I get it.
You’ve been thinking about opening a clothing store for what feels like forever.
You can envision the color of the walls, the light fixtures, you’re totally in love with the beautiful store layout that you’ve planned and you know exactly what part of town you want your boutique to be located.
But have you really considered what it takes to bring that dream to reality?
What to Consider When Starting a Brick & Mortar Clothing Boutique
1. Online Boutique Business Plan & Marketing Strategy – You need to know how your business will thrive. That includes first and foremost knowing who your target customer will be, what product assortment you will sell and how you’ll get people to shop with you not just once but multiple times.
2. Location, Location, Location – I’ve seen stores open up on side streets that barely get any foot traffic or in neighborhoods that can’t easily afford the retail price of the store offerings. It is so important to be in the right location.
When your store is in an area with an abundance of your target customer, it’s much easier to stay in business than it would be if you have to persuade your target customer to travel across town.
3. Business Capital – A brick and mortar boutique can be costly based on the square footage of the space and the atmosphere that you want to create. Depending on where your store is located, it can cost from $30,000 to even $200,000—and that’s just to start!
On top of your monthly rent payment, you’ll also need to pay for signage, electricity, heat, internet, payroll, and the cost of construction for any remodeling that you want to do.
4. Business Permits – If you need to renovate the space, you’ll need a building permit. You’ll also need a sales tax license a.k.a. a reseller permit in order to buy online boutique wholesale inventory.
5. Business Insurance – Your inventory is money. So you need to protect it. You’ll have to get insurance in case of damage and then, of course, liability insurance in the event anyone gets hurt in or in front of your business.
When you hire help (which you will have to do in order to grow the business), then you’ll need to have workers compensation insurance.
6. Display & Office Equipment – Renting a space is just the beginning. You still need to fill it. You’ll need mannequins, tables, display cases, shelving, props for window displays, mirrors, furniture, etc. But that’s not all — you need POS systems, a telephone, computer and office furniture, printers and more.
7. Buying Enough Inventory to Fill the Store – This one is very important. Have you ever entered a boutique and it felt cluttered and overwhelming? Or what about a boutique that was way too sparse?
When you have a brick and mortar clothing boutique, then you must have a retail shelf and space plan to understand how you want customers to flow through the store (which can help you increase sales) and ensure you have the right amount of inventory. You want enough options available, but not too much that potential customers don’t know where to look first. That’s why it’s so important to understand how to buy inventory, especially if you’ve never worked as a retail buyer before.
8. Hiring Staff – The size of your boutique and the volume of customer traffic will determine how many salespeople you need. Even if you have a small space, you will need at least one salesperson to help, whether they are helping with checkout or bringing a customer an item in their size from the storeroom.
When you are starting, it can be tempting to say that you’ll run the business yourself. But it can easily take over your life, causing you undue stress and bringing strain on your family relationships and friendships.
You will need help so that you don’t begin to resent your business.
That means you should hire competent, responsible and dependable staff members who are able to shift from sales to inventory or other important tasks that may arise.
With that being said, if you haven’t come to the conclusion already… opening a brick & mortar clothing store takes A LOT! Whew!
I’m a big believer in going after your dreams.
However, sometimes it’s wiser to crawl before you walk so that you can SUSTAIN the dream.
What would crawling be in this particular instance? Starting an online boutique first then expanding to a physical location after you grow your sales and customer base.
Why You Should Start an Online Boutique
You might think that owning an online boutique is NOT the same as having a brick and mortar location. And you’re right.
Having an online boutique is a lower-cost (compared to starter capital needed for a physical store) business opportunity that can help you get to your end goal faster and more profitably.
Opening an online boutique first is the best way to validate your idea while minimizing overhead costs that come with a brick and mortar location (rent, utilities, signage etc.).
You can get started for way less (almost a tenth of what it costs to open a store) and you’ll have way less expenses to sustain the business.
When you use my profitable pricing strategy then you’ll be able to make more money with every item that you sell—giving you the wiggle room to reinvest in advertising to grow your business and to actually pay yourself.
Isn’t it more competitive to sell clothes online than it is offline?
Not true at all!
It doesn’t matter that there are a ton of boutiques online. YOUR target customer is out there looking for what YOU have to offer. Competition just validates the market.
The global women’s apparel industry is $600 billion and growing. YOU CAN get a piece of that. There is no lack of opportunity and certainly no lack of customers.
In order to get customers to shop with you, you need to be clear on who you want to attract. You want to know what she likes in an online shopping experience and deliver that experience in order to get a loyal customer and to stand out from the crowd.
Won’t it be difficult to drive traffic to my online clothing boutique?
Wrong again, my friend!
There is never a traffic problem for online business owners — only the issue of driving targeted traffic.
So let’s say you wanted to lease a retail space on a main street that has lots of foot traffic. You’ll have to first consider the demographics of the neighborhood to ensure that your target customer is actually there. Then, to get your target customer to step inside and shop, you’ll have to make sure that your window display is appealing to that person.
It’s the same as running ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest — without having to shell out for rent, utilities, insurance, payroll and more. It comes back to knowing who your target customer is because then you’ll know what “neighborhood they live in” a.k.a. what social media platform they spend most of their time on.
The internet is your “main street” and you just need to know where your target customer hangs out. Once you know that and you put a marketing budget behind it, YOU CANNOT FAIL.
As an online business owner, it’s imperative to have a monthly marketing budget to bring traffic to your site. You should (and can) be getting in front of new potential customers everyday.
So how do you know when it’s time to open a brick-and-mortar store?
The best way to test if you can sustain a physical retail location is to host pop-up shops in the neighborhood where you want to eventually open your store.
Hosting local pop-ups will help build brand awareness in your desired area. And they will give you an estimate of the customer base that you can draw.
You can partner with different businesses in the area or you can sign a temporary lease for as little as 2 weeks or as long as 30 days.
Or you can take it mobile and rent a bus for a traveling pop-up to find the best area.
Making the decision
Using pop-ups strategically will give you enough data and real customer interactions to make that decision.
Then you can be confident that a retail space will be profitable. You’ll need a storefront in addition to an area for shipping online orders.
Starting online first will help you to grow and save the income necessary to eventually transition into a brick & mortar store.