Do you want to start an online boutique with drop shipping? If YES, here is a 11-step guide on how to to start a clothing store with no money or experience. If you visit the internet, you will discover countless numbers of online clothing stores that are retailing different labels and style of clothes at a price that is most often cheaper than what you can get from the conventional clothing stores.

Although when you shop online, most often than not you will be required to pay the shipping fee, but the truth remains that it will save you loads of stress. One good thing about shopping online is that you have the opportunity to see the specification of what you want from the comfort of your home or offices before making your orders, as against assuming that you will find what you want from a brick and mortar store before taking the trip to the boutique or shopping mall.

Over and above, customers are attracted to online clothing shops / stores not only because of the high level of convenience they stand to enjoy, but also because of the broader options, highly competitive pricing, and of course accessibility to a wider range of information.

All you need to do is to ensure that you design a standard users’ friendly website with a secured payment platform and also to engage the services of a reputable shipping company.

11 Steps to Starting an Online Clothing Store With No Money

1. Understand the Industry

Research has it that online shopping retail sales are predicted to grow steadily to $370 billion in 2017, up from $231 billion in 2012. Online retail revenue experienced an 11 percent year-over-year growth rate for the first quarter of 2014, with online orders growing with 13 percent increase when compared to the same quarter in 2013.

Interesting Statistics About the Industry

Statistics revealed that in the first quarter of 2014, online retail revenue generated via a mobile device was up 35 percent over 2013 first quarter, with mobile owning 13.7 percent of total e-commerce orders in Q1 2013 compared to 18.5 percent during Q1 2014. Two-thirds of Americans 50-plus buy from e-retailers online.

It was confirmed that 83 percent of those who shop online are said to be satisfied with the experience. Most of the people that lodged complaints indicated that they are not satisfied with being restricted to the delivery date and time chosen by the online store.

The average online shoppers prefers flexibility when it comes to choosing delivery date; ability to choose a specified time of day for delivery of purchase; flexibility to reroute packages; and lastly a green shipping option.

Aside from computers which people use to source for goods online and also to purchase stuffs from online stores, a recent research conducted indicated that consumers ages 25 to 34 lead the chart in Smartphone usage in-store, comparing prices, reading reviews, buying products, and engaging with brands on social media while in physical stores.

In recent time, there is a tremendous increase in the number of online retail clothing stores and more entrepreneurs are still opening their own online boutiques in the united states and in other parts of the world. The industry is still growing despite the numerous online retail clothing stores in operations.

Apart from the point that starting an online boutique is cost effective to set – up and profitable, entrepreneurs are encouraged to move towards this direction of business majorly because of the easy of setting up, operating and managing an online retailing clothing store.

The truth is that irrespective of the fact that there may be high number of online retail clothing store located within the same street in the same city, it will not in any away affect the patronage they stand to enjoy because the scope of their market is not limited to the location where the online boutique is located by the global village as long as effective means of shipping purchased items to any part of the world is in place.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

In starting any trade at all there will always be the need to be conversant with statistics and figures of the trade. Why is this so you may wonder? This is so that one doesn’t go into a trade without being exhaustively equipped with the right information. As such; here are some notable figures to take note of;

  • Demographics and Psychographics

Statistics has it that people who fall within the age range of 18 – 45 leads the chart when it comes to purchasing clothes and other fashion accessories online. Also a recent research conducted indicated that consumers ages 25 to 34 lead the chart in Smartphone usage in-store, comparing prices, reading reviews, buying products, and engaging with brands on social media while in physical stores.

So, if you are looking towards starting your own online retail clothing store, your marketing strategy should be geared towards reaching out those who falls between 18 years and 45 years; they are your major market.

3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On

There are several areas of specialization you can concentrate on if you want to start your own online retail clothing store, but on the average most entrepreneur prefer to operate a Unisex / General online retail clothing store. Here are some of the niches you can find within the online retail clothing / boutique industry;

  • Unisex / General Online Boutique
  • Men’s Online Boutique
  • Women’s Online Boutique
  • Kids / Children’s Online Boutique
  • Sports Online Boutique
  • Newborn and Maternity Online Boutique
  • African Attires Online Boutique
The Level of Competition in the Industry

It is true that some folks in business enjoy monopoly to the fullest. It is also news that there are some businesses that do not have the luxury of offering monopoly. This is because of the strict level of competition that abounds. An industry like the online boutique is just one of such trades that have a still competition rate.

