These are the first steps you will need to take in order to start a fashion boutique. You will want to start at least six months before the actual opening of your store, and a big part of the reason why is because buying works so far ahead of the season. For example, buying for fall closes in April, holiday closes mid August, and Spring closes at the end of the year before.
Create A Business Plan
This is a given. Be sure to think about everything you’ll need to budget for; supplies, advertising, services and of course merchandise. It never hurts to inquire about advertising prices and what not ahead of time. If your store is brick and mortar, you’ll need to get with a real estate agent and start looking for a location. And be ready for paperwork galore! You’ll need at least a wholesale license, EID and business license before you begin.
Get the Merchandise
You’ll need to decide what brands you want to carry. However, the catch is that just because you want to carry a brand doesn’t mean you’ll be able to. A lot of this depends on where your store is located (even if it’s online). On top of that, some labels are just very picky and protective of their brand. So be sure to have a long list of lines that you like, and inquire before settling your mind on anything.
Once you have your shortlist, get in touch with the lines sales rep. The sales rep is usually the one who you’ll do all your buying through, and there are different reps depending on where you live (usually East Coast and West Coast). If you’re on the West Coast, take a look through the LA Fashion Wholesale Index to find out who the rep is and how to get in contact with him or her. It’s also good to look on the labels official website for sales rep, wholesale or showroom info. Once you have the information on hand, email the sales rep and ask for a linesheet (it’s good to include a bit of info about the store as well, even if it’s new). The linesheet will show you all of the styles for the upcoming season as well as the wholesale prices. From here you can plan your merchandise budget and choose which labels are best for your store.
Eventually make an appointment with the rep to see the clothing in person. This is usually done during market week, which comes up about every three months. The biggest market is in New York, followed by Los Angeles as well as Atlanta and Chicago. There’s also MAGIC in Las Vegas, the biggest fashion tradeshow in the country, happening twice yearly.
Prepare the Store
Now it’s time to start buying a lot of the things you added to your budget. This includes store supplies, fixtures, and possibly even advertising. If you plan on having a website it’s a good idea to start looking for ecommerce packages (Yahoo Small Business and Monster Commerce are good ones) and finding the right graphic designer to create a unique look for your store, and perhaps a coder to customize a few things. Chances are you’ll need a photographer as well. It can take time to find people are who are truly skilled and reliable at these things, so it’s never too early to start looking. Web developers especially can be quite fickle, so that’s one thing you’ll want to get started on as quickly as possible.
It’s a good idea to take a look at other boutiques, both brick and mortar and online (if you’re doing both) and see what their stores look like. Then you’ll need to decide how you can do what they’re doing but in your own unique way, and better.