Retail 101- How to Open a Fashion Boutique

Dreaming of opening a fashion boutique? We hope you are because opening one can be a lot of fun.

Step 1: Develop a Concept.

When it comes to starting on the concept of what it is you want to do, you need to spend a lot of time thinking about the vision. What do you want to evoke in your potential customers? Why is it that you feel you’re qualified to open up this retail boutique? The essence you are going to be communicating will resonate throughout your customers’ experience, both in the store, as they touch the product, and as they get your marketing. Having a concrete idea of the concept and vision is the most important.

Step 2: Choose a Business Model.

Once you have a clear concept of what you want to do, you then want to move on to financing. That tends to be a scary topic but it’s so important for the success of your business. What kind of business model are you going to have in your boutique? Are you going to be doing sale and return – which is really the updated version of consignment. Or are you going to be reselling products from other vendors, reselling brands that you love? Or maybe you’re going to be sourcing from other brands that are smaller. Maybe your whole point of view is to buy small quantities from lots of different “Made in the USA” brands and repeat replenishment often as things sell out. Determining your business model is really going to help you when it comes to predicting what the sales flow is going to look like, what your margins are going to look like, and really how much money you’re going to need to sustain the first 9 to 12 months when you’re really getting a good idea of what your customers want.

Step 3: Know Your Target Market.

Another very important thing to keep in mind when you launch a store is you must have a hypothesis, an idea of what it is you think your customers want. Over the course of the first 6, 9, and 12 months, you’re actually testing that hypothesis to see how well aligned it is with reality. When it comes to things like buying inventory or looking at sales, and what kind of vendors you’re going to bring in, keep your eye on very low minimums. Those minimums that you’re going to be placing really equate to the amount of inventory that you have in your boutique. So it’s critical and essential to think about what that merchandising assortment looks like.

Step 4: Define Your Marketing Strategy.

When you’re launching a boutique, your marketing, communication, partners, etc. – all the people who you’re going to get involved to bring traffic to your store, the people who you’re going to get to actually support you, talk about you on social media – it’s very important to figure out who they are before you even open your doors. You have to make sure you have people on your side.

Step 5: Choose a Location.

A lot of the work we’ve talked about is foundational and fundamental. Once you’ve figured out what that looks like, move on to the location part of launching your boutique. There are two ways to think about this: One is, do I want to go somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of foot traffic and be the first? There’s a lot to be said about businesses that are the first in their community, or the first in their neighborhood. However, while that real estate might be cheap, you may not get a lot of traffic and it might be a few years before you start to see people come in. The alternative to that is getting a space that is going to be around other brands that are similar to your demographic and that are catering to your customer. The rents might be a little bit higher because of course that neighborhood has already been established, but you’ll be sure to get the foot traffic and be able to get the customers that you want in the door.

There are many things that go into launching a boutique, but really, the important pieces are the concept, the vision, your sales strategy, how you get people in the door, and ultimately where you have it. Get a good business model, keep that dream alive, and I look forward into walking into your boutique one day!

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