Despite the fact that there several online retail clothing store in the United States, united kingdom and in most parts of the world, the competition is not as stiffer as expected. It is fact that an online boutique in Las Vegas could attract the bulk of its customers from other parts of the United States or from Africa, especially if they are into international shipping of goods.

If you open an online retail clothing store, your market base will not be restricted to the location where you are operating from but the entire online community hence you will experience a fair share of competition simply because of the huge numbers of people that purchases clothes and other fashion accessories on a daily basis.

4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry

There are several big – time online retail clothing stores in the United States and in the other parts of the world. The nature of the industry makes it difficult for any online retail clothing store to monopolize the market. Here are some of the popular online retail clothing stores in the United States;

  • Shopify (clothing retail platform)
  • TeeSpring (clothing retail platform)
  • Chico’s (clothing retailer)
  • Zara (retailer)
  • H&M –
  • Ann Inc.
  • com
  • Aussie Bum
  • Edward Stripe Australia
  • Lone Wolf Company
  • Apple Tree Boutique
  • Dream Diva Plus Size
  • European Wardrobe
  • Forever New
  • Gosh Celebrity Fashion
  • Karen Walker
  • My Clothes Horse
  • Pinup Girl Clothing
  • Runway Girl
  • Unique Vintage
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Beautiful Boutique Baby newborn to 7 years.
  • Charlie & Me newborn to 10 years
  • Crazy 8 newborn to size 14
  • Gymboree newborn to 12 years
  • Janie and Jack newborn to 12 years
  • Pumpkin Patch newborn to 11 years including maternity
  • Boutique Lane
  • Context Clothing
  • American Apparel
  • American Eagle Outfitters

It is also a known fact that these brands have been in existence your decades or even more, and have been able to survive all business challenges there are. Therefore, in starting a business, there is what is called the staying power. That is your ability to be able to bounce back after a challenge or challenges, and not throwing in the towel and quitting the trade.

Economic Analysis

Loads of entrepreneurs would prefer to choose opening an online retail clothing store as against opening a conventional bricks and mortar boutique simply because of the economic advantages and other key factors.

The start – up cost of setting – up an online retail clothing store is far lower when compared to the cost of setting up a conventional boutique. Besides it is economical to run an online retail clothing store. You have the opportunity of eliminating key running cost.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

One of the very reasons why one may want to lean towards buying a franchise might be because of the opportunity to leverage on the successful name of another brand. However, truth is that one might not readily find a franchise for an online boutique. Well for now, you can hardly find the franchise of an online retail clothing boutique because there is no economic sense in selling or even buying a franchise for this type of business.

So if you are looking towards starting an online retail clothing store you do not have any option other than to start from the scratch. As a matter of fact the other option you have if you don’t want to start from the scratch is to buy over an existing online boutique.

Over and above, it is easier, cheaper and of course cost effective to start an online retail clothing store from the scratch as against looking for a franchise to buy. Starting from the scratch will give the opportunity to build your brand from the scratch and also to choose a niche in the industry that you are comfortable with.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

One of the major threats and challenges that you may face in any Online business is attack from hackers. Hackers can go all the way to compromise or crash your online store. Another major challenge you are likely going to face is the challenge of getting a reliable shipping company to work with.

Of course there are reliable, effective and efficient shipping companies in the U.S., but you may not be able to afford their fees if you are just starting out on a smaller scale. Lastly, other common threats and challenges that businesses are subjected to include; economic downturn, unfavorable government policies and the arrival of a big and well positioned competitor.

7. Write a Business Plan

Starting an online retail clothing store business especially if you have plans of going international requires detailed business plan. There are loads of major players in the industry and for you to be able to compete in the online boutique industry you should be able to come up with good and workable online boutique business plan.

