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Passion for fashion – that’s all it takes to get started on your own clothing line. That’s right; it’s possible to launch a clothing line for less than £5,000 – or less than £1,000 if you’re painstakingly lean – as basic equipment, materials and wholesale clothing can be bought cheaply.
Moreover, you won’t have to quit your day job – at first, a clothing line can be run flexibly as a ‘side hustle’. And you won’t need dedicated premises until you’ve lots of stock, so you can easily start from home. Great news in these times of rising business overheads.
Of course, starting your own clothing line in 2024 has its risks. Today’s consumers want new clothes, but they want them sourced sustainably. They want ethical delivery, but they also want their products next-day. In the face of supply chain bottlenecks, and inflation affecting the cost of raw materials, there is a lot to consider.
Fashion is a competitive market and sales will be patchy and unpredictable at the start – particularly with the cost of living soaring. But, with a few savvy first steps, you can design a winning business plan to find success as big as TALA, People Tree, and Lucy&Yak, – our guide is here to help.
Create a clothing website in a day with these simple templates
When setting up a clothing line, you’ll need to showcase your wares with a website. Fortunately, Startups can make this a stress-free and simple process – you can create one on your own in under an hour with our modern templates like the one below
In short, don’t expect this to be your road to fame and fortune. But if you’re in it because you love clothes and want to be part of an exciting, fast-moving industry, you’ve every chance at success.
At Startups.co.uk, we test and rate website builder tools, and we’ve identified Wix as one of the best you can choose for creating a business site. Wix even has a selection of custom website templates designed specifically for clothing and fashion businesses – you simply drop your own product inventory, wording and preferred imagery into your chosen template. Better still, it’s completely free to try for yourself.
Startups.co.uk can help your business succeed
At Startups.co.uk, we’re here to help small UK businesses to get started, grow and succeed. We have helpful resources for helping new businesses get off the ground – you can use the tool below to get started today.
What Does Your Business Need Help With?
Clothing line ideas
In the early stages of starting a clothing line, you’ll need to decide on your business model. Generally, there are three paths you could take:
- On-demand/direct-to-garment printing. This involves buying standard blank clothes, such as t-shirts, and having your own designs or logo digitally printed onto them. This is a low-cost option that’s quick to set up.
- Wholesale customisation. This involves buying simple garments in bulk and having them customised with your own labels, tags and designs, generally using higher-quality printing and production methods than digital printing – such as screen printing. This is higher cost, but the potential for higher margins is there.
- Designing and creating from scratch. This involves designing clothes, sourcing materials for them, and producing them either by yourself or via a manufacturer. This model will cost you considerably more than the previous options in money and time, but you may be able to sell at higher margins, and you will have a line that’s 100% your own.
Develop your niche
Once you’ve decided how you’ll be operating your clothing line startup, you’ll need to develop your niche – that is, settle on the type and style of clothes you want to sell.
Perhaps you’re into formal wear, or sportswear is your thing. Maybe you’ve always dreamt of bringing out a collection of vintage-inspired nightwear, or perhaps you’d like to explore everyday casual. Possibly you want to sell clothes inspired by another passion of yours, like travel or music. Maybe you’re in love with 70s apparel. The choice is yours.
Remember, you’re more likely to succeed by specialising in something you’re familiar with and understand – that way, you can better trust your own judgement and more passionately market the line (in this industry, passion is crucial). So, plump for a niche that you love.
Once you have a concept in mind, you’ll need to conduct market research before taking it any further. This will help you to understand the market and demand in your local area, ensure you have something that stands out from what your competitors are offering, and see what potential customers think about your idea – all in the hope of ensuring that it’s viable.
John Bright is founder of The Good Neighbour shop, an online and instore clothes retailer. Bright began his business after working in menswear buying for over 15 years.
“I started the brand believing there was big gap in the market between mass produced fast-fashion and premium menswear brands. Even though it is a crowded market for new brands, there are always opportunities to start businesses if people have something unique to offer.”
Build a memorable clothing brand
In fashion, the clothes you’re selling are only half the story. The other half is told by your brand. And when it comes to convincing a customer to buy something, the latter will play a surprisingly significant role.
