Opening your own clothing store is a huge undertaking. It requires multiple skills such as hiring, managing, and strategic planning in addition to having a great sense of style. Resist the urge to feel overwhelmed because big undertakings become manageable when broken down to bite-size steps. In this article, we go over the key steps to help you start your own clothing store.
1. Determine Your Niche
The key to standing out in the crowded fashion space is finding a market in your geographic area which hasn’t been served. Consider the demographics of your location and look for something that’s lacking or something that no one else is offering. Your niche should cater to the needs of the market you wish to serve.
You can find a niche by looking at budding subcultures. Millennials are big on hipster apparel and fitness clothing. Speaking of fitness, you can also explore swimwear. If one shop caters to typical sizes, perhaps you can serve plus size men and women.
Whoever your market is, determining the right niche is an essential component to your success.
2. Consider Startup Costs
Opening a clothing store is not cheap. Professor Nancy Stanforth recommends having at least $250,000 in capital before thinking about opening a store. That’s a lot of money but if you think about it, that figure should sustain your business for three to six months before opening and ringing the first sale.
Forbes recommends the following as a breakdown of initial expenses:
- $100,000 for first batch of inventory and renovation. Your store’s layout should be taken into account before making renovation plans.
- For the remaining $150,000:
- 40% should go to ongoing expenses such as salary, rent, and utility.
- Allot 55% to succeeding batches of inventories. In the clothing business, you order in advance in anticipation of the following season’s trend.
- Designate the remaining 5% to loan payments and/or profit.
The suggested figure is not for everyone. There are clothing boutiques that started and remained open for much less. Just be wary of the fact that undercapitalization is a real threat to small businesses.
3. Write a Business Plan
Now that you’ve determined your target market and estimated costs, it is the perfect time to develop your business plan. It may sound like a daunting task but there are plenty of guides available online that you can follow.
When writing a business plan, consider these sections:
- Executive Summary – a glimpse of your company profile and goals
- Company Description – a description of your unique business model and target market
- Market Analysis – a summary of your market research and competitors
- Organization and Management – the management structure of your business
- Product Line – a description of your product and its lifecycle
- Marketing and Sales – a summary of your marketing and sales strategies
- Financial projections – a forecast of your cash flow
Putting these sections together turns your vision into a blueprint with structure and direction. More importantly, you’ll have the required information to seek funding whether you’re starting your own line, buying a business or franchise, or reselling wholesale merchandise.
4. Purchase Inventory
While waiting for funding approval, you can start developing relationships with vendors and ask about terms. A vendor that offers a cost-effective price is good but one that offers longer credit terms at the same price is better.
When placing orders, you need to think about the initial number of clothing items you need when you open. You may also want to order in advance for items that you think will be the store’s hottest sellers. While you’re at it, consider placing orders in preparation for the next season, especially if clothing in your chosen niche is in high demand or if you have an eye for upcoming trends before they happen.
5. Create a Store Policy
Make it a point to establish your clothing boutique’s operating policies before you open for business. As you go along, there will be issues that you will encounter involving your customers and employees. You want to be prepared for every possible hiccup that you can think of as this enables you to defer to policy whenever an unwanted situation presents itself.
If this is your first venture, it is wise to seek someone with extensive retail experience whom you consider a subject matter expert. Ask this person their thoughts on:
- Payment modes
- Promotional campaigns
- Loss prevention
- Customer Service
- Employee Compensation
- Operating Hours
As a small boutique owner, policies keep you from making reactionary decisions that can backfire and hurt your business.
6. Reach Out To Potential Customers
The key to a successful store is marketing, and in order to market your store effective it’s imperative that you understand your customers. If you do your homework, you won’t have to break the bank to put up billboards or produce radio and TV ads. The trick is learning your customers’ habits and the times they indulge in these habits.
Targeting surfers? Head to the beach early in the morning and talk to your prospects. Instead of advertising, ask how you can contribute to the local surf scene. The question will receive warmer reception than handing out flyers. You can then come up with events sponsored by your brand based on suggestions.
Looking to open a store for the older generation? Visit retirement homes and organize Bingo activities. You can even put up your shop’s most gorgeous pieces as major prizes.
Your target market needs to know you exist and what better way to do that than engaging your customers personally. The relationships you build can be the cornerstone of your inexpensive yet influential grassroots campaign.
Opening your own clothing shop may sound like a glamorous venture. However, there’s a business side to it that requires your time, attention, and resources. Follow the suggestions provided and get your boutique up and running without feeling overwhelmed.
Maggie Aland is a staff writer and marketing expert at Fit Small Business, where she writes how-to guides and articles on marketing for small business owners.