Opening a lingerie business is a fun and rewarding career option with the potential for stable growth. Every woman needs underwear, so there are many opportunities to build and keep strong customer relationships. The start-up costs are less than those associated with a conventional clothing business, making this a good opportunity for those who don't have huge amounts of capital. Allow several months to build and launch the business, with several more for profitability.
Specify which type of lingerie you'd like to sell. Shops often sell a mix that includes adult, classic and speciality styles. When making this decision, consider the location and demographic that will be purchasing the lingerie. Racy lingerie won't sell so well in a sleepy bedroom community, just as slimline shapewear isn't the best choice for a young hipster mecca. Remember, special orders are always a possibility, so there's no need to disappoint a future customer if she can't find a particular item.
Contact suppliers to set up vendor accounts. Wholesalers will require a tax ID to do business, so have that documentation ready. First orders usually total at least £162, and manufacturers commonly accept only cash, check or credit card for starter accounts. If you have questions on how to stock a good mix of products, talk to the sales rep; these professionals often have good advice on how to best utilise your stock-buying dollars.
Secure start-up funding using a business plan and prices from wholesalers. According to "Entrepreneur," a fledgling lingerie business requires anywhere from £6,500 to £32,500 to start up. Online businesses require less capital to get going, especially if using drop-shipping. Try to have enough money and credit to float the business for at least a year while recycling profits back into the shop.
Find a location for your store. "Entrepreneur" says, "Malls and shopping malls are a good choice (though you'll want to make sure there's no "big name" competitors) and you will only require less than 1,000 square feet, so the rent should be reasonable." The store should have large display windows and space for fitting rooms, and will benefit from a healthy amount of foot traffic. However, don't look for something right in the middle of the busiest section of the mall. It's best to make lingerie shopping a relaxed, gentle experience rather than a bustling, crowded one.
Plan the layout of the shop. A lingerie store needs to have well-lit fitting rooms, a pleasant atmosphere and an easy-to-navigate layout. Elegant surroundings will raise the value of your stock in shoppers' eyes, so shop for classic, well-made fixtures. Include busts and easy-to-use display cases. Don't forget that women like to touch their lingerie before buying, so keep counter heights low and hanging racks roomy.
Hire several employees to run the shop. Start with a couple of full-timers and a part-time worker to help during the busy weekend hours. These employees should have a background in lingerie or women's clothing sales, as well as experience with inventory and an attitude of discretion. To keep track of financial matters, take on an accountant. Get recommendations from the town's Chamber of Commerce, trade associations or neighbouring businesses. Don't try to do everything by yourself, because that soon leads to burnout and mistakes.
Get the word out by doing creative marketing and merchandising. A lingerie shop attracts buyers by displaying its finest, most sexy wares in the window. Don't be afraid to push the envelope using well-crafted, classy selections from a variety of manufacturers. Try home parties and trunk shows with known designers to draw in shoppers, or have an opening sale event. Another attractor is a bra-fitting specialist, since most women don't wear the correct size bra. Use the Internet and social networking sites to reach out to customers and spread the word; direct mail is also useful, especially for sending out show invites and coupons.
Things you need
- State tax ID documentation
- Business plan
- Credit-card or business bank account for wholesale orders
- Merchant account for charge and debit processing
- Cash for supplies, initial stock order and rent deposit