How to Start a Clothing Boutique
Start a clothing boutique by following these 10 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your clothing boutique. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a clothing boutique?
The exact costs of opening a clothing boutique vary based on your size and location. Some veteran boutique owners recommend not starting with anything less than $50,000 in financing, while others claim that $150,000 or even $200,000 are much more appropriate. What goes into this cost? It covers acquiring a storefront and setting up utilities as well as acquiring an appropriate level of insurance for your business. You will need to pay any city and state-specific licensing fees, permitting fees, and anything else required. You will need to furnish and decorate the interior of your boutique in an interesting way and spend money on professional marketing, ranging from signs and logos to ads you take out throughout the city. And, of course, you must buy the clothes themselves, which is a variable cost because the more you order, the more you'll pay. At the same time, however, the greater variety of clothes you have to offer, the more customers you can appeal to, so a healthy starting inventory is good.
Read our clothing boutique purchasing guide to learn about the materials and equipment you'll need to start a clothing boutique, how much to budget, and where to make purchases.
What are the ongoing expenses for a clothing boutique?
The most obvious ongoing expenses for your boutique will be rent and utilities, followed by the appropriate property taxes for your location. You will need to pay any employees an appropriate wage each month. You should also be advertising each month, though the exact cost of this will vary based on the forms of advertising you primarily use. If you take credit cards (which is highly recommended), you will be paying transaction fees on those transactions every month. Finally, you must always be receiving new stock while finding creative ways to sell old stock; for a clothing boutique in particular, you don't want to be stuck selling last year's fashions.
Who is the target market?
In some ways, one of the most preferred customers is the kind who is indecisive. As opposed to the customers who say they are "just looking" and want to be left alone, the undecided customers are willing to make a purchase but are unsure what it should be. By being genuine and honestly helpful, you can simultaneously secure a sale and a loyal customer relationship. Similarly, so long as they don't distract you from other customers, chatty customers are good because they already feel as if they have a relationship with you. This will promote regular visits, and they are more likely to trust your advice when you recommend a particular outfit.
How does a clothing boutique make money?
On the most basic level, a clothing boutique makes money by selling clothing and other goods. This involves buying clothes as cheaply as possible and then marking the price up a certain amount in order to create your profit margin. This may mean scouring online sales for great deals or possibly partnering with other boutiques or businesses to order certain items in bulk. However, you may want to be wary of doing this, because selling relatively unique and hard-to-find items is one of the chief attractions of a clothing boutique.
How much can you charge customers?
Typically, the clothes you sell should be marked up between 50 and 65 percent from their wholesale price in order for you to receive a decent profit. This effectively lets you calculate the exact price you sell each item of clothing for. One recommended calculation to determine the price is to take what you paid for the item and divide it by 100 minus markup percentage and then multiplied by 100. Thus, if you were selling designer jeans that you acquired for $30 at a 60 percent markup, you'd want to charge $75 for this item.
How much profit can a clothing boutique make?
A clothing boutique is potentially very profitable. The gross profit margins of apparel retail have leapt up in recent years, going from just above 36 percent in 2014 to almost 81 percent in 2015. Generally, retail rides the waves of the economy, so as more people acquire more jobs and money, they are more likely to buy clothes.
How can you make your business more profitable?
One way to make your business more profitable is to make it smaller. Most of the above assumes you are opening a traditional brick-and-mortar store somewhere. However, you can run a boutique in a small kiosk or online and dramatically reduce some of the startup and ongoing costs. If you have the skills and creativity, you can also create your own clothing line and sell it via your own store. This is a bit of a gamble since customers like traditional brands, but it lets you pocket more of what you sell when it comes to your own stuff. Finally, don't be afraid to adjust your theme or niche as time goes on. It's possible to be too specific as well as too general, so you must find the sweet spot of having a niche specialty that is still enjoyed by many different customers!
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Clothing Boutique Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your clothing boutique is sued.
