Success in the clothing retail industry depends in large part to your knowledge of retail operations, and the suitability of your skills and personality to the business
The clothing retail business requires that you enjoy meeting people, be skilled in the art of maintaining customers, have a knack for choosing the clothes that people will actually buy, and possess a huge dose of fashion sense. The business may appear glamorous, but you must be willing to work long hours and be on your toes to adapt to every little change in the market.
The industry is very competitive, and studies show that 80 percent of retail clothing businesses fail within the first five years. Most retail stores, particularly small businesses, perish because of poor management, tough competition from department and discount stores and poor evaluation of fashion trends. Before embarking on this business, it is better to gain experience and expertise in the industry, even take training courses to give you the technical know-how of retailing.
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Below are nine ways your small business can succeed in the clothing retail market:
1. Start small
One of the most common downfall of small retailers is that they tie up so much cash in inventory and overheads in the beginning. If you are short in cash, concentrate on getting select quality merchandise. As your business grows and your customers increase, you can then afford to increase your inventory. Avoid buying expensive fixtures at the start, as customers will go to your store because of your merchandise, not so much the ambiance of your store.
2. Learn about your market
Before you open the doors of your shop for business, you should try to learn as much about the demographic of your area as possible. Whether you will be leasing a space at the mall or opening a small boutique, knowing the population characteristics of your area – their income, age, population brackets – can assist in your decision making process. If your area is composed of high-income population, you may want to purchase brand names and pricier merchandise. If the area is a retirement community, you may want to look for a new location for your baby and infant clothing store.
3. Maintain quality in your merchandise mix
The success of your clothing store will in large part depend on the right product mix. This depends on your store concept, finances, space, and the expected turnover rate. Be sure to select your merchandise carefully to meet your market’s needs, and keep up with fashion trends by attending trade shows. At the start of your business, it may be smart strategy to buy specific items from within several product lines. By offering a wider selection, you can protect yourself in case a line does not sell as expected. Always make sure that all the merchandise delivered to you by your suppliers are inspected thoroughly and are of acceptable quality.
4. Go heavy on service
Because you appeal to a relatively select group of people, chances are you won’t have hundreds of customers in the shop at any one time. Make an effort to know your customers by name, and even call big spenders when you get in a shipment with merchandise just right for them. Your advantage over the larger stores is the extra attention you can lavish your customers.
5. Plan and control your inventory
In line with following a concept for your store, consider the range within a reasonable structure. Selling everything from budget to very expensive is not a sound idea. Experts suggest that you should keep your merchandise to within three prices lines (budget, off-price, moderate for example).
You must also establish a system to know and maintain your inventory level. You need to know on a daily basis what’s selling and how much, what’s not selling so it can be marked down and the current dollar amount you have in stock. The exact system you choose depends on the size of your store, type of clothing and competition. There are three methods you can use to keep track of your inventory: (a) dollar-control, which is based on selling price; unit method, which is used to confirm the results of the dollar-control method by checking the actual units of merchandise according to established variables (size, color, etc) confirms the results from the dollar-control method; and (c) ticket counts, based on tickets removed from items as they are sold
6. Listen to your customers
As the business owner, the success of your clothing business will in large part depend on the selection of your merchandise. However, it is best to always keep an open mind and be receptive to customer suggestions. Your maternity clothing store may initially focus on casual wear, but you may find that you have a lot of working women clamoring for suits tailored for the pregnant women.
7. Cross market your products
Encourage your sales clerks to offer assistance and advice on accessories. They can also give suggestions (without sounding too pushy, of course) as to what matches the outfit the skirt that the customer is buying.
8. Hire the right people
Hire employees who possess an understanding of the fashion needs of your target market. If you are running a plus-size apparel store, a size 16 sales clerk may be able to assist your clients better, not to mention be less intimidating, than a size 2 employee.
9. Market your store
If your location is good, your business may benefit from a lot of walk-in traffic. Nonetheless, you still must think of cost-effective strategies to advertise your business. If you are operating a baby’s clothing store, you may want to advertise in local family magazines, arrange tie-ups with providers of childbirth classes, or engage in direct-mail advertising.
Recommended Books On How to Be Successful in the Clothing Retail Business:
- Start Your Own Clothing Store and More (StartUp Series)
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running a Retail Store
- STORE DESIGN: A Complete Guide to Designing Successful Retail Stores
- The Budget Guide to Retail Store Planning and Design
- Specialty Shop Retailing: Everything You Need to Know to Run Your Own Store
- Branding a Store: How to Build Successful Retail Brands in a Changing Marketplace