Business plan is the blueprint that is needed to successfully run a business. You are required to write a detailed business plan that can pass reality test when subjected to it. The whole idea of writing a business plan is not just for the sake of having a business document in place; but a detail guide on how to effectively run the business.

Your business plan should outline and cover strategies on how you intend to manage your online retail clothing store. The rule of thumb in writing a business plan is that you just try as much as possible to be realistic and never to over project when putting figures on income and profits et al.

As a matter of fact, it is safer to underestimate when writing a business plan so that you won’t be so disappointed when reality sets in. These are the key areas that should be covered in your business plan;

  • Executive summary and Company’s descriptions: you are expected to write about the concept of your business, descriptions of your company, your company’s vision statement, and mission statement and where your company will be located and the regions you intend shipping purchased items to et al.
  • Other key components that should not be missing in your online retail clothing store business plan are product offering, SWOT analysis, marketing and sales analysis/strategies, pricing, costing and financial projection, publicity and advertising strategy, budget and startup capital generation.

8. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

When it comes to choosing a location for a business such as online retail clothing store, feasibility is not a major factor to consider since all your target market is the online community. As a matter of fact, if you have enough storage space in your apartment, you can successfully operate your online boutique from your home and reach out to clients scattered all across the globe.

So, when it comes to choosing a location for your online boutique just ensure that you concentrate on areas where you can see cheaper and spacious warehouse to lease or rent. It must not be a commercial hub.

9. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

When it comes to starting and running an online clothing store, the key technology and tool that you would need is the internet. Your website is your office and your store, so you must ensure that it is well equipped and of course user’s friendly. Your payment platform must be secured and compatible with various online paying cards.

As regarding manpower, you would only need a handful of staff to run this type of business especially if you choose to start on a small or medium scale. Some of the key staff that you would need are; IT officer / Web developer, Photographer / Graphic Artist, Call Centre Agent, Dispatch Rider (You can contract this role to shipping companies) and manager / procurement manager. On the average you will need less than 5 full – time employees to start an online retail clothing store business.

10. Create a Suppliers/Distribution Network

Firstly, in order to successfully run an online boutique, you must establish good business relationship with wholesale distributors. Of course you would need steady supply of clothes from wholesalers in order to remain in business. And when it comes to distribution or shipping as the case maybe it is better that you have a full grasp of the delivery routes around the location where you intend shipping purchased items.

If you choose to start a large scale online retail clothing store it will be to your advantage to maintain warehouses at strategic locations within the areas your intend selling your clothes and fashion accessories. It will help you safe cost of shipping goods to your customers.

For example; if you want to sell your clothes and fashion accessories not just to people in the United States but also in other parts of the world, it will do you a world of good if you have warehouses in key cities within the continents and countries you hope to attract customers from.

Even if you want to attract customers from all over the United State alone, it will still be to your advantage to maintain warehouses in key cities within the United States. Once a payment has been accepted and confirmed and the address where the goods will be delivered is confirmed, then the purchased clothing items can be queued for delivery. Items can be delivered through shipping.

Shipping-: The item purchased are shipped to the address indicated by the customer. You can choose to engage the services of shipping companies like FedEx, UPS, DHL, or TNT or the public postal services.

11. Tips for Running an Online Clothing Boutique Successfully

The success of any business is the combination of the daily activities that takes place in the organization. In order to run a successful online retail clothing store business it is important to create standard operating processes that runs on autopilot and your website (online store) must always be available.

  • Every day’s job should start by reviewing the previous day’s job, reviewing all the set targets and goals before setting a new target or goal for the day. If an organization must succeed, all hands must be on deck; everybody should be involved in promoting the brand of the organization. It should not be left to the PR or marketing and sales department.
  • The management of the organization should ensure that they review the operating processes from time to time in order to develop better and faster ways of doing things. If it is possible, they can hire the services of business consultants to look into the process and then make recommendations on how best to carry out a job description et al. Recommendation could mean suggesting a customized software for a specific process in the clothes production.
  • The truth is that, no matter the kind of business you run, your ability to get all the members of your team on same page at all times is one of the keys you need to successfully run the organization. As the chief executive officer of the business, it is you responsibility to give direction to the business.

