How to Start a Retail Women's Clothing and Fashion Store
Clothing is one way that women express themselves and feel good about themselves. Women will spend a lot of money on fashion if it appeals to them. The fashion industry is booming. Starting your own retail women's clothing store is a good way to have your own business and is fairly easy to do.
For ease, we will assume you are going into business alone as a sole proprietor.
Make a Business Plan
A business plan is like a road map for your store. You need to decide what type of woman you will cater to. A huge mistake some new business owners make is trying to be all things to all people, as a new small business you must find your niche. Will you cater to youth, teens, mature women, plus sized women, pregnant women, women who are into vintage looking clothing, or what?
Decide the name of your business and so forth. You can have a registration office search to make sure the name is not taken and to register it.
Location and Business Licenses
You need to find a location. Very few cities allow you to run a retail business out of your own home, and few customers will feel comfortable shopping in such a location, so you need to lease a storefront location. Find one that your target customer would feel comfortable shopping in. For example if you are catering to pregnant women you will not want your store to be next to a tattoo studio, but this could be a great location for a more alternative style women's clothing store. You might want to cater to one particular "look" such as Sweet Lolita or for wedding dresses.
Find out how to get a business license in your city, this is usually obtained from city hall.
You will need shelving and racks to display your clothing. There are many stores that sell store fixtures and display cases, sometimes you can even find these things used. In some cases when you order your stock (the merchandise) you may get some shelving or display units with your purchase if your purchase is large enough.
You will need storage areas, steamers (the clothes will often arrive wrinkled and must be steamed before they are displayed), an office area, cash register, and so forth.
How to Get Stock and Merchandise
When getting stock and merchandise for a women's fashion store you buy from a “Wholesaler”. In most major cities there are at least two fashion shows and buying events per year in which buyers for the various stores go and can look at clothing and order according to their desires.
At these fashion shows and sales, many wholesalers display samples of the clothing they have on offer. The buyers pick and choose, ordering different sizes, colors, and so forth. Most wholesalers have a minimum order requirement which could be $300, or over $1000. There may be free shipping, or other perks, for placing a large order.
Before ordering from any clothing wholesaler a retail store owner must fill out a credit application.
You will also be able to get catalogs (either in print, or on a disk, or USB) from which you can use to place orders with in the future.
If you are unable to attend a fashion show and sale you can still find fashion and clothing wholesalers by searching online. If you know the name of a clothing line you are interested in carrying try doing a search for that clothing line, contacting them and asking about being a retail store for their merchandise.
Again, always stay within the theme of your shop. Pick clothing that you can put together in your store so customers can mix and match and will hopefully buy more than one thing at a time.
You may also want to get into some cross selling. This is when you offer something other than your main product. Most women's clothing stores also sell jewelry, some sell shoes (although shoes can take up a lot of space), and some sell other accessories such as sunglasses.
Other Notes about Running a Women's Clothing Store
Fashion tends to be seasonal. When you are at a show placing an order do be aware it can take months to arrive, typically you will be buying for the season ahead.
Fashion does not last year round, be prepared to start discounting some items before the season is over so you have room to bring out the new products and they arrive and do not carry the same outfits from one summer (for example) to the next.
Make note of which clothing lines and companies are popular, and be sure to order from them again.
Employ staff that can your customers can relate to. There is no point in employing only very thin women if you are opening a plus sized women's clothing store, and no point in hiring only women over fifty if you are catering to teens.
Clothing stores often give discounts to their employees so that the employees can "show off" the clothing and act as advertising.
Always open your store at least a month before you have your "Grand Opening".
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