Beginnings boutique: Opening a clothing boutique can be a great investment, as there’s always a demand for new styles and great deals on designer clothes. You will hear the whole journey from idea, to the first sale, to the multi-million dollar business it is today. But whether you want an in-person shop or an online boutique, there’s more to running a successful boutique than having a passion for fashion. Not to worry though—our guide will help you plan out all the things you’ll need so you can start taking those first steps to open your own boutique!
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1. Decide what type of boutique you want to open based on your interests.
There are high-end fashion boutiques that sell clothes from top designers, modern fashion boutiques that sell popular brands, and boutiques that sell children’s clothes. Pick what you’re passionate about.
- For example, if you love piling on costume jewellery and scarves when you go out, you might enjoy running an accessories boutique.
- Be careful about choosing too narrow of a niche. Appeal to as many customers as possible by keeping it more broad. So instead of a store that sells exclusively cat T-shirts, open one that sells a range of quirky tees and tops.
- You can even sell your own designs if you have dreams of becoming a jewelry or fashion designer.
2. Know the costs involved in opening a clothing boutique
The exact costs of opening a clothing boutique vary based on your size and location.
Some veteran boutique owners recommend not starting with anything less than $50,000 in financing, while others claim that $150,000 or even $200,000 are much more appropriate.
What goes into this cost? It covers acquiring a storefront and setting up utilities as well as acquiring an appropriate level of insurance for your business.
You will need to pay any city and state-specific licensing fees, permitting fees, and anything else required.
You will need to furnish and decorate the interior of your boutique in an interesting way and spend money on professional marketing, ranging from signs and logos to ads you take out throughout the city.
And, of course, you must buy the clothes themselves, which is a variable cost because the more you order, the more you’ll pay.
At the same time, however, the greater variety of clothes you have to offer, the more customers you can appeal to, so a healthy starting inventory is good.
3. Choose a location with the best traffic, visibility, and price.
You want to be in a spot that has a lot of potential customers and where your store will be easy to find and get to. The rent or lease price also needs to be in your budget. Spend time scouting different locations before you settle on one.
- Think about the kind of customers you want. If you’re selling to college students, find a spot within walking distance of campus, for instance.
- Keep in mind that trendier, downtown areas will come with much larger price tags. Consider opening in an up-and-coming area that may be slightly cheaper but still have potential.
- Get a second opinion from a real estate professional. They can provide valuable insight into which areas are the best bang for your buck and which ones to avoid.
4. Evaluate the competition in your area to guide your own planning.
Find out what other boutiques or stores that sell similar products are closeby. Look at what they’re selling, what their prices are, and how they’re marketing their business, for starters. Incorporate some of their strengths into your own business plan and figure out how you can improve on their weaknesses.
- For example, if they have a successful social media giveaway campaign, think about making social media a big part of your marketing strategy.
- If you see comments online ranting about a nearby boutique’s outrageous prices, consider setting yours a little lower. Use their mistakes to make your business better.
- Studying the competition will also help you understand your target customer. Spend a day browsing your competitors’ stores and analyze the type of people shopping there along with their shopping habits.
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5. How much can you charge customers?
Typically, the clothes you sell should be marked up between 50 and 65 percent from their wholesale price in order for you to receive a decent profit. This effectively lets you calculate the exact price you sell each item of clothing for. One recommended calculation to determine the price is to take what you paid for the item and divide it by 100 minus markup percentage and then multiplied by 100. Thus, if you were selling designer jeans that you acquired for $30 at a 60 percent markup, you’d want to charge $75 for this item.
6. Write a business plan to define your goals and act as a blueprint.
Clearly state your boutique’s mission and primary goals, then document every detail related to making your business successful, like costs, staff, inventory, supplies, marketing, and more.
- The more detailed and granular you get with your plan, the better prepared you’ll be moving forward.
7. Get the Main Sections of a Business Plan
Executive Summary: Briefly summarize the business plan.
Company Description: Explain what your boutique is and why it will be successful.
Market Analysis: Examine your competition and where you fit into the industry.
Organization and Management: Describe the structure of your company.
Products and Services: Provide specific information on what you’re selling.
Marketing and Sales: Lay out your strategies for growth and new business.
Financial Projections: List your financial goals for the boutique.
8. Meet with an accountant to determine the viability of your business plan.
Getting professional financial advice from an accountant is worth the extra cost. They can help you figure out a realistic budget and pricing structure for your boutique based on your business plan. If anything sounds unrealistic financially, they’ll let you know so you can avoid making a costly mistake.
- An accountant will also be able to explain what taxes you’ll be responsible for, how different decisions will affect your bottom line, and any accounting issues unique to your industry.
- Choose a certified public accountant (CPA) who is skilled at generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
9. Ask the bank about a small business loan if you’re willing to take a risk.
Some banks offer loans to entrepreneurs, although they’re often in smaller amounts because of the high risk involved. The bank will require documents like your business plan and detailed budget along with personal financial information. Make an appointment at your local branch to find out what’s available.
- Having a good credit score of 680 or higher will improve your chances of getting approved.
- Loans are risky because you’ll have to take on the repayment debt yourself if your boutique fails.
Read on: 13 Ways to Write Fashion Boutique Business Plan
10. Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
11. Pitch angel investors or venture capitalists using your business plan.
Venture capitalists invest money from a venture capital firm whereas angel investors are often wealthy individuals looking to put their own money towards new opportunities. With a well-written business plan and a little charm, you can exchange stake in your boutique business for funding.
- Look for investors online or ask friends and family if they know of anyone. If you’re working with an accountant, they also might have recommendations.
