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Aspiring clothing store entrepreneurs are no longer limited to owning brick-and-mortar ventures. Technological changes in website design, online purchasing and digital marketing have paved the way for a variety of online retailers who offer everything from vintage clothing to personalized baby apparel. A major benefit of online retail stores is that they're accessible 24 hours a day, allowing customers to make purchases at their leisure. Consider the types of clothing styles you enjoy and your interests to help you determine what type of online retail clothing store you want to own and operate.
Decide whether you want to run your online retail store through a drop ship company, which gives you access to a variety of fashions you can sell on your website, without holding an inventory, since the items ship from the drop ship company's website. You could also opt to set up your online retail store through a third party, such as Etsy or eBay, which charge a fee per item posted or sold. Another option is to purchase clothing, at wholesale prices, directly from designers, or create your own clothing to sell.
Create a customer profile to identify the major characteristics of your online retail store. These details will heavily depend on the types of clothing you plan to sell. It is important to know your target client's average age, income level, marital status, educational level, interests, hobbies and lifestyle.
Come up with a name for your online retail clothing store, based on the target market you plan to serve and the type of clothing you plan to sell.
Check with local government offices about what sort of permits you may need. For instance, if you're attempting to set up shop in Houston, Texas, you'll need to file a "doing business as," form with the Harris County Clerk's Office. You also need to obtain a "Texas Sales and Use Tax Permit" from the comptroller's office.
Develop a list of goals for your online clothing store that will help you measure your success; revisit and revamp the goals at once or twice a year. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. An example of a goal for an online retail store might include generating $500 a month in sales, during the first quarter of business, and $1,500 a month in sales by the fourth quarter of sales.
Hire a graphic designer to create a logo and website for your online retail store. The branding of the site should resonate with the target market you want to attract. Ensure that the website has shopping cart capabilities, which allow your customers to make purchases online, save their shopping carts, create wish lists, and use promotional codes and gift cards.
Make a list of clothing brands that fit your target market. Visit the brands' websites to find out how to become a retailer, attend apparel trade shows or go directly to the brands' showrooms. These options will give you an opportunity to discuss their requirements, costs and the availability of their merchandise. Sign contracts with the retailers who are interested in letting you carry their brands in your online clothing store.
Work with your website designer to upload pictures of the clothing you plan to sell on your site. Hire a copywriter to create vivid descriptions of each item, then assign prices.
Come up with a marketing plan for your online retail clothing store. Some marketing tactics you may use to promote your clothing store may include issuing a press release, using social media to host a contest and advertise on fashion blogs your target market may frequent.
- "Bloomberg Businessweek"; An Online Clothing Retailer's Stumbling Blocks; Karen E. Klein
- Power Home Biz; How to Start an Online Store; Isabel M. Isidro
- "Entrepreneur" Magazine; The Online Store for the New Decade; Jennifer Shaheen; May 2010
- "Entrepreneur" Magazine; How to Start a Clothing Store; Laura Tiffany; February 2001
- "Inc." Magazine; How to Handle Online Credit Card Process; Christine Lagorio; February 2010
Miranda Brookins is a marketing professional who has over seven years of experience in copywriting, direct-response and Web marketing, publications management and business communications. She has a bachelor's degree in business and marketing from Towson University and is working on a master's degree in publications design at University of Baltimore.