Part of what you need to do is to ensure that you create time for office meetings; a time where challenges, feedbacks, projections and relevant issues are discussed. The meetings could be daily, once in a week or once in a month.

  • Carrying out appraisals on a regular basis and training your employees will help you run your organization effectively. You should also keep your doors open for suggestions from members of your team and be willing to reward excellent performance as at when due.

In conclusion, starting an online boutique is one of the best things that could ever happen to you, this is because of the massive volumes of sales that can be generated.

However, it becomes very important that you have a solid plan as discussed earlier as to how you intend to drive traffic to your online shop. This is because of the point that you need a whole lot of people to be aware of what you do, before you are able get leads. Once more, have great plans in place and in no time you will be made.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How Do You Legally Start An Online Boutique?

It takes hard work and a little know-how to legally set up, fund, and operate an online boutique. Here are steps to legally start your online store.

  • Decide What To Sell
  • Create A Business Plan
  • Register Your Business
  • Choose An ecommerce Platform
  • Choose A Payment & Shopping Cart Solution
  • Build Your Website
  • Establish Shipping Logistics
  1. How Much Do You Need To Start An Online Boutique

There are a lot of variables, with your product line and income goals being the prime factor. However, it’s safe to say you can start an online boutique for less than $5000. That’s a low cost of entry into what can be a very lucrative marketplace.

  1. How Do You Make Your Online Boutique Successful?

Effective ways that will help you get lots of traffic without spending a huge budget include;

  • Create a beautiful store
  • Social media activity
  • Customer care
  • Promos
  • E-mail marketing
  1. How Do You Find A Vendor For Your Online Boutique?

The simplest way to find wholesale vendors in the US is by Googling the company of the product you want to sell, going on their website, and finding out who their wholesale distributors are. Note that small companies sometimes tend not to have distributors and will sell to you directly.

  1. How Much Do Online Boutique Owners Make?

As of Apr 12, 2021, the average annual pay for an Online Boutique Owner in the United States is $72,160 a year, and this works out to be approximately $34.69 an hour.

  1. Physical Product Model And Drop Shipping Model, What You Should Choose?

There is no definitive way to best choose a distribution model. In general, both the physical product model and drop shipping model have significant benefits and challenges. Choosing between these two models will depend largely on the details of your specific business. Many online retailers employ a mix of these supply strategies, as well as logistics from other distribution models.

  1. How Profitable Is An Online Boutique?

Starting and running an online boutique is a very profitable business with the industry making $90 billion-a-year in revenue. Industry reports note that the apparel and accessories online retail sector in the U.S. will generate about 138 billion dollars in revenue by 2022.

  1. Should You Sell On Etsy, Or Build Your Own Ecommerce Site?

While Etsy is great for so many reasons, the main issue with it is the amount of competition on the platform (and how accessible your competitors shops are while customers are browsing your shop) and the lack of brand awareness.

Notably, if you intend to grow a strong brand that people will remember and follow and talk about to their friends, it’s very daunting to establish that if you’re just using Etsy. The platform is full of distractions and your competitors’ listings, as well as having limited design options for your shop front.

  1. How Do You Start An Online Clothing Business From Home?
  • Choose Your Niche
  • Choose Your Products
  • Choose Your Business Model
  • Outline Your Business Plan
  • Create Your Store
  • Launch Your Online Clothing
  1. Where Do Online Boutiques Buy Their Clothing?

Most online store owners buy boutique clothing from wholesale suppliers that offer a competitive price, various styles, and high-quality clothing. But they will also go to the trade show and grab the opportunity in it.

  1. How Do You Start An Online Boutique Without Inventory?

It is possible to start an online boutique without stocking any inventory, and it will be a fair business, not a fraud. The possible models to choose from include;

  • Launching an affiliate store
  • Employing print-on-demand services
  • Using 3PL/FBA
  • Dropshipping
  1. Where Can You Buy Wholesale Clothing Online?
  • Wholesale Central
  • CC Wholesale Clothing
  • Aliexpress
  • Chinabrands
  • Tasha Apparel
  • Stylepick
  • LAShowroom
  • Boulevard Apparel
  • Wholesale Fashion Square
  • FashionGo
  • OrangeShine
  • Chase USA International Inc
  1. When Starting A Boutique, About How Much Product Should You Have When You Launch?

