Amazon’s vast selection and low prices, it’s no wonder that so many people buy their books online instead of from physical stores.

However, used bookstores don’t have to compete on price because they sell used books. Since used books are generally cheaper than new books anyway, customers will be more inclined to buy from your store than from an online retailer. This is especially true for bargain shoppers who are looking for the best deal possible.

Used Bookstores Offer a Unique Browsing Experience

Another advantage of brick-and-mortar bookstores is that they offer a unique browsing experience that you can’t find online. When you walk into a bookstore, you can browse the shelves at your leisure and discover new books that you might not have found otherwise. It’s an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, and it’s an experience that you can’t get from shopping online.

In addition, many used bookstores also host events such as readings and book signings. These events create a sense of community around the store and give customers another reason to visit. They also provides publicity for the store, which can attract new customers who might not have otherwise heard of the store.

Starting a used bookstore is a great business idea for several reasons: Used bookstores don’t have to compete with Amazon on price; they offer customers unique browsing experience; and they provide valuable community service by hosting events such as readings and book signings. If you’re passionate about books and looking for a business idea, consider opening a used bookstore—you might be surprised at how successful it is!

How do I start a used books store?

Whether you’re an avid reader yourself or you see it as a lucrative business opportunity, there’s a lot to consider before taking the plunge. In this section, we’ll outline eight key steps for how to start a used books store so that you can hit the ground running.

Pick a location.

The first step is finding the perfect spot for your used books store. Ideally, you’ll want to choose a high-traffic area with good foot traffic and ample parking. Once you’ve zeroed in on a few potential locations, be sure to check with the local zoning board to see if there are any restrictions on opening a retail business in that area.

Create a business plan.

Any successful business needs a solid business plan—and your used books store is no exception. Along with unveiling your company’s financial projections, your business plan should also detail your target market, marketing strategy, and competition. Not sure where to start? Check out our guide on how to write a business plan for more tips.

Choose your inventory wisely.

When stocking your shelves, it’s important to strike the right balance between popular titles and niche selections. You’ll also want to keep an eye on trends in the book industry so that you can adjust your inventory accordingly. One way to do this is by signing up for industry newsletters and attending trade shows.

Where do you find inventory for your used book store?

You can buy them from individuals, estate sales, garage sales, library sales, or online retailers. It’s important to find a source that provides a steady stream of books at a reasonable price so that you can turn a profit.

Next, you’ll need to set up some storage for your inventory. This can be anything from a few shelves in your home to a storage unit or even a small warehouse. The key is to have enough space so that you can keep your inventory organized and easily accessible.

Set up your space.

Once you’ve secured a location and rounded up your inventory, it’s time to start setting up shop! When designing your space, be sure to create an inviting and comfortable environment—think comfy chairs, ample lighting, and organized shelves. You’ll also need to invest in some basic office supplies like a computer, printer, and cash register.

Develop an eCommerce strategy.

In today’s digital age, it’s essential to have an eCommerce platform so that customers can purchase items from your store online. Not only will this help you reach a wider audience of potential buyers, but it can also help increase sales during slow periods. When setting up your eCommerce platform, be sure to choose a reliable and user-friendly platform like Shopify or Squarespace.

You’ll also need to invest in some supplies, such as boxes for shipping, bags for protecting the books during shipping, and labels for identifying the books. These costs will vary depending on the size and scope of your operation.

Price your items competitively.

Pricing your items too high will discourage customers from shopping at your store, while pricing them too low will cut into your profits. To find the sweet spot, take some time to research the prices of similar items at other stores in the area.

Market, market, market!

Now that your store is up and running, it’s time to start spreading the word! There are plenty of free and paid marketing channels available, so it’s important to choose the ones that will work best for reaching your target audience. Some popular marketing channels include social media, email marketin , and search engine optimization (SEO) .

Keep track of your progress.

Last but not least, make sure you’re tracking key metrics like sales, web traffic, and customer satisfaction. This will give you valuable insights into what’s working well (and what’s not) so that you can make necessary adjustments along the way.

By following these eight steps, you’ll be well on your way to opening your very own used books store!

How much does it cost to start a used books dealer?

Starting a used books dealer can be a very rewarding experience. Not only will you be able to make a good profit, but you will also be able to help people find the books they need at a fraction of the cost. However, it is important to understand that there are some initial costs associated with starting a used books dealer. In this section, we will outline some of the main costs you can expect to incur when starting your business.

Renting or Buying a Storefront

One of the first costs you will need to consider is the cost of renting or buying a storefront. If you plan on selling your books online, you may not need a physical storefront. However, if you want to attract walk-in customers, you will need to have a place for them to browse and purchase your books. The cost of renting or buying a storefront will vary depending on the location and size of the space.


Another cost you will need to consider is the cost of inventory. Used books can generally be purchased from wholesalers or other dealers at a discount. You can also find used books at garage sales, library sales, and thrift stores. The cost of inventory will vary depending on the sources you use to purchase your books.

Advertising and Marketing

In order to attract customers, you will need to spend some money on advertising and marketing. There are many ways to market your business, such as online advertising, print advertising, and word-of-mouth marketing. The cost of advertising and marketing will vary depending on the methods you use.

Miscellaneous Costs

There are also some miscellaneous costs associated with starting a used books dealer. These costs include things like licenses and permits, insurance, office supplies, and employee salaries (if applicable). The cost of these items will vary depending on the specific business requirements in your area.

The costs associated with starting a used books dealer can range from fairly low to fairly high, depending on factors such as whether or not you rent or buy a storefront and how much inventory you plan on purchasing. However, overall, starting a used book dealer is a relatively low-cost way to get involved in the bookselling industry. With careful planning and execution, your business can be up and running in no time!

How do I find customers for my used books shop?

The used book market is a bit saturated, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for your used bookstore! If you’re passionate about books and want to share that passion with others, then opening a used bookstore is a great way to do it. But how do you attract customers to your shop? Here are a few tips.

Get involved in the community.

Join local book clubs, sponsor literary events, or partner with other small businesses in town. The more visible you are, the more likely people are to think of you when they’re looking for a used book.

Make sure your shop is easy to find online.

Claim your Google My Business listing and make sure your contact information is up-to-date. If you sell books online, invest in some search engine optimization so potential customers can easily find you when they’re searching for specific titles.

Offer something unique.

What makes your bookstore special? Do you have a particularly wide selection of rare books? Do you offer discounts for loyalty cards? Let potential customers know what they can expect from shopping with you so they’ll be more likely to choose you over the competition.

Use social media.

Social media is a powerful tool that can help you reach a large audience with relatively little effort. Create accounts on all the major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and start sharing information about your shop. Make sure to use relevant hashtags so that people can easily find you.

In addition to social media, there are other ways to reach potential customers online and offline. Place ads in local newspapers and online directories (like Yelp or Google Maps). You can also put up flyers in local coffee shops and bookstores.

Attracting customers to your used bookstore doesn’t have to be difficult—just get involved in the community, make sure your shop is easy to find online, and offer something unique. By following these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to making your bookstore a success!

About Jeremy Reis

Jeremy Reis is a serial entrepreneur from the Franklin, Tennessee area. Jeremy is the founder of multiple businesses and is the VP of Marketing for CRISTA Ministries. Jeremy has his MBA with a focus in Entrepreneurship from The Ohio State University.