Industry sector: Consumer services

Furniture restorer: Market research

When you plan your new business it's important to check how much demand there is for your services, what people actually want, and how much existing competition there is.

Estimating demand

It's very important to find out whether there is enough demand in the area for your antique furniture restoration business. Much will depend on the range of services you offer, and your skills and expertise. You might intend to target local antique dealers, amateur collectors and members of the public and offer them a wide range of restoration services to many different types of antique. Or you might be targeting a national or even international clientele because you specialise in a particular type of work, such as oriental lacquer work or gilding, or in a particular type of antique, such as boulle (or buhl) work. Keep an eye on trends, so if there are indications that dark, heavy pieces are out of fashion and people, particularly younger people, are buying mid twentieth century furniture instead, advertise that you can restore this type of furniture too and, if you have a shop window, display a restored item of that era.

A look in the Yellow Pages for your area and a web search will give you an idea of the number of antique furniture restorers which are already operating. Be aware that some antique dealers also offer restoration services so they are another source of competition. Also bear in mind that, because of the specialist nature of the industry, some people will be prepared to travel quite a distance to find a good restorer - so you may not just be competing with businesses in the immediate locality.

Have a good look at existing restorers to establish:

  • the range of work they can do
  • the sort of furniture they work on - for example, some might work with country pine and 20th century items, others might specialise in high quality pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries
  • what other services they offer - for example valuations
  • the prices they charge

Why will customers choose your restoration business

You need to make sure that enough customers will choose your business rather than existing antique furniture restorers. Your market research might indicate that there is a gap in the market that you can fill. For example, a number of antique dealers might have opened up in the area in which you plan to operate. These may need your services from time to time and will also attract large numbers of members of the public who are interested in antiques into the area.

Find out what customers want

You might consider going to local antiques fairs or markets and asking visitors whether they would be interested in your services. It would be worth approaching antique dealers, museums, stately homes and so on to find out whether they already use the services of a restorer and whether there are any additional services they would be interested in. Follow developments in the antiques market generally so that if one sector (for example larger antiques businesses) is doing better than smaller and mid-size businesses, try them when looking for new work. Be sure to give everyone you speak to a business card.

The record sheets will help you record the results of your market research.