Want to Open a Retail Boutique? 5 Must Haves to Make it Happen
WITH ELIZABETH ALLEN
Do you have a little nudge in your heart to open a retail boutique? Maybe even just a whisper that says, GO FOR IT. YOU CAN DO IT.
In today’s podcast episode, I am diving DEEP into a conversation with my good friend, Elizabeth Allen, about all things owning a retail shop.
Elizabeth is the owner and founder of e. Allen – one of Nashville’s hottest boutiques and is known for her deep sense of style and notoriety on the fashion circuit.
We are breaking down the barriers that might just be keeping you stuck in your thoughts about what to do next with your retail dream.
We are answering questions like:
- What are the top things I need to think about RIGHT now when opening a shop?
- What goes into the investment piece?
- What exactly do I need to know about Market?
- When should I ACTUALLY expect a profit?
Big-hearted dreamers like us can get caught up when it comes to specific details – but action gets results! And trust me, this episode is giving you the roadmap to make it happen!
In this episode you’ll learn the 5 Must Haves when opening a shop, what to expect at each phase along the way, and getting over the fear of starting SMALL. Check out the evolution of Elizabeth’s brand over the years!
When you believe in yourself, and learn from those who have gone before you – you can make that dream happen, girl!
If you’re on the go when listening to this episode, be sure to check the blog below for FAQ + Elizabeth’s favorite items!
Follow e.Allen here for all your fashion finds!
What are the top things I need to think about right out of the gate when opening a retail boutique?
- For sure your brand. What is it that you’re trying to do hone in on or what you’re trying to accomplish? Who are you? What is the DNA of your brand? What does it smell like? What does it look like?
- Who your target audience is. What do they look like? What are they looking to you for?
- Mission. What is your why?
- Point of Sale/Financials. What do you expect out of it? How will you make sales/take orders?
- Inventory. What are those shirts on the hanger?
You have to be able to make it for three years. Something really, really good happens at three years. But something magical happens at five years.
How much money will I need to open? Is it based on square footage?
The long picture will be based on your reports. The sprint to this would be: How will you cover rent? Will you have employees, or will it just be you? How much will your bags cost?
It can be scary, but you have to spend money to make money. Set aside your fear and go with your gut.
If you understand your concept and what you’re selling, do whatever it takes to get to three years.
Let’s walk through the evolution of getting the shirt on the hanger.
Go to market! You have to purchase your stuff at market.
Before you go to market, you have to know what you’re going for. You have to have a snapshot of your reporting and target audience.
Typically, you will buy items 9-12 months in advance. Unless it’s fast fashion – which is a different industry. But typically, you’re buying 9-12 months out.
Also before going, be sure your lines are performing to where you want them to be. Print out a vendor report you go so you know that your customers are happy with certain lines. Then set appointments with those vendors for when you’re there!
Market Lingo + Newbie Do’s & Don’ts
- PO: Purchase Order
- OTB: Open to Buy
- Dates: Example 4-1-4-28-X. These are date shipping windows. You’re basically signing on the date they will be shipping your order.
- Ask for the Show Special
- Ask about a freight cap
- Ask about a quantity minimum
- Don’t give them your credit card!
- Pro Tip: Leave your order! Meaning: Once you view a line at market, put in your order with quantities, but also continue to look around to see if perhaps there is a new trend that you found better quality with another vendor.
What are the best tips for hiring and managing your team?
It can be hard for me because I always want to be nice! My right hand is more blunt than I am, so it’s a good balance. For hiring, I am always on interviews with a lead/HQ people. We do let the managers hire the sales personnel.
Be sure to have really good questions that are aligned with your brand. And a ceiling is never good for people – so figure out ways to keep them motivated. It can be tough in sales if you aren’t their end game, but find what works for you. Whether it’s commission, or a camaraderie system – hourly pay + commission.
Should I expect for some months to be slower than others?
I will say, January and July are typically much slower – because you are coming in from larger months. Those are typically your sale months. But you are also purchasing a boat load of new inventory for the next season.
Spring can be seasonal if the weather isn’t ideal. Weather is a large factor in retail.
What software or POS should I use?
I use Quickbooks Point of Sale. I do all of my payroll and reconciling through Quickbooks – and it’s really great for multi store boutiques.
Be sure to look into what each system offers from a reporting perspective and if they connect to iPad for sales.
(Landyn uses Shopify Pro – she loves the analytics).
How long should I expect to see a profit from my retail boutique?
I would say the three year mark. I’m not saying you won’t be profitable in certain situations – but to work out the kinks – something really good happens at year three. Do what you can to make ends meet until year three.
How much inventory should I order when I first start out? What’s the typical mark up?
This will depend on the type of store you have!
A fast fashion boutique will have very high mark up – you could get a pack (6 items) for a couple dollars. These are high margins. You could sell the shirt for $30, but you only paid a couple dollars for inventory.
If you’re in a boutique like e.Allen, I suggest only ordering a small sample size. 1. To see how it performs and 2. If you’re selling in a smaller community with a bit of a higher price, you want special pieces to remain special.
If you’re just starting out, just do a run across the board with something and see if it performs well. Ask your vendor what a re-order looks like to see if they will have inventory on these pieces available in the future.
How can I support a friend that is in the very beginning stages of opening a boutique?
Like their Instagram posts! Re-share all social media items! Tagging posts. Tell her you’re proud of her. And really showing up for them for the big moments.
How can I make a shirt and jeans look cool?
Moto jacket or blazer, add chunky jewelry, a great lip color, pull your hair back. Effortless and easy!
Favorite white shirt?
Super splurge, but the leather Balmain blazer.
Favorite skincare line?