- Do your research first. Since you’re just starting out, look for smaller, local investors who have been involved in ventures similar to your own in the past.
13. Use your own personal savings if you have 1 year of expenses set aside.
Entrepreneurs often dip into their own bank accounts to fund their ventures. But you need a safety net in case it fails. A good rule of thumb is to have enough saved up that you can cover at least 1 year of your personal living expenses first.
- Consider taking a part-time job to bank a few extra bucks if you have time during the early stages of planning your boutique.
- You might have to forgo taking a salary for yourself during the first few months of your boutique so having enough savings to live off of is important.
14. Interview and hire employees if you need more help.
Unless your boutique is super small, you’ll likely want extra hands. Post fliers around town, put an ad up on an online job site, or spread the word that you’re hiring. Host interviews to screen your candidates and select the ones who you like and who you think would be reliable and hardworking.
- Always run a background check and check a potential employee’s references before extending an offer.
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15. Get Sample Interview Questions for Sales Associates
Tell me about yourself.
What are your strengths? Your weaknesses?
Why do you want to work here?
Tell me why I should hire you instead of someone else.
How would you deal with an upset customer?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
What would your former coworkers say are your best qualities?
Do you have any questions for me?
16. Order just enough inventory to stock your shelves for the first month.
As a new boutique owner, you aren’t sure exactly how much of each product you’re going to sell, so ordering can be tricky. The goal is to have enough that you aren’t selling out but not so much that you’re left with too many in the back. Order based on your sales projections for the first month in your business plan.
- Ask the company you’re ordering from if they have a suggestion. They’ll often have industry knowledge that they’re willing to share with newcomers.
- Find out if the supplier has a return policy in case you over-order.
- Err on the side of ordering too much. After all, if you sell out, you’ll be turning away potential customers!
See also: How to Open Fashion Jewelry Boutique
17. Furnish and lay out your boutique in a way that flows well.
Customers should be able to shop freely without bumping elbows so keep aisles wide enough for 2 people to pass through. Fill the space with racks and eye-catching displays so it doesn’t feel empty, either. Zones, which group similar products together, also make shopping easier for customers.
- Place your most expensive pieces or the pieces you think will sell best to the right of the entrance.
- Add a “decompression area” just inside the door as a transition space. It should be inviting, free of clutter, and give customers a chance to survey the entire store.
- When it comes to furnishings, don’t forget the staples like a cash register and sales counter.
18. Create a clean, inviting storefront to draw in customers.
Your storefront is the first impression customers get of your boutique. Pretty it up with beautifully-designed window displays, ample lighting, or potted plants. Keep it clean and free of trash and debris by regularly sweeping the outside entrance.
- Change up window displays once every 2 weeks to create visual interest and attract new customers.
- Check your local regulations before adding any permanent structures like awnings or changing the front of the building with paint or other repairs.
19. Design a basic website with information about your boutique.
Even if you aren’t planning to sell any products online (yet), a website is a good way for people to learn about your boutique. Include store hours, a basic description of what you sell, contact information, and pictures of some of your products.
- Choose an easy-to-remember domain name, preferably using your boutique name. For example, if your earring boutique is named “All Ears,” register your domain as www.allearsboutique.com.
- You can check if a domain name is available by visiting any domain registry website.
- Hire a graphic designer or web developer to build your website for you or design it yourself.
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly since most people access the internet through their phones or tablets these days.
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20. Start social media accounts for your boutique to gain new followers.
- Twitter is good if you have a younger demographic and YouTube makes sense if you want to post longer-form videos like of fashion shows, events, or tutorials on how to wear your products.
- Put links to your boutique’s social media accounts on your website and all advertising. For example, a flyer might have the Instagram logo and your handle at the bottom with “Follow us!”.
21. Spread the news of your boutique opening through word of mouth.
- Don’t be shy. Talk to everyone about your boutique, whether it’s your next-door neighbor or the stranger you meet at a cocktail party. Network, network, network!
- Say something like, “I’m starting this awesome new boutique that sells super cute yoga apparel. You and your friends from Bikram class should come check it out!”
- If you have business cards, pass those out when you’re spreading the word of your boutique so people have your contact information.
22. Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
23. Advertise your boutique via local media, signs, and flyers.
Think small when it comes to paid advertising. Target the media channels and places that will benefit your boutique the most for the lowest price. This could be a short ad on a local radio or TV station, flyers posted around the neighbourhood, or signs on the side of the highway.
- Other creative advertising ideas include passing out car magnets or window decals, designing online ads, or sponsoring a local event like a charity race or fundraiser.
When writing a business plan, think about this question: Where do you see your business in 1 year? 3 years? 5 years?
Your business plan is what you’ll use to attract investors so make it as polished and professional as possible.
Be selective when interviewing and hiring. This is your boutique so if you get a bad gut feeling about someone, trust it.
- Get familiar with local employment laws and tax obligations so you’re treating your employees fairly.
24. Know the growth potential for a clothing boutique
Overall, the growth potential for a clothing boutique is strong. Recent research indicates that clothes sales in the United States were up by seven precent in 2022 More interestingly, sales of women’s plus-sized clothing rose by 17 precent. This would indicate there is great growth potential for smaller clothing boutiques that cater to demographics that are often overlooked by major retailers.
25. Know how and when to build a team
Because a clothing boutique is typically small, deciding when to build a team is mostly a matter of determining when there is too much business for you to handle by yourself. You might base this decision on factors such as deciding to stay open later on weekends (thus, requiring more people) or simply if you need to invest more of your time growing the business and less of your time on the sales floor.
It is important, when adding people to your team, to ensure that your new employees are as passionate about clothing and people as you are. This ensures that you continue to offer customers the best possible experience.