How to Start a Clothing Boutique

Becoming an entrepreneur and learning how to start a clothing boutique is an exciting time. A clothing boutique is small and manageable. It’s the perfect vehicle for someone interested in fashion who wants to create a unique buying experience for customers with specific tastes. This involves careful planning and foresight. You want to avoid certain roadblocks that spring up along the way, but you can do it. Here’s how.

Consider This Path Before You Begin

When you think about opening a clothing boutique, ask yourself some questions: 

  • Do you have a passion for selling clothes?
  • Are you fashionable yourself? 
  • Do you have a background working in or an education around retail or wholesale fashion business
  • Are you friendly? 
  • Can you build a customer base?
  • Do you enjoy interacting with others and making small talk?
  • Can you patiently answer questions?
  • Do you have a knack for displaying clothes in a way that looks good?
  • Are you organized and motivated? 
  • Do you have a keen eye for trends and clothing styles?

If these answers are yes, keep reading to learn how to start your own boutique.

Create a Plan

This is the first, longest, and most important step. If you do the research and create a plan that makes sense, you’ll be able to avoid problems down the road. This includes:

1. Determining costs. Costs are based on size and location. Do the research. Compare and contrast the costs of acquiring a storefront, setting up utilities, and purchasing insurance in different areas. If costs are prohibitive in one location, does it make sense to choose another? What are the licensing and permitting fees? Consider gently-used furnishings and decorations in the beginning. You’ll also need a budget for marketing and inventory. 

2. Researching the ongoing expenses. You’ll need to pay rent, utilities, and property taxes. Do you need employees? Consider their salaries. You should also budget for advertising.

3. Picking your market. In other words, who is going to buy your clothes? You should be an expert in trends and what that customer base wants in boutique clothing. Styles and interests vary depending on someone’s age, lifestyle, identity, and where they live. Know what people are looking for ahead of time. 
The growth potential for a niche clothing boutique is particularly strong. These are smaller boutiques catering to demographics often overlooked by major retailers. Examples include children, plus-sized women, and stylish seniors. Once you’ve picked your market, visit OrangeShine to understand how to buy boutique clothes wholesale for any demographic.

4. Learning about your competition and pricing your clothes appropriately. This may mean regularly checking online sales for great deals or partnering with other boutiques to purchase certain items in bulk. A good rule of thumb is to mark up your items between 50 and 65 percent from their wholesale price. This will allow you to make a profit. 

5. Choosing a storefront and style. Do you want to occupy a more expensive brick-and-mortar store or a smaller, less costly kiosk? If you choose an online-only store, you’ll drastically reduce the costs of opening and continuing the business. However, people won’t be able to try on their clothes or develop a personal relationship with you. These are things to consider. If you’re thinking about a traditional storefront, set up near a busy retail store that sells something other than clothes. This helps you attract their customers as well.

Name Your Business

Choose something original and memorable. Make sure to check your state’s business and/or trademark records, social media, and web domains to see if it’s already been chosen.

Form a Legal Entity

Now you’re off and running, so it’s time to make it legal. Most new clothing boutiques form as an LLC or S corporation. This protects you from being held personally liable if someone sues your clothing boutique.

Hire an Accountant 

In addition to an accountant advising you on the proper legal entity for your clothing boutique, they also help you register for state and federal taxes. This is required before a business can open. They’ll help you apply for a tax identification number (TIN) and take care of all requirements, so you can concentrate on building your business. 

Open a Bank Account 

When you’re figuring out how to start a clothing boutique, you want to protect your personal assets. Do this by opening a separate business banking account. A separate account also makes tax time easier if everything is separate from your personal money. 

You might also want to consider a business credit card. This comes in handy when you want to raise money, attract investors, and expand your business. You’ll build relationships with vendors and credit history with a credit card.

Acquire Permits and Licenses 

Without the necessary permits and licenses, your business might be liable for fines or worse. Some permits/licenses to be aware of include 

  • Wholesale license: Also called a seller’s permit, this allows you to buy inventory from a manufacturer and then resell the clothes. It’s like a tax on the manufacturers’ items. This fee can go from $3,000 to $10,000, but the average cost is usually around $6,500. After you receive your TIN, contact your state’s tax or revenue office to acquire the needed paperwork.
  • Trademarks & Copyrights: This protects your brand name and logos if your business is selling original clothes. 
  • Music License: This is required if you’re playing music over the loudspeaker.
  • Occupancy: (Not required if you’re an online-only business) This establishes that your boutique has complied with zoning laws, building codes, and government regulations. If you’re leasing, make sure your landlord can provide proof of a valid certificate of occupancy. 

Depending on your exact type of clothing boutique, you may need other permits or licenses. For instance, if you’re working out of your home, you may need an occupational permit. If you install an alarm in your store, you may need an alarm permit. Building permits are necessary for any remodeling. Worker’s compensation insurance is required if you’re hiring anyone. Your city might also require you to report taxable business assets. Please see your accountant for more information.

Purchase Insurance

Insurance is necessary for your clothing boutique to operate safely and lawfully. It’s typically the most common and reasonably-priced insurance. Look into general liability insurance when you first get started. 

Define Your Brand

Establish yourself with a memorable brand and logo that’s different from your competitors. That’s how you start your own unique boutique. You want something catchy. Create a buzz and word-of-mouth by using your brand to advertise with print, billboards, and social media posts. Most boutique shoppers are under the age of 30 and accustomed to shopping online, so make sure your social media presence aligns with your brand and image from the very beginning. 

Write a Mission Statement

A mission statement for your clothing boutique should encompass who you are and where you’re going. Staying focused will allow you to keep that vision as you move forward.

Create a Website

Make sure your website is well-designed and engaging. It’s often going to be your customers’ first impression of your business. You might also consider linking it to your social media accounts, including beautiful pictures of your inventory, and featuring a map so interested buyers can find your store. 

Build a Reliable Team

As your business grows, you might want to hire some help. This will allow you to open earlier, stay open later, and stay open on weekends as well. A good team will also allow you to get out and grow your business. Just make sure you hire people who are as passionate about fashion and clothing. 

Get Those Emails

When you’re offering discounts and sales promotions, gather emails from potential customers. Also make sure you’re collecting emails upon check out, either in person or online. This is a great way to stay in touch with people and remind them about your business from time to time. 

Make a Splash

Choose a date and plan a grand opening to market and celebrate your business. Openings on Saturdays do well. Offer a special discount to get customers in the door. Advertise in local papers, on social media, and by direct mail.

Make Important Connections

Learning how to start a clothing boutique is easier when you have an industry leader on your side. Find more helpful hints, wholesale clothes, and great customer support with the boutique experts at OrangeShine.