Are you ready to make your dreams a reality and start your own retail boutique? It’s an adventure into the business world that is unlike any other, in that you get to infuse your unique personality, style and taste into all facets of your store. But even with all the excitement, getting started can be daunting! Today I’m going to break down some of the big steps you’ll need to take to start your retail boutique.
Before opening day, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make!
Key Operational Questions Before You Start a Retail Boutique
- What kind of store will I open? Big, small, quaint, cozy, industrial, modern…?
- What will my niche be? In other words, what kind of products will I carry and customers will I serve? (not sure what a niche is, read about it here)
- Where should I be located? Downtown, strip mall, up-and-coming part of town…?
- How many square feet do I need? This will play a big role in the answers to the next few questions…
- How much can I afford for rent and utilities?
- Where will I source my products/inventory from, and how much do I need to buy before I open?
- How much money will it cost to buy opening inventory?
- What kind of system will I use to manage my inventory?
- How will I take payments and process credit cards?
- Where will I get fixtures for displays?
- How will I take care of book keeping?
- What kind of tax ID do I need?
- What type of business structure do I need to set up? (sole proprietor, LLC, S-Corp, etc.)
Yes, there are a LOT of operational issues to think about before you take the leap into business ownership! But don’t let this list overwhelm you. If the dream of owning your own boutique is real for you, your heart is probably racing with excitement right now as you read through this post. (Not quite sure if you can handle owning a boutique? Check out this post for help deciding.)
Okay, onward with more fun stuff!
Key Marketing Aspects to Consider Before You Open Your Boutique
Marketing is the strategy for attracting customers and making sales. Everything from the colors of your logo to the way you display products plays a part in marketing, so spend ample time considering how each of these items will appeal to your target customer.
- What will I name my boutique? This can be a super fun, yet dreadful process. If you’ve ever named a child, you know the responsibility that giving a name to something (or someone!) can bring. Trust your gut and also check to make sure the URL isn’t taken before you commit.
- Will I have a tag line or slogan?
- Who will help me with branding, including logo design and color scheme?
- Who will design my website?
- What kind of signage will I need? Be sure to consider inside and outside, and check on city permits…
- What will my marketing budget need to be for opening? Monthly?
- Will I need to hire a marketing person to handle this aspect of the business for me?
- What will I use for sales labels? Tags, stickers, cards…?
- What will I use for store packaging? Kraft bags, plastic bags, boxes…?
- What will I wear to work? Uniform, branded shirt, casual clothes, dress clothes, clothes from my store…?
- What kind of name tags or titles will I give myself and staff?
- Will I offer sales or discounts? When and what kind of sales or discounts? How will I let people know?
I recommend at the very beginning that you get yourself a nice shiny new notebook that is 100% dedicated to tracking your ideas. (or if you’re more of the techy kind, get an app like Evernote to manage your thoughts). Brainstorming is your friend in the beginning, and it’s where your best ideas will come from, so be prepared with a dedicated central location to keep these ideas organized.
I still have my original inventory notebook from 2010 when I started pulling the pieces together for my boutique. It’s fun to reminisce as I read through my notes and see how I was able to bring my ideas to life. (You can read here how I started my baby boutique).
Other Things to Consider
The devil is in the details, as they say, but thinking ahead on some of these little, often overlooked, items can save you headache down the road.
- What will my return policy be?
- How much should I pay my employees? It’s best to start researching rates in your area well ahead of when you need to hire.
- What new computer, tablet or printing equipment will I need? Hint…don’t count on lugging your home laptop back and forth everyday…
- Will I need dressing rooms?
- How much physical labor will it take to set up my store? Fixture installation and other prep work might require hiring a contractor, painter, or getting ready for a lot of DIY…
Bringing It All Together to Start Your Boutique
Once you’ve answered all of the above questions, including asking yourself these 5 important questions, you’re officially ready to begin the journey to opening your boutique. For some of you, this journey may have already started – congrats! For others, just take it one step at a time and always seek guidance from others who have been there before you. Throughout this website I’ve compiled tons of helpful information to guide your journey.
Step 1: Do your research with the above questions and write your business plan. Choose your business structure and file paperwork.
Step 2: Get your reseller tax ID and register with your state. Then secure financing before you do anything else.
Step 3: Find your location and sign a lease. Set up utilities. Begin hiring process if needed.
Step 4: Order merchandise (attend a wholesale show or visit websites to order direct).
Step 5: Purchase office equipment and store fixtures and displays (this includes your point of sale POS system and cash register)
Step 6: Create your marketing plan and place advertisements (print ads need to be purchased up to 2 months out).
Step 7: Design your website, launch social media accounts, let people know when you’ll be opening and what you’ll have for them.
Step 8: Update your store with new paint, carpet, lighting, dressing rooms,etc. Install equipment and store fixtures and displays.
Step 9: Unpack your merchandise and create your first displays, including window front and dressing mannequins.
Step 10: Launch your marketing for opening day. Also make sure all equipment is working, including receipt printer.
Step 11: Get cash from the bank for your till (this one makes me chuckle, because I missed this step and almost opened my store with no money in the till!).
Step 12: Open your boutique!
It’s a thrilling process to make it all the way to step 12, and for those of you who have already crossed that finish line, I’d love to hear your story and own unique journey that lead to that day!
Your Boutique Success Coach