This will depend on your financial capabilities and your marketing and sales strategy. Often, a particular item will come in multiple styles, differing in colour, size, pattern, or arrangement. Experts recommend 10 to 12 styles for your first collection. As for how many items to produce within each style frame, test out the waters first.

Your first few seasons you are testing and investing a lot into marketing and getting the word out there, don’t bog your business down with inventory if you don’t know how you are moving it.

  1. How Do You Choose The Best Products For Your Online Store?

Here are practical ways to find products to sell in your online store.

  • Solve a customer pain point
  • Appeal to enthusiastic hobbyists
  • Go with your personal passion
  • Consider your professional experience
  • Capitalize on trends early
  • Read customer reviews on existing products
  • Find product opportunities in keywords
  • Litmus test before you launch
  • Browse what’s trending on online marketplaces
  • Research products with higher profit margins
  • Start your search with related products
  • Always be on the lookout
  1. Is It Hard To Start An Online Boutique?

Yes, however, with careful planning, strategic financing, and a little hard work, you can start and operate your own online boutique.

  1. Should I Register For An EIN First Before Registering An Online Boutique As LLC Or Register Under LLCs And Then Apply For EIN?

Ideally, it is best to get an EIN for your LLC after your LLC is approved by the state. The reason for this is that you want to make sure your LLC name is approved before “attaching” an EIN to it.

  1. Should I Start A Boutique Store If I Make My Own Products?

Yes, if you have the skills and creativity, you can create your own clothing line and sell it via your own store. This is a bit of a gamble since customers like traditional brands, but it lets you pocket more of what you sell when it comes to your own stuff.

  1. How Much Inventory Is Needed To Start A Boutique?

This is indeed a variable cost because the more you order, the more you’ll pay. At the same time, however, the greater variety of clothes you have to offer, the more customers you can appeal to, so a healthy starting inventory is good.

  1. How Do You Price Clothes For An Online Boutique?

Figure out a pricing strategy that aligns with your market. Here are top pricing strategies to consider;

  • Keystone pricing
  • Multiple pricing
  • Penetration pricing
  • Loss-leading pricing
  • Psychological pricing
  • Bundle pricing
  • Economy pricing
  • Cost-plus pricing
  • Premium pricing
  • MSRP
  1. Can You Market a Dress Design and Not Designed Dress?

If you mean the designs themselves, then you may not really, unless you intend to sell them as just pretty drawings. If you mean producing your designs and selling actual garments, you can put them up for sale on any ecommerce store for a grand fee.

  1. When Starting An Online Facebook Boutique How Much Inventory Do You Buy?

Online shoppers prefer to shop from fully stocked stores, as opposed to stores with limited options. Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, online stores allow customers to peruse through an entire collection in a matter of seconds. To fill up a page, aim for at least 9 to 12 pieces.

  1. How Much Does It Cost To Build A Clothing Store And How To Sell Clothes Online?

The exact costs of opening a clothing store vary based on your size and location. Some veteran boutique owners recommend not starting with anything less than $50,000 in financing, while others claim that $150,000 or even $200,000 are much more appropriate. However, here is the most up-to-date list of the best places to sell clothes online today.

  • ASOS Marketplace
  • Etsy
  • The RealReal
  • Refashioner
  • GREAT FOR
  • Poshmark
  • eBay
  • Depop
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Tradesy
  • Vinted
  • Instagram
  1. How Can You Start A Small Boutique?
  • Plan your business
  • Form a legal entity
  • Register for taxes
  • Open a business bank account & credit card
  • Set up business accounting
  • Obtain necessary permits and licenses
  • Get business insurance
  • Define your brand
  • Create your business website
  1. How Much Money Do You Need To Open A Small Boutique?

On average, small boutiques can cost up to $100,000 to open. When it comes to opening a boutique, consider the necessities and priorities, and budget for those items. The rest can come later with growth.