Don’t believe this? Ask yourself, how many times – consciously or unconsciously – have you found yourself more inclined to buy something because you love the brand it belongs to?
So, for the best chance at success in this industry you’ll need to devise a consistent branding strategy which informs a strong brand image that customers can engage with and grow attached to.
Moreover, any successful brand will have a clear idea of its target market (that is, the customers it’s trying to sell to) and will ensure its branding remains tailored to their tastes and interests.
Find out how to define and measure your line’s target market in our guide to writing a clothing brand business plan.
Need help staying organised?
Starting a business is a process that includes a number of tasks and steps to stay on top of. We recommend you use project management software to help stay on track.
You can assign tasks, track progress and work collaboratively to make sure that everything happens when you need it to.
Find out which project management tools we recommend.
Setting up a clothing brand: UK tips
In order to truly appeal to the target customer, a fashion branding strategy should have:
Matt Bird, founder of men’s clothing brand We Are Gntlmen, elaborates on this: “You really need to focus on the message that you want to put out, the emotional connection you want to have with your customer and the type of business you want to build.”
- An identity. What’s the concept that ties your clothes together? Is it their style? Their purpose? Their materials? The way they’re produced?
- A story. How has your personal history led you here? Why did you want to sell these particular clothes?
- An ethos. What will the brand’s purpose and values be? What are you hoping to bring to consumers?
- A personality. As the mantra goes, you are your brand. Your own personality should shine through, giving your brand a unique and genuine flavour.
Everything you put out there should be in-keeping with and reflective of the above – from your name and logo to the marketing messages, website copy and social media posts you share.
Sean Hammon, founder of muscle-fit clothing range Oxcloth, advises getting creative with your brand’s theme and using it to make everything you do recognisable: “We personally play on our own ‘ox’ logo. Oxcloth uses black and red as our brand colours and every style of shirt includes a red top button.
“This, along with small details such as the names of our clothes being based on Old Western themes and our sizing branded after different breeds of cattle, we feel gives our brand its own unique atmosphere which our customers engage with and remember.”
Choosing a clothing brand name
Of course, one of the trickiest (and yet most fun!) stages of building a brand is choosing a name for it.
Getting this right is crucial; after all, your business’ name is often the first thing a customer will hear about your brand, so it’s important that it gives the right impression of the clothes you’re selling.
If you’re stuck, try:
- Listing of all the words that come to mind when you think about your brand (no matter how obscure) and combining them in different ways.
- Taking inspiration from your favourite brands’ names. What’s the story behind them? What makes them so good?
- Looking up unusual words that relate to your brand’s identity and ethos.
- Playing around with inventing new words that sound fitting.
- Thinking about yourself. Can your own name be included in the business’ name?
Remember, your business’ name must be:
- Easy to spell and pronounce
- Unique – don’t go for a name that’s similar to another brand’s
- In-keeping with your branding, giving customers an accurate notion of what they can expect from your line
- Appealing to your target audience
Matt Bird, founder of We Are Gntlmen, says: “Ask for opinion, ask your target audience, ask your network what they think. Really gauge their first impressions and listen to their feedback.”
Once you’ve settled on something, you’ll need to check that it’s available and hasn’t been snapped up by someone else. Use the government’s Companies House Register to check it’s free, then get it officially registered as soon as possible.
Adhering to clothing line regulations
Licenses and obligations
In UK business, clothing is not a strictly regulated space and you won’t require a specific license to sell it (unless you’re trading at a market, in which case you’ll need a market stall license).
You will, however, need to ensure your clothes comply with the Sale of Goods Act, the Supply of Goods and Services Act and the Sale and Supply of Goods Act – which basically dictate that any products you sell must come exactly as you’ve described them.
It’s the seller – not the manufacturer or supplier – who’s responsible for ensuring these contracts are met, so always make sure your items are actually of the quality and design you’re advertising before putting them up for sale.
Other regulations to comply by are things such as labelling (fabric content, country of origin, care instructions) and flammability, which should be provided by your fabric supplier or manufacturer.
