These days, just about every kind of business enterprise has an online presence. Depending on the type of business, you can either start out in a brick-and-mortar shop or online. A good example of this is a clothing store, which in today’s world of 24-hour shopping, is easiest to do on the Internet. Starting a clothing store online simply requires the inventory to sell and some business and marketing savvy.
- Determine what kind of clothing you will sell: Will you be a specialized clothing store, selling to specific sizes or an all-purpose boutique, for men, women and children of all shapes and sizes? This is an important consideration because your specialty is what will set you apart from the competition, and the more specialized your online clothing store is, the more likely it is that you will be able to build a faithful clientele. Some of the more popular options when it comes to online clothing stores are kid’s clothing, plus-size apparel and online shoe boutiques. Remember, your entire marketing campaign will be built around the type of clothing you sell, so be sure to make an informed decision based on the size of the market and the demand for such apparel, the money it will take to amass an inventory of items and how large an inventory you plan to offer at first.
- Acquire and assess your clothing inventory: Depending on your niche, you can get clothing from just about anywhere. You can start by purchasing items from hard-to-find dealers and retailers that will sell to you at a wholesale price and allow you to mark up the items for profit. You can also frequent some of the retail markets, which feature dozens of dealers in one place, selling the latest fashions. Another option is to work directly with up and coming designers, particularly ones in your area, that are new to the fashion scene and have fresh looks to offer. The more creative and fresh your inventory is, the more likely it is to sell and get exposure in a saturated online clothing industry.
- Put together all of your price points and don’t forget to include shipping costs. The most that it costs you to purchase an item wholesale, the more you will have to mark it up. This can drive customers away, so you must try to negotiate the best deal you can when purchasing items from clothing vendors. This is where it helps to work with new or little-known clothing designers, because they are usually hungry for exposure and won’t charge you as much as a well-known vendor to sell their clothing.
- Build your website. Just like a brick-and-mortar shop is the calling card of a traditional clothing retailer, your website is just as important for you. Your online clothing store should be catchy and eye-popping without being overwhelming. The clothing should be prominently featured on the site and checkout should be extremely easy to locate. Moreover, your site should be up to date at all times with an easy to remember–and type–name. If you can afford to have a professional build your site, it may be a worthwhile investment if you are not very technically savvy; otherwise, use a template (preferably Flash-based) with enough bells and whistles to make your site look exciting, but with your clothing front-and-center.
- Optimize your site so it shows up on lists under your category of search terms. Most often, customers will find your store by typing terms into a search engine. If you specialize in kid’s clothing, then “kids clothes” or “kid’s clothing” will likely be some of the terms potential customers will use to find you. Because of this, it is important to include search terms in the language of your site so that Web crawlers will pick it up and deliver eyeballs directly to your homepage. Again, if you hire a professional, he should be able to assist you with this as part of your Web design package; if not, search the category you specialize in and check out the language of the competition (particularly the top 20 companies listed). Use some of the same terms in the information on your site to get yourself as high on the list as possible.
- Spread the word through online advertising, message boards, social media forums and just about anywhere else that you can. Letting people know about your online clothing store is the best way to get inventory selling. Take advantage of every opportunity possible to spread the word about your store. Sign up for a Facebook and/or MySpace page and amass a collection of friends who are privy to special discounts and sales (you won’t believe how quickly your friend lists will grow). Offer information about your store to fashion bloggers and/or reporters. Offer to be a resource for future articles. All of this will work in conjunction with traditional forms of advertising/marketing to get your store optimal publicity and enhance your chances for success.