How to Start a Clothing Store

May 20, 2016 | By | Reply More

clothing store ownerAfter the 2008 recession, clothing store businesses have been growing steadily. According to the U.S. Bureau of Census Monthly and Retail Trade, sales of clothing stores (NAICS code 448) have been on the rise, from US$204.4 billion in 2009 to US$254.9 billion in 2015. As the economy improves, consumers’ disposable income and their discretionary purchasing power increases, contributing to the growth in purchases of clothing.

So how do you jump on this trend and start your own clothing store? According to, there are a number of steps that you need to do to successfully start a clothing retail store business:

1. Think Niche.

There are so many clothing stores out there, and it is important that you find your own segment that you can focus on and be really good at. You want to be the go-to store when your target market thinks of that particular clothing. If you’re a small business, it’s tough to compete with high end stores like Nordstrom and low-end big boxes like Wal-mart. You also don’t have the financial backers of designers like Michael Kors or Kate Spade or the retail distribution reach of brands like Levi’s jeans.

>> RELATED: Keys to Success in the Clothing Retail Business
To help you identify the right niche for your clothing store business, read the articles Focus on a Niche: Factors to Consider  and Targeting: How to Find Your Niche

2. Gain retail experience.

Having an experience working in the retail business can be a huge advantage when thinking of starting your own clothing store. This is especially true if you are starting a business you know nothing about except your passion for clothes.

You need to know what you are getting into. As the article From Employee to Self-Employed: How to Manage the Transition  states:

“This seems to be a simple enough advice, yet many people make the fatal mistake of not thoroughly understanding what having a business means and the kind of work that it entails. There are a number who do not even understand the nature of the business that they are getting into.”

You need to know how the retail business works, and gaining retail experience will give you first-hand information on product management, merchandising, customer management, marketing, partnerships, among others. You get to see what works, and what does not – all of which can be key lessons for your own store.

3. Develop a business plan.

A clothing retail store is not something that you can start with less than $1,000. So if you’re going to start a business with a sizeable investment like a retail store (read Cost of Opening a Retail Store), you better know what you need to do and a business plan can be a great tool to help you lay out your plans for the clothing store. Check out our articles on business planning.
>> RELATED: How to Start a Clothing Line Business

4. Choose the right location.

Choosing the right location  is critical to the success of your retail business. Run your numbers if you can afford to set up your store in a shopping mall. Your clothing store doesn’t need to be in a high traffic area  if you can’t afford it, but your store needs to be where your target market frequent, that is both accessible and with ample parking space.

5. Plan your store layout.

How you plan your space and create the look of your store are critical to the success of your retail clothing store. According to the article How to Succeed in the Shoe Store Retail Business,

Success in retailing entails knowing how to maximize every square inch of the store and warehouse (if any). With good rental space getting more expensive, you need to carefully plan your space through effective use of floor patterns, location of merchandise, amounts of merchandise and use of appropriate displays. Store layout and product display induce product purchase and reinforce company image.

Your store layout also helps make the physical act of shopping convenient to your customers, allowing them to handle the product and determine the unique “fit” of the product.

6. Source quality stock and develop supplier relationships.

As a clothing retailer, you need to ensure that your products are available at the right time and at the right price. This is why it is crucial to develop strong collaboration and relationships with your suppliers and manufacturers. From What You Need to Know When Starting a Retail Store: Tips to First-time Retailers 

Finding the right supplier is essential to the success of your retail store. Choose the wrong one and you can find your shelves empty and your customers going to your competitors.

Check out our Clothing and Apparel Wholesale Suppliers.

7. Hire reliable staff.

A previous study by Accenture on retail consumers  found that the keys to providing the best in-store experience are: store organization (61%), variety (59%), cleanliness (58%), customer service (57%), and friendly staff (55%). The staff you hire is critical to the success of your clothing store, so be sure to take time to train them and teach them how to put your customers first. They are after all, your store’s ‘human face.’

8. Announce your arrival.

When your store is ready, it’s time to announce your arrival and plan your clothing store’s opening. You can choose a soft opening over a grand one where you open quietly without fanfare to give you a chance to get the store in the best possible shape with your display, stocking, staffing and systems before you invite the world to try it. Or you can opt for the all-out grand celebration complete with media roll out.

9. Keep on top of trends.

Fashion trends guide consumer purchase patterns. Whatever niche you’ve decided, always be on the lookout for the hottest trends and designs. Be sure to subscribe to fashion magazines and industry publications (cost is tax deductible!), follow blogs and social media accounts of key influencers, and check out what big stores are stocking up on their shelves.

10. Use Retail analytics to track your performance.

Once your store opens, invest in software that can help you track and understand your customers and what they want. Retail analytics can help you get the right information to the right people at the right time. It can track what is working in your marketing strategies, and what needs to be changed. It can be an effective tool to help you engage in more personalized marketing. You also need to get real time actionable insights on consumer behavior. The more you know about your store and your customers, the better you are able to serve them and give them what they want thus helping your store succeed.

Recommended books on How to Start a Clothing Store Business:

Here is an infographic on how to start your own clothing store:
opening a clothing store

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