How To: Start A Clothing Boutique

If you’ve been dreaming of starting a clothing boutique, 2017 will likely be the best year to do it. The oldest members of Generation Z are just entering the workforce, which means the generation that hates big brands is at the very beginning of its climb to economic domination of the market. Millennials, who are still the captains of the economic ship and will be for a while, already prefer to shop locally, which explains the craft brew, farmers market and – you guessed it – boutique shop boom in the past decade. Want your piece of the pie?

Starting a boutique is not easy, but it’s also not impossible. Like any big project that’s made partially, or fully, to support you and several employees, there are upstart costs that must be minded. However, if your dream is to own that cute boutique that all the coolest, comfiest, most pregnant, most edgy, or colorful people to go to find the best clothes, gifts and knick-knacks, it’s time to turn that dream into a goal. You have your business plan, you have your vision – now it’s time to get started!

We spoke with Charles Anderson, Founder and CEO of Currency, the ultimate online financing resource for business owners, about what aspiring boutique owners should keep in mind when starting up their shop. He’s observed hundreds of new boutiques, seen which ones grow and thrive, and which ones fizzle.

Step 1: Budget & Explore Financing

The first step to any large project is understanding what your budget is. This will obvious vary by your situation, but consider how much capital you have to bootstrap, and any investment that you may receive – either from friends and family or professionals. The next important step? Take a look at your credit score.

If your credit score is in ship shape, you’ll be much more able to qualify for small business and equipment financing loans, which means, ultimately, that your business is secure. “It’s very rare that a new business that requires facilities and physical equipment is able to start up without some kind of financing,” explains Anderson. “It’s absolutely normal, and a fact of starting a new store that is par for the course. Getting a handle on the loans you qualify for will give you an idea of how much you can invest in your business now, as well as in the future as it grows.”

If you’re afraid of financing, don’t be. The choice comes down to if you’d rather start your business at a disadvantage, and hope for the best, or start you new project – quite possibly the biggest you’ll undertake in your life – fully prepared and confident.

Step 2: Location, Location, Location – And Interior

Now that you have a budget, you know what is financially possible. It’s time to start allocating that budget to specific costs – and the biggest one of all will be your location.

Your budget for this will vary, but know that the most important aspect of a location is foot traffic and curb appeal. If you want window shoppers, weekend strollers and neighborhood residents to stop by, you need to be easy to find, and near the stores they’re already going to in person. Identify your target market, and find where they like to shop and hangout. Have a few places in mind, and then before committing, spend time there at peak shopping times, like Friday night and the weekend.

If you’re not sure, live in a small town, are on a tight budget, or are deciding to invest in a growing – but not yet super popular – neighborhood, the safest bets are anywhere near a grocery store, salon or bar.

Once you’ve picked out your location, don’t forget that you’ll be making improvements inside. “I’ve seen many boutiques struggle because they fail to allocate enough funds for things like painting, fixtures, tables, and more,” comments Anderson. “It’s tough to run a successful boutique if you have nothing to display your goods on, or if it’s deafeningly quiet because there’s no sound system.”

Step 3: Get Your Permits & Insurance

Yep, you’ll need a permit for that. This will vary widely from state to state, so check your local government website for more information. You’ll also want to take out insurance to protect your investment, should any freak accident occur like a drunk driver coming through your window, or a robbery.

“Remember, first and foremost, your boutique is an investment in your future,” warns Anderson. “While it’s a very fun investment, make sure you protect it by checking all of your legal boxes, and taking out the best insurance you can afford. Remember, you’re displaying valuables behind glass every day – there’s a lot that can happen. If you’re prepared for the worst, your business will be rock solid!”

Step 5: Secure Inventory

Now that you have a store to work in, equipment to display items with, and it’s all protected, it’s time for the fun part: filling the store! This can go one of two ways, but depends on whether you’re stocking items you make yourself, or if – more commonly – you’ll be offering a variety of designers’ items or vintage finds.

If the former, it’s time to work out your production line. Make sure you know how long it will take you to restock every item, in addition to the cost (both materials and equipment needed, and labor) to produce it versus the price you’re selling it at. You’ll be able to see over time not just what items sell the easiest, but also which ones are netting you the most profit.

If you’re reselling other designers’ goods, form relationships before you open your store. This should be done during the real estate investment stage. Think about what your store will sell, and focus on that. Popular themes may be about locally crafted goods, cultural heritage, quality, particular styles or even material. Contact designers that fit your vision, and have the conversation about what it would take to get them in your store.

Step 6: Marketing

The very last step before you open your doors is upon us! Make sure that you have a marketing plan, aside from just foot traffic. This doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to ensure that people who are looking for stores like you can find you.

The basics are:

  • A functional website (whether or not you dabble in ecommerce), ideally with your inventory or a list of the designers you carry
  • Content on your website that is search engine optimized (SEO) and will send you to the top of the results when customer search for boutique clothing stores in your area
  • Signage for your location
  • Claim your business on Google Maps, Swarm, Facebook, Yelp and any other review sites that are used in your neighborhood

If you’re able, get in touch with local bloggers, and offer them free or discounted goods for a review. Additionally, consider online advertisements, especially when you can be specific about your location, such as with Facebook and Google Ads.

Alright, you’re ready to get started! While this may seem overwhelming, the journey of becoming an entrepreneur is absolutely worth it. Know that there will be challenges, and times may get tough, but in the end the pursuit of your vision will conquer.