Opening a boutique comes with a unique opportunity to work on a particular niche within the fashion segment. It is a business that brings along a sense of creativity, accomplishment, and fulfilment. You get the opportunity to be close to some of the most incredible craft across geographies and their creators. On the other side of your counter, you get to meet like-minded people who appreciate the craft as much as you do. The only driving force in this occupation is the passion that you share with the craftsmen and your customers.
In this article, we will share with you a route map on how to start a boutique business. But before that, let us get our fundamentals clear.
What is a boutique?
A boutique is a small retail outfit that sells luxury goods like jewellery or fashion apparel to a specific consumer segment. Some specialise in fashion accessories or T-shirts, while others produce hand-made items. They target small, upscale market niches and usually sell their product at high prices.
A fashion boutique caters to busy professional females who will value personal shopping and help in their style assessments. Some of the major functions of a fashion boutique are - alterations, personal shopping, and giving personal appointments to special customers.
Steps to Follow before you Start
Before you take the plunge, there is a lot of groundwork that you need to do if you want to start a full-proof boutique business. So here it goes...
Step-1: Decide on the type of business
Based on the way that you will stock goods, a boutique business can be classified into 3 types: consignment boutique, franchisee boutique, and the more common buy and sell boutique. A consignment boutique stocks products made by other designers and manufacturers and take a percentage of the goods sold. This means that you do not have money blocked in inventory but your share of the profit will be less.
The consignment stores are a good option if you lack the initial money to buy the merchandise. It operates on a high volume business model and sources the merchandise from other designers or factories. They charge a low commission from clients and hence, are popular with budget-conscious shoppers.
The buy and sell boutiques purchase goods from other distributors or manufacturers at a wholesale rate and sell them at a higher mark-up to the customers. Through this business model, you will make much higher profits than the other two. Since you have to make a large initial investment to buy merchandise, you have to negotiate with wholesalers to get the best prices. The flip side is that you may have to pick large quantities of the same style to get a discount.
A franchisee boutique exclusively sells products of a large brand. You would have to pay an annual or one-time franchise fee to the parent company, to be allowed to sell their merchandise, and use their brand name and logo. You have to follow the company policy with regards to things like décor; so, this model calls for a considerable initial investment. But the advantage, as compared to starting an exclusive line of products under your brand name, is that you will have a ready brand recall. You get a tried and tested business model, and all you need to do is to replicate the same at your locality. You know the taste and preferences of the people in your locality and the franchise comes with an already successful business model and a good brand recall. Together it makes a win-win business proposition. In a franchise arrangement, the parent company bears all advertising and marketing expenses.
Step-2: Decide on what Products to Sell
Boutique business is all about specialising. So the first thing that you need to zero in on is the niche that you want to work with. Will it be just apparel, footwear, or accessories, or a combination of two or all three of it. You could even choose to deal in handbags or fashion jewellery. Which customer segment do you want to target? - Men, women, or kids? So matter what category you select, make sure that the collection is unique, and it helps you to justify the value of your product to your customers.
Step-3: Try to go for Innovative Marketing Campaigns
Earlier the marketing mantra for any retail brand was - you need to be seen if you want to be sold. The same principle holds true even today. Rather, now it is also significant for a brand to showcase its CSR initiatives in order to create a brand recall among the customers. Traditional methods such as giving out advertisements or fliers in a local newspaper; or trying out new methods like Google Ads or Facebook advertising are also there.
How to start a boutique with no money?
To be honest, no business can be started with no money. Hence, don't even get distracted by such headlines. Rather focus on avenues from where you can get interest-free or low-interest loans. You can put together your seed capital from family and friends to start a store. You can also apply for a business or SME loan. To qualify for a business loan, you have to show your bank statements and also IT returns for the past three years, and have a good credit history.
A bank usually charges a high rate of interest for business loans. So, you can also apply to any government schemes. There are government-aided business loan schemes for women entrepreneurs with very low-interest rates that you could opt for. Since the funding that you will need is not large, you can also avail of collateral-free business loans.
How to start a boutique in India?
Starting a boutique is a great business idea because fashion is always in demand. There is always a wedding or festive season anywhere in India and women are always ready to add to their wardrobe! A women’s wear boutique business can be quite profitable if you can help women develop their styles and give them a great shopping experience.
You won’t need a lot of experience to start a boutique. To start a small one anywhere in India, you would need an investment of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. The quality of the material and the rent will decide the investment amount. If money is a problem, you can always sell chic Indo-Western ladies-wear, dress materials, or saris from your home.
For starting a boutique all that you will need is a decent place to sell your products and good suppliers. You can rent a small place and sell accessories, clothes, and shoes.
How to start a successful online boutique?
Due to the pandemic, many people are not going to malls or physical stores and are strictly shopping online. In the steps below we will describe how to start a boutique online:
Chalk out a Plan
First, you have to make a business plan for your online boutique. Your boutique has to be different from others in the services provided. You have to estimate the amount of money that you need, and whether you have to look for an investor to finance.
You have to pick a brand name that you love and can say proudly. You can do a quick google search and see whether that domain name is available.
Next, you have to do image curation to create an aesthetic and cohesive style for your online boutique. You have to think about the following: What do your potential customers like? Who are your ideal customers? What types of clothing or fabric appeal to them?
All of your items should fit, and tell a story.
Decide on the platform
You have to decide where you want to start your boutique. Also, give finishing touches to the layout of your website and customise your online storefront. You can also get active on retail-focused apps like OkShop to generate additional sales.
Build your boutique’s unique brand
Your brand image should bear the essence of your brand philosophy. Who is your target customer? Is it a college-going girl? Then your brand image should be bubbly, with bright feminine colours and fun. In the same vein, a brand for a menswear boutique should show minimalism and clean, sleek lines. Your brand image also depends on your product line or the craft you have chosen. Does it have a story to tell? Brands with a social cause or a story behind it have proved to be doing very well within the boutique segment.
Your products should stand out
Your products are the stars of your boutique, and they should be well photographed. You will also have to invest in good models with a perfect background setting. You can take full advantage of social media like Instagram and Pinterest to tell a visual story.
Sourcing is the most exciting part of your business. Have you ever visited a weaver's village or a wholesale market? The former breathes of creativity while the latter gives the best of the business lessons that no business school or fashion institute can give you. The two very vital aspects that you need to get to the core of it if you want to succeed in your boutique business.
You have to decide on a dependable supplier who will supply good quality clothes to your boutique. You can even source your products directly from the manufacturers to get products at wholesale prices. But check out their samples first.
Anyone wanting to start a boutique business has to take a leap of faith, go for it, and stay true to oneself. After all, it is better to try and fail than not trying at all. If you want to start a side hassle and get your money churning while having an enriching experience, then a boutique is the right business for you.
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