How to start a business selling clothes

Updated April 17, 2017

Starting a business selling clothes can be risky, but because consumers generally need many styles and garments, there is always room for another shop. As the owner of a clothing business, you will need to focus on delivering personal service and providing an interesting collection of clothing. Though you may feel like a dwarf compared to big retailers such as Gap or Next, don't dwell on that; the typical clothes shop is a small operation run by the owner alone or a husband-and-wife team.

Research the market

Decide if you will specialise in men's, women's or children's clothes. Settle on the style of clothing you will feature whether it is business attire or special occasion clothing, for instance. Find a niche that will set you apart from your competitors.

Determine if you want to sell new clothes or used items.

Work out if it's best for you to open up a retail shop or operate from a website or online auction site. Consider partnering with other outlets to sell your items.

Conduct research. Find out which manufacturers offer the clothes and accessories you intend to sell and visit their websites. Also, check out trade magazines and organisations.

Prepare marketing materials. These must be simple and informative, but eye-catching. Include images of the some of the most attractive clothing items you will sell.

Identify a shop to let. Check local planning regulations to make sure a clothing shop in the selected location will be allowed. Also, check parking facilities and if there's any room to expand.

Contact your local council about business planning permission, if necessary, and register the business with HM Revenue and Customs.

Open the shop

Stock inventory that matches your target market. Visit a wholesaler where you can examine the quality of new clothing before you buy it. If you plan to sell used clothing, visit charity shops and sales to find your merchandise. Ask friends if they have used clothing they want you to take on sale or return.

Make your presence known online through your own website. Also, advertise in local magazines, local radio and in the newspaper

Take pictures of the clothing you sell if you have a website or sell via online auction. Upload pictures of the clothing along with the prices.

Employ staff if you have a shop. Hire one full-time and one part-time employee for each 90 square metres (1,000 square feet) of space.


Your business rent should not be more than five to six per cent of total sales. For example, if you rent a shop unit for £650 per month, you need to gross at least £156,000 a year in sales.

Take on employees who match your target demographic so your customers can better relate to them.

Keep track of your inventory so that you know what items to restock and which to buy less of.


The clothes business is high risk; work hard to make a solid plan successful, otherwise your investment could be lost in a very short period of time.

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About the Author

Nicole Whitney started freelance writing in 2008, with articles published on various websites. She has worked as a spa therapist and consultant. She participates in a volunteer program and writes on subjects related to the beauty industry. She graduated from the International School of Skin, Nails and Massage in Atlanta.