2020 saw 87% of us UK shoppers make an online purchase. With eCommerce at an all-time high and showing no signs of stopping, setting up your own online clothing business or boutique is a great way to seize this opportunity.
If the idea of launching your own clothing boutique sounds appealing but you’re not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how to take your clothing business from an idea to a fully-fledged profitable business in as few as 7 easy steps.
1. Make a Business Plan
This honestly isn’t as daunting as it sounds – trust us! First of all, you’ll need to describe your business, which should be pretty easy since you’re the person who knows it best. Then, get to know who your competitors are and work out what your strengths and weaknesses are compared to their businesses, and get a better idea of the prices your target market will expect.
Here’s a full guide on writing a business plan to help you flesh out your ideas.
2. Find Your Funds
There are lots of different ways to fund your business initially while you’re not making any profits to invest back into it. They all have pros and cons and depend completely on what works best in your individual circumstances.
Here are some of the most popular ways to fund a business:
- Bootstrapping – using your own savings to fund your business
- Government loan – apply for a government-backed startup loan
- Bank loan – a traditional way to get a loan for a business
- Crowdfunding – asking a large number of people to donate a small amount of money to get you on your feet
- Investments – secure an investment with a successful business owner who will then take a percentage of your profits
- Ask friends and family – see if you can loan some money from your family with the promise to pay them back
Here are the pros and cons of each of these funding methods to help you decide which is the best for your online boutique business.
3. Discover Your Brand
Your brand will be what sets you apart, not just visually but also your personality. It’s essentially who you are! So, are you a glitzy, premium clothing retailer specialising in party-wear for big nights out? Or are you an eco-warrior dedicated to slaying fast fashion in favour of responsibly sourced materials?
Not only will your personality define your colour scheme, and your target audience and the way you talk to them, but it’ll also determine the nitty-gritty bits, like your marketing materials. For example, if you’re an eco-friendly clothing boutique, it’s a good idea to get a set of recycled business cards printed to send out in your packaging to say thanks to your customers.
Create your brand guidelines to streamline the way you want your business to come across to customers.
It’s also a good idea to start thinking about a name for your business at this stage, as it will come in very handy to have this decision settled before you get to step 4…
4. Register Your Business
To make sure you’re paying the right tax on your incomings, you’ll need to register your business. If you’re running your business as an individual, this is really easy. You can set up as a sole trader on the Gov.uk website, where you’ll also be able to register your business name and, if you earn over £85,000 in a year, you’ll also be able to register for tax.
If there’s more than one of you setting up your business, you’ll need to register as a limited company, which separates the business’s finances from your own personal ones. Here’s how to do this.
5. Source Your Suppliers
Now you’re all set up, the next step is to decide what kind of clothing you’re going to be selling and who will either be supplying the clothes or the materials you need to create the clothes. If you’re planning on reselling clothes on your website, you’ve got two main options: use a wholesaler or become a dropshipping company.
This involves agreeing on an amount of inventory with a supplier and storing the stock yourself, whether that’s in your home or in a warehouse or storage locker. You would then need to pack and ship the items yourself to send them to your customers.
Dropshipping allows you to partner with suppliers, meaning you won’t need to package up and send your orders – your supplier will! You’ll then take a percentage for each item you sell to pay for this storage, packaging and courier service.
6. Set Up a Selling Platform
Once you’ve got something to sell, the next step is to start selling! There are lots of different platforms to consider, and you don’t have to settle to just one - as long as you can manage the separate channels. Here are a few ideas of where you could set up your online store.
Create a Website on Shopify
Shopify is a great option for creating an eCommerce website for your online boutique. They have plenty of templates and customising options, so you don’t need any website development skills to create a professional website through which your customers can place their orders.
Here are some essential tips for setting up your online clothes shopping website.
Make an Etsy Account
If you’re hand-making your clothing items, Etsy is a great platform. All you need to do to start selling is set up an account, so there’s no website building involved at all! Here’s a fool-proof plan for Etsy marketing to help set your product above the rest.
Sell on Amazon or eBay
Another option if making your own website doesn’t seem like a feasible option is to set up as a seller on Amazon or eBay. Both are huge online retailers, which means you’ll potentially have millions of shoppers right at your fingertips.
7. Ramp Up Your Marketing
Once you’re all set up and running, you need to market your business – which essentially means introducing your product to your target audience!
There are loads of marketing techniques, such as connecting with potential customers on social media, sending out flyers and sending emails to customers who’ve previously bought from you, who’ll hopefully be up for buying again if they’ve had a great experience with you.
For your final stop on this guide to setting up your online boutique business, check out how to write a small business marketing plan from start to finish.
We hope this guide has given you all the information and links to resources you need to take the first steps to setting up your online clothing business. As you begin to grow, you’ll need to create print – from business cards and postcards for in-package marketing to letterheads for any direct mail you send out. If you’re ever not sure on the best print options for your business, feel free to book a chat with one of our friendly experts, who’ll be happy to give you bespoke advice for your needs.