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Mr A
Here you will learn how to start up a boutique for designer clothes and what you need to know about opening a second hand clothes store (a.k.a Okrika).

Selling clothes is a business that many new entrepreneurs choose to start with because of the great demand for clothes, not only in Nigeria but in other countries as well.

Because of the basic human need for clothing, owning and running a clothing store or boutique will always be a profitable business in any economy on earth. Unless of course people stop wearing clothes at some point in the future, or a new contaminous mental illness springs up and drives everyone insane, in which case you may also go insane and won't be needing your clothes store anyway.

Having said that, I would like to point out that many people prefer buying clothes from boutiques because of the impression that clothes sold in boutiques are original, brand new or imported. So you see, it is always a good idea to start off with a full fledged boutique if you have the cash, as opposed to selling by the road side. It actually depends on the location of your store anyway. I will talk about this in a while.

Now, before you decide to go into the Fashion business, you need to do some planning and be business minded because a lot of things are going to depend on each other. For optimal business growth, the location you choose for your store should depend on the type of clothes you want to sell and vice versa.

Business Plan For Starting a Boutique or Clothes Store

1. Define Your Niche

Again for optimal business growth, the first thing to do when starting out with a boutique is to define your niche, a.k.a What do you want to sell?
Unless you have a truck load of startup capital, it is never a good idea to stock your tiny shop space with clothes for all kinds of people, plants and animals. Stick to one gender or age group. You would be forgiven though if you make your own designs and have your own clothes label.
Can't decide? Here's a list to choose from.

  • Second Hand Clothes: This is what many beginners with little capital choose to start with because of how cheap the clothes are. By choosing to buy and sell second hand clothes, you would be able to stock your store with so many clothes with very little amount of money. The success of this line of business though depends on the location of your store. It would be more successful in less developed areas when compared to selling designer clothes.
  • Original Designer Clothes For Men: I'm talking Fendi, Versace, Dolce & Gabana, Paul Smith, Gucci, Adidas, and so on. You know what I'm saying? You could sell shirts, trousers, shoes and suits for men only. The advantage of selling designer clothes is that the profit margin is high.
  • Designer Clothes For Women:
    If you are a lady, this would be the best route to take. People say - You would most likely succeed with something you have had experience with. It would be horrendous for a man to sell ladies clothes. Imagine a scenario where someone orders a dress and then calls you later to say: "Hey, the train of the white one is too short, can I get one with a longer train?" And then you be like: "What train? wrong number pls".
    They could also have nicknames for some types of clothes, so you don't want to get into all that stuff.
    Another problem about men choosing this niche is that customers would not want to change inside the shop while you are sitting right there, and if they cannot try the clothes on inside the shop, then they are not going to buy them.
  • Kids Clothes:
    The good thing about this niche is that you can sell clothes for male and female children, plus the clothes are cheap to obtain. You could also sell toys along with the clothes. When people's kids start grabbing toys, the parents would have no option than to get it for the child. A very good example of businesses that have taken this route is PEP store which has a lot of outlets in Lagos.
  • Your Own Custom Made Clothes: If you know how to go about it, it is a good idea to design your own clothes. In that case you would need to keep up with the latest trends in fashion, or you could go into traditional designs which is in high demand right now. You may also want to start with selling the clothes in your neighborhood and to friends and then gradually expand your customer base, this will help create a name for yourself.

2. Define Your Location

Location is a very important factor in the equation. People who earn big and live in high brow areas (e.g Lekki, VGC) will always prefer buying original designer clothes. If you choose that category of clothes, it would pay to find a location where rich people live (or people who can afford to buy your clothes) if you have the money. You could also set up shop at a place where high income people frequently visit, for example, you could rent a space at Shoprite where people with fat pockets visit.
Another way to choose a location is to set up shop close to a facility that would create an incentive for visitors to buy your clothes. For example, if you sell kids' clothes, it is a good idea to set up shop close to a kids' school (e.g primary school or day care center) or an amusement park for children.
If you choose second hand clothes, choose a location where low income earners are found (people who cannot afford new designer clothes) or choose a large market where a lot of people troop in frequently.

3. Look For Competitors

Look for competition around the location you have selected.
Whether your shop will stand a chance against a few other similar shops in the area depends on how big and classy your shop will be when compared to the competitors. If you're planning to construct a large, stock filled, shiny and mordern looking boutique, then smaller competoitors shouldn't bother you since you would be at the advantage of drawing their own customers to your store.
If your boutique is going to be small but decent, you may want to find a place where there are no competitors at all.
If your store is going to be on-a-table style or out-of-sack style, you may want to huddle close to other competitors in a large market since you would be at the advantage of nibbling off other people's customers.

4. How Much Capital?

The amount of capital you are going to need depends on the type of store you want to build.
While drafting out your plan, put the following into consideration:

  • Cost of building (if you are building the boutique from the ground up).
  • Cost of rent per annum (if you plan to pay for a space).
  • Cost of supplies: This is the amount it would take to fill the shop with clothes you intend to sell.
  • Mannequins: Those white model figures used for displaying selected clothes. Cost depends on type and number of mannequins to be purchased. I'll talk about this below.
  • Employees: Do you plan to employ people to help? e.g a sales person. How much will you pay them? Put this into consideration as well.
  • Marketting: Do you plan to advertise your boutique after you set it up? e.g hand bills, posters, billboards, online advertising, social media marketting e.t.c

Your total budget (excluding the cost for the store itself) largely depends on the category of clothes you intend to sell, and the amount of clothes you want to start with.
N400,000 should get you started with second hand clothes and clothes imported from China.
On the other hand, if you are looking into original designer clothes, you should have around N3million, more or less. An average designer t-shirt costs around $67 (about N12,000) more or less. So if you're getting 100 shirts, you'll spend about N1.2million. Add that to the costs for 100 trousers or jeans, and 100 pairs of shoes.
Concerning mannequins, there are full size realistic mannequins which cost about N20,000; other types include Abstract mannequins which are completely white without facial features; and half torso mannequins which consist of only the upper part of the body.

5. Marketting

You cannot afford to ignore marketting. A good way to market, especially if you are a custom designer, is to wear your own clothes. When people notice that you wear unique clothes everyday, they will be eager to ask where you got them from. If they eventually buy from you, their own colleagues will be attracted as well. This way, your business name will spread in your community via word of mouth and completely eliminate the need for advertising.

6. Attitude

With the right attitude, your customers will always be willing to come back. Treat your customers with kindness and always fulfil your promises. Five customers that keep coming back are better than 20 customers who patronised you once and never came back.

Final notes.
Having a boutique is very profitable if you know what you are doing. Keeping up with fashion trends is important to avoid having potential customers who just look in through the glass and stare away with full swing as if they have just seen someone vomitting. For example, baggy clothes is rapidly going out of fashion, thanks to lil wayne. If you decide to stock your boutique with baggy clothes, it would be advisable to get a time machine as well so you can travel to the 80's and become the next big thing.

Follow @JalingoHQ on twitter.
Great Tips, kudos op

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