Doing some market research will help to make your cash flow forecasts as accurate as possible. It will also help you with many of the details of your business planning.
Think about who is likely to buy architectural salvage. You key customers will probably include:
- home owners and collectors, particularly more affluent people who live in expensive period properties
- building restoration specialists, general builders and property developers
- interior designers, architects and landscapers
- other dealers in architectural salvage, antiques and antiquities
Thinking about who your customers are likely to be will help you to plan what sort of things to stock and to set your prices appropriately. Find out about period properties in your region - this will help you identify the sort of items that local customers are likely to be looking for. Make sure also that you keep up with current trends in furniture, furnishings and interior design.
When you've identified your key customers you can focus your advertising and marketing efforts on them.
Establishing the level of competition
Once you have decided who your customers might be you need to find out how well they're already served.
How many other architectural salvage specialists are there in your area? A browse on Yell.com (categories 'architectural antiques', 'salvage and reclamation', perhaps also 'demolition' and 'waste products reclaimers') and other similar directories will help to identify some of your competitors.
If you're hoping to sell nationally or even internationally, you could search the web to see who's already doing this. For example, if you intend to specialise in stained glass then you could search for 'architectural salvage stained glass' and follow some of the links that are returned in the search results. Check out eBay too to see who's selling what in the 'architectural antiques' section.
Look at some of your competitors' advertising material, including their website if they have one:
- what sorts of salvage do they specialise in
- what range of services do they offer
- what do they charge for the sort of things you'll be selling
- how extensive is their stock inventory and what is the quality like
- do they advertise any special features - for example compliance with the Salvo code (a non-statutory voluntary code of practice)
- what sort of impression does their advertisement give you (for example, does the firm come across as small and friendly, large and businesslike, good value, high quality)
Use the Record sheet to help you with this aspect of your market research.
Visit as many of your local competitors' outlets as you can. Spend time looking around at their stock and see how they've organised the outlet. Don't be afraid to borrow some of their good ideas!
Bear in mind that some local councils run their own salvage yards to help conserve local architectural features. While these are generally not run as businesses, they may be an additional source of competition if some of the items you stock are available from them.
It can be advantageous to find out more about businesses in the area that might be prepared to pass on your details to their own clients. You could consider contacting builders who specialise in working on period properties, architects, designers, landscapers and so on. Demolition specialists may be prepared to tip you off if they discover something on a job that could be of interest. Ideally you'll build up close links with businesses that complement your own.
It can be beneficial to co-operate with other salvage yards in the area too. Sometimes they might be able to help you locate a difficult-to-find item - and you might be able to return the favour some other time. Maybe they'll point customers in your direction if they can't supply a particular item themselves. Perhaps they'll use some of the specialist services you offer. Also, day-trippers will be attracted to an area where there are several salvage yards and antiques dealers to visit - so everyone benefits. You also could consider working with local antique dealers to trade stock from time to time - you might sometimes acquire items that they are better placed to sell and vice versa.