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You
Two such reliable services:
You can start an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a clothing boutique. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Clothing boutiques may also wish to look into applying for a resale certificate, which allows retailers to purchase goods intended for resale without paying sales tax.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
In order to play music in a business setting, as many clothing stores do, permission must be acquired from the composer or license holder. Typically, it is possible to obtain a “blanket” license allowing a businesses to play music owned by a large catalog of artists and recording studios. Such licenses can be obtained from Performance Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP or BMI.
Certificate of Occupancy
A clothing boutique may be run out of a physical location instead of online. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a clothing boutique
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your clothing boutique will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Trademark & Copyright Protection
If your business will sell original clothing, it will be especially important to receive copyrights and or trademarks in relation to your brand name, logos, etc. Here is a comprehensive overview of trademark law from the United States Patent & Trademark Office.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
How to promote & market a clothing boutique
There are many ways to promote and market your clothing boutique. These include traditional advertisements such as print, which is helpful to both mail out to prospective customers and to have something physical to hand walk-in customers. Catchy store displays are vital in attracting the attention of those walking by your business, while radio advertisements are a good way to reach those who are driving around shopping. Finally, don't underestimate the importance of a solidly-designed website and social media page. Many boutique shoppers are young, and they prefer being able to browse your store and interact with you online, which also lets you encourage them to show off your latest styles in pictures marked with a custom hashtag unique to your store.
How to keep customers coming back
One of the classic ways to to attract and retain clothing boutique customers is to offer special promotions. These might include offering standard coupons or, better still, a free gift or small item with their next purchase, encouraging them to return. You may consider offering semi-regular sales on special kinds of items, which can lure in customers that were on the fence about buying before. Encouraging your customers to register their information with you means you can also keep them in the loop via email or text. There are also apps such as FiveStar where you can allow customers to build points to use towards discounts or other benefits, and you can text customers special offers with this system to encourage them to return to your store.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
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Does Laura's Boutique take Klarna for financing?
Laura's Boutique FAQ
Does Laura's Boutique accept Afterpay financing?
Yes. As of June 28, 2021, Laura's Boutique does accept Afterpay financing support. View the discussion thread for more details.
Does Laura's Boutique accept Affirm financing?
No. Based on our last check on March 30, 2021, Laura's Boutique was not accepting Affirm financing support. Check the full discussion for updated information.
Does Laura's Boutique accept Klarna financing?
No. Based on our last check on March 30, 2021, Laura's Boutique was not accepting Klarna financing support. Check the full discussion for updated information.
Does Laura's Boutique accept Sezzle financing?
No. Based on our last check on March 30, 2021, Laura's Boutique was not accepting Sezzle financing support. Check the full discussion for updated information.
Does Laura's Boutique accept Zip financing?
No. Based on our last check on March 30, 2021, Laura's Boutique was not accepting Zip financing support. Check the full discussion for updated information.
Does Laura's Boutique accept Bread financing?
No. Based on our last check on March 30, 2021, Laura's Boutique was not accepting Bread financing support. Check the full discussion for updated information.
Does Laura's Boutique accept Splitit financing?
No. Based on our last check on March 30, 2021, Laura's Boutique was not accepting Splitit financing support. Check the full discussion for updated information.
Does Laura's Boutique offer layaway programs?
No. Based on our last check on March 30, 2021, Laura's Boutique was not offering in-store layaway. Check the full discussion for updated information.
Does Laura's Boutique accept Four financing?
No. Based on our last check on -, Laura's Boutique was not accepting Four financing support. Check the full discussion for updated information.
Does Laura's Boutique accept Snap Finance?
No. Based on our last check on March 30, 2021, Laura's Boutique was not accepting Snap Finance support. Check the full discussion for updated information.
Does Laura's Boutique accept GreenSky?
No. Based on our last check on March 30, 2021, Laura's Boutique was not accepting GreenSky financing support. Check the full discussion for updated information.View full FAQ
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