  1. How Much Does It Cost To Start A Boutique?

According to reports, initial start-up costs for a brick-and-mortar boutique can average around $48,000. This doesn’t include items that vary based on your geographic location such as the first month’s deposit, insurance, utilities and licensing fees.

  1. How Do You Start A Clothing Boutique?

If you have a solid background in retail sales and a passion for fashion, you might find lucrative opportunities as a clothing boutique owner. Here are steps to follow;

  • Prepare a Business Plan
  • Prepare a Marketing Plan
  • License and Insurance
  • Capital and Financing Requirements
  • Find the Right Inventory
  • Supplies, Materials and Equipment
  • Set Up a Merchant Account
  • Hire Qualified Staff
  1. Magento Commerce Vs. Shopify Plus, Who Comes Out On Top?

Both are of the most highly appreciated options at the moment, however, Shopify Plus is more suitable for stores that are quickly growing and require less complex, customized and integrated solutions. It is especially the best option if your website is already on Shopify.

But for those looking to build their portfolio on a large, international scale and are close to generating $5 million in revenue per year, Magento Commerce would offer more flexibility.

  1. Where Can You Buy Wholesale Clothing For A Boutique?
  • Local Wholesale Market
  • Fashion Events and Trade Shows
  • Online Wholesalers
  1. How Much Does A Clothing Boutique Owner Make?

According to Payscale, the average retail store owner made around $51,000 per year as of 2018, with a range of $23,751 to $140,935+. These numbers may be very different in 2020, but no conclusive data on boutique owner salaries in 2021 has been gathered yet.

  1. Can You Buy Wholesale Without A Business?

Yes! Although buying wholesale is easier for businesses than it is for individuals, you don’t need to be a business to buy products wholesale. You only need to apply for a business license if you plan on reselling wholesale goods regularly.

  1. What Are The 6 Things That Are Going To Affect The Cost Of Your Boutique?
  • Fabrication
  • Construction
  • Location
  • Quantity
  • Extent of Competition in the Market
  • The Utility and Demand
  1. How Do You Sell A Product Without Inventory?
  • Multi-Level Marketing, or MLMs
  • Sell Print on Demand
  • Third-party fulfilment centres
  • Drop Shipping
  1. Where Can You Buy Quality Wholesale Clothing?
  • Sugarlips Wholesale
  • Bloom Wholesale
  • Wholesale Fashion Square
  • Tasha Apparel
  • Magnolia Fashion Wholesale
  • LAShowRoom
  • Chinabrands
  • Aliexpress
  • Alibaba
  1. What Are The Strengths And Weaknesses Of An Online Business?

Strengths

  • Low Financial Cost
  • 24/7 Potential Income
  • Easy to Showcase Bestsellers
  • Sell Internationally
  • Personalized Online Experience
  • Affordable Employees
  • Easier to Encourage Impulse Buy
  • Easy to Retarget or Remarket to Customer
  • Customers Get a Less Invasive Experience
  • Gain Access to Customer Data Easily
  • Able to Process a High Number of Orders
  • Grow Your Business Organically with Content
  • Can Scale Business Quickly

Weaknesses

  • No One Can Buy During a Site Crash
  • Customers Can’t Try Before They Buy
  • Ecommerce Is Highly Competitive
  • Customers Can Be Impatient
  • Shipping Times Can Be Lengthy
  • Physical Retail Is Still More Popular Despite Decline
  1. How Long After Launch Do You Expect To Make Significant Money?

Have it in mind that it takes time before you start making money. However, putting together a well detailed business plan will help you come up with the time it will take you to become profitable. Although a business plan is not a seer of the future, understanding your profit numbers and creating a break-even analysis is an important of your business plan that will give you some idea of when you will be profitable.

  1. WordPress Is Used By Beginners And Developers Alike, But Is It Right For You?

Yes, WordPress is the most popular way to build a website for a reason. If you want to build any type of website, from a blog to an ecommerce store, WordPress is a great option. The beautiful part about WordPress is that it adapts to your needs.

It can be as easy and simple as you want, or as complex and sophisticated as you need it to be. Since you are completely in charge and in full ownership, you can make things simple, control the cost, and efficiently run your website.

Ajaero Tony Martins