Even if your clothes line is your side hustle, you should still treat the business side of your operations seriously. You’ll need to keep on top of your books and open a business banking account; and the up-front expense of hiring an accountant will almost certainly pay off in the long run.
In particular, make sure all you’re on top of your tax obligations – you’ll need to register as a sole trader with HMRC (unless you decide to start a limited company or partnership). Be sure to keep hold of all expenses receipts to avoid a nasty surprise come self-assessment deadline day.
It’s also a good idea to look into trademarking your line, which is important if you want to protect your brand from potential copyright cases.
Being protected by the right insurance covers is important for any business which provides a service or product to the public – so a clothing line is no exception.
In general, you’ll need professional indemnity insurance, public liability insurance and products liability insurance to ensure you’re covered if a customer or client makes a legal complaint against you, your business or your clothes.
We also recommend contents insurance to protect your stock for shipping and in case of damages.
You should also seek out business insurance packages that cater specifically to clothing brands – the covers they offer will differ depending on whether you’re selling in a physical premises or online.
While you don’t need any specific qualifications to start designing, making and selling clothes, you might want to consider undertaking a training course – whether it’s in design, manufacture or sales.
Look to your local colleges and universities, or check out The Fashion Retail Academy or the London College of Fashion to see whether they have anything that would boost your skills and experience.
Sourcing suppliers and manufacturers
It goes without saying that a clothing line is nothing without clothes to sell. The real heart of your business, designing and making clothes requires a lot of research into suppliers and manufacturers. Of course, the way you go about this will depend on your model.
If you’re customising wholesale products…
Where you buy your wholesale products will depend on whether you want to customise them yourself with your own equipment, or whether you’d like to use a service that will customise your order for you, using your designs.
While many suppliers will simply sell blank clothing in bulk, others will offer printing, embroidering and labelling services as well. Try consulting online directories, asking manufacturing and fashion forums, or asking your fashion industry peers for recommendations.
Sean Hammon, founder of Oxcloth, said: “It’s not expensive or time consuming to go clothing exhibitions such as SVP in London and Premier Vision in France. There you will find anything you need from buckles to umbrellas.
“You get to meet your supplier face-to-face and get a first-hand look at their quality. There is no better way to do it.”
If you’re designing and making your own clothes…
Once you’ve finished a collection of designs that you’re in love with, you’ll need to source the materials you need to make them – which is often a more difficult task than it first sounds! To decide which materials you’ll need, consider:
- Functionality – What is the purpose of the clothing? Does it need to be durable? Rigid or soft? Thick or lightweight?
- Quality – The textiles you use are intrinsic to your clothings’ quality. If you want to create premium quality clothes, you’ll need to source high-quality, potentially more expensive material.
Once you have a clear idea of the fabrics you want, you’ll need to find a materials supplier that meets your needs. When inquiring with suppliers, be sure to ask about:
- Lead time. The time it takes a supplier to get your fabric to you will have an impact on your production schedule.
- Maximum and minimum quantities. Some suppliers will ask you to buy a certain amount as a minimum – in your early stages you’ll need to find a low-minimum supplier so you don’t spend excess money and end up with too much inventory.
- Prices. Often, fabric will cost less per yard the more you buy.
- The potential for repeat orders. You’ll need the supplier to have a good, ongoing stock of the fabrics you’ll need.
- Fabric width. As you’ll be ordering in terms of length, make sure you’re clear on the width of the fabrics too, as this can vary.
Finding a manufacturer
Whether you grow to receive more demand than you can keep up with or you want to outsource production from the start, at some point you’ll need to enlist a factory to produce your clothes in bulk (there’s only so much you can do at your sewing machine!).
First of all, ask yourself whether you want a factory that offers:
- CMT (cut-measure-trim): You supply the materials and designs and the factory simply puts it all together
- FFP (full package production): the factory sources materials for your designs itself
The latter is invariably more expensive, but could be a time-saver for you.
If you’ve already got experience in the clothing industry then it’s a good idea to use your list of contacts to build up a trusted supplier network.
When it comes to finding the right factory, research is paramount. Start by asking for recommendations from fashion industry peers. You can also search for manufacturers online – check out Let’s Make it Here’s database of UK manufacturers as a starting point.
Try to look as locally as possible: you’ll need to be able to visit your factory every now and then to keep an eye on things. While overseas factories will be cheaper for you, navigating overseas shipping logistics can prove nightmarish. Plus, ‘made in Britain’ is quite a desirable statement (and can even be a USP).
One thing to be aware of is that outside of the EU, some clothing manufacturers use dyes that are not regulated or even banned in the EU – so be careful if you’re planning on getting your garments made in places such as India or China.
John Bright, founder of The Good Neighbour shop, said “sourcing suppliers was the easy part for me. As I had worked with so many factories in the past I could call on my favourites to help me out at first.
“Setting up all the other parts of the business eg. bank accounts, website, tax, was a lot more challenging and took quite a bit of patience and time to get organised.”
Next, narrow potential factories down in favour of those who are experienced in creating your style of garment and using your material. Get in touch with them to start building a relationship, find out what their minimum order is and get an idea of their prices.
When you’ve done this, arrange to visit your favourite factories. Research into the machinery that’s needed to make your products well and check whether the factory has it. Ask about their schedule and how long it will take them to produce your clothes and, if necessary, negotiate orders and prices.
Will Bird also highlights the importance of making sure your manufacturer adheres to fair working conditions and the right practices. “We’ve all heard ‘sweatshop’ comments, so make sure you find a decent manufacturer who can provide you with fair working certificates. They should also provide you with documentation on the processes, materials and practices they use.”
Marketing your clothing line
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Squarespace (web builder MAIN)
Choose the right website builder
Website builders make designing and creating your fashion website easy, and they’re far cheaper than using a web designer. When you use a website builder, it’s as simple as picking a template that resonates with your future fashion brand and using the drag and drop functionality to input text and images. Remember that your website is one of the several faces of your brand, so it’s worth investing in high quality images of your products and making sure that your copy is on point.
There are lots of website builders out there, but the three that we’ve specified above will offer you all the tools you need to start selling your clothing online, such as the ability to take card and mobile payments.
Squarespace is known for its collection of beautiful fashion templates, making it the ideal website builder for clothing businesses. With sleek lines, stylish animations, and fashionable fonts, Squarespace offers the most flexibility when it comes to creating a unique website for your brand.
Take a look at more fashion templates from Squarespace
Wix’s clothing store templates are a little more basic than Squarespace’s offerings, but that means the Wix website builder is easier to use. In addition to its templates, Wix has a whole host of features that you can take advantage of to get your brand out there, including Wix SEO (seach engine optimisation) and email marketing.
Take a look at what the Wix ecommerce store can offer your future clothing business
BigCommerce has the capacity to support small boutique stores to large online fashion emporiums, so you know you’ll have the site structure to support your business if it takes off. With an integrated ecommerce management system, you’ll be able to enable cart recovery features and choose from a range of shipping and payment providers.
Find out more about BigCommerce online fashion store templates
Build a social media presence
As a clothing brand startup, social media may well be instrumental to your success, helping you to cultivate your brand voice and show off what you’ve got to offer – all for free!
It’s wise to test out all social media platforms to see which get the best engagement, but you will likely find that Instagram and Pinterest work best for your clothing line as they’re image-based. For efficiency, you could consider using a social media management tool.
Be sure to regularly share high-quality, professional images of your clothing (amateurish shots won’t reflect well on your brand), and do some digging into the hashtags that are big in your genre, and with your target audience (#outfitoftheday or #ootd are good starting points!). This will make your posts easier to find.
Remember, clothing is an integral part of people’s lifestyles; so you’ll want to reflect your target customer’s lifestyle – or the lifestyle they’d like to have – in your imagery. If your clothes are for active outdoorsy types, for example, share images of them being worn out in beautiful natural surroundings.
Social media is also a great opportunity to create early brand advocates, so be engaged and respond to potential customers who get in touch with you. You might also want to play around with competitions and giveaways to boost interest in your brand.
Get in touch with fashion bloggers
Bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers are hugely influential in fashion. An accessible and genuine source of reviews and recommendations, fans trust what they say. So, having a big name show off your brand to their vast audience could be a turning point for you.
While the magic of bloggers is that they appear to be average consumers, the most prominent will receive hundreds, perhaps thousands of samples on a regular basis. It goes without saying that sparking their interest with yours is key.
Do some research into local bloggers and influencers and select only those who would be known to members of your target audience, and who wear the type of clothes you’re selling.
Get to know them by introducing yourself and asking if you can send something (try not to come across as salesy). Make sure it’s something you know they’ll love – you might decide to personalise it for that extra touch.
Go to trade shows and fairs
Displaying your range at fashion fairs and trade shows is an excellent way to get it in front of the buyers, influencers and press that attend these events.
Moda, for example, is one of the UK’s biggest fashion trade shows. Taking place twice a year in Birmingham, the event features seminars, workshops, catwalks, exhibitions and a networking party.
You can search for fashion events taking place around the world using Fashion United’s events calendar.
Selling your clothing
Whether you’re taking payment for your clothes through your website, in a shop or over the phone, the first thing to do if you’re selling your clothes directly is set up a merchant account. This authorises your business to accept credit or debit payments from customers. Find out more in our guide to merchant accounts.
When a payment is made, it’s processed by your merchant account – which essentially holds the money while checking the payment can be authorised; for example by checking that the customer’s account actually holds the funds needed. The money is then transferred into your business bank account.
Choosing how you’re going to sell your clothes may sound like a simple decision, but there are actually quite a few different routes that you can explore…
As explained in section six, having a professional website ready is key, and enabling people to buy your clothes through your website is an excellent way to start collecting sales.
Having shipping capabilities is important here as you’ll need to be able to professionally package and post your clothes. Exporting goods outside of the EU is tax exempt. It can be an option to offer free international shipping as the money saved from VAT covers the shipping fee for higher valued goods – this can open up a huge market.
While it may be tempting to charge your customer the whole shipping cost, you’ll find that many will be put off by this. Instead, consider offering free shipping (and upping your clothes prices slightly to cover it), free shipping for purchases over a certain value, or a flat shipping rate.
Matt Bird advises focusing your efforts on ecommerce to start with: “We’re 95% ecommerce driven. We didn’t want mass retail and I liked the direct-to-consumer approach. We can control all of our marketing output, our logistics and our customer service, which I think in the early days is so important.”
Taking payment online
To accept customer payments through your website, you will also need to integrate your site with ecommerce software. Magento, OpenCart or WordPress with WooCommerce are well-known examples.
Ecommerce software and a payment portal will enable you to add a shopping cart functionality and give customers a page where they can securely input card details.
If you’re looking to go global straight away, Hammon advises being wary of different currencies:
“I have designed our website to be user friendly for all of our international customers, as well as domestic; wherever you are in the world, when you visit the website it will recognise this and ensure you can purchase the clothes in the currency in which you operate.”
Interested in comparing card payment options? Compare quotes today.
Online fashion marketplaces
Getting your products up for sale on online fashion marketplaces – like Etsy, or fashion giant ASOS’ hub for independent brands, ASOS Marketplace – will boost your exposure across the UK.
Plus, you’ll often get business support as part of the deal. Setting up a boutique on ASOS Marketplace, for example, will cost you a monthly fee plus commission on sales – but you will receive advice on things like pricing, promotions and ways to generate more revenue from a member of the ASOS team.
A market stall
Markets are an excellent place to test out your range and see how much interest it gets without commiting to something permanent. Costs to rent a pitch vary by market, but many sell casual spaces for as little as £10 per day.
Try to choose fashion-focused markets, or look into those which are popular among your target audience. You might also decide to take your stall to local and national festivals and fairs you know your target customers frequent.
Visit our comprehensive guide to starting a market stall to learn more about making a success of market trading.
Taking payment in a shop or market stall
To take payment in a shop, you’ll need an electronic point of sale (EPOS) system, which will encompass not only a cash register, but also a barcode scanner, a monitor, a receipt printer and, in some cases, a credit/debit card reader.
A key tool for small businesses, EPOS software can also help you to track stock, track sales, view your latest prices and provide a speedy customer service. You can buy EPOS software and the hardware it’s designed for (i.e. registers