Once you decide to start your online boutique, one of the most exciting steps is placing your first inventory order. But you probably have a bunch of questions. How much money should you spend? How many of each style should you buy? Should you start with one color or get the same product in all 5 colors available?
In this blog post, we’ll share the do’s and don’ts of buying inventory for your online boutique so you can feel more confident in starting an online boutique.
Start With Your Customer in Mind
Every decision you make about the inventory you buy should be based on who will buy that inventory from you: your customer. Remember, buying inventory is not a personal shopping spree and that’s why we included this in the online boutique inventory do’s and don’ts. You should only look at vendors and pieces that your customer is willing and excited to purchase. That’s why being clear on your target customer is so important. You should know what styles she’s attracted to, what price point she prefers and even the other boutiques she already shops with. That will give you a better idea of the inventory you should buy and the vendors that you should connect with that offer the products your target customer will be attracted to. If you want to learn more about how to create a target customer profile, then read this blog post.
Determine Your Inventory Buying Budget
Before you spend a penny, it’s important to determine your overall inventory budget. Having a budget will affect the quantity and quality of the items you can purchase. It’s important to set a budget and that’s why this is part of our online boutique inventory do’s and don’ts, having a budget that’s realistic and takes into account all the other expenses that come with running an online boutique.
When you have a firm number, you make sure that you only spend what you’re comfortable spending—instead of overextending yourself and having trouble selling everything that you buy. Remember, this is your first inventory order.
So even if you feel pressure from vendors to buy more items (or you get excited by going to a trade show or wholesale market and feel like you should buy everything on the racks), DON’T.
Research Potential Wholesale Suppliers
Once you know your target customer and set your budget, it’s time to start researching wholesale suppliers. There are many different wholesale suppliers out there, so it’s important to take your time and find one that meets your needs. Look for a supplier that offers quality products at a competitive price and has a good reputation in the industry.
Then you want to think about their shipping deadlines, clear payment terms, if they have any minimum order values and the level of customer support they provide.
These are all things that can sour a good working relationship so it’s beneficial for you to ask the right questions before you actually place an order.
Order Samples Before Finalizing Your Inventory
Before you order a large quantity of products, it’s a good idea to order samples first. This will give you the opportunity to inspect the products and make sure they meet your standards. Pictures might misrepresent the product and you’d rather know ahead of time than have a customer complain, demand a refund or leave a bad review.
You want to create the best customer experience possible and it’s helpful to have the experience for yourself fit. It will also give you a chance to see how the products look and feel in person, which can be helpful when it comes to creating product descriptions or when making videos about the details or styling the products.
If this is your first inventory order, you don’t want to overstock. You should have a plan for how you will market and sell your products. If you don’t, then you’ll struggle to make money with your online boutique. It’s important to have inventory to meet demand. So we always recommend building the demand first. When you actually have the products in hand—not before— that’s a great opportunity to do a soft launch or offer a “pre-order”. You have to see that people will actually buy from you before you go spend tens of thousands on inventory.
Then you can have an estimate of which products perform best, what types of products you should reorder and in what amounts.
Buying inventory for your online boutique is a crucial part of running a successful business. By following these online boutique inventory do’s and don’ts, you can ensure that you’re buying the right products at the right price and setting your boutique up for success. Remember to stay focused on your niche, choose your products wisely, and don’t overstock. With a little bit of planning and research, you can build a profitable online boutique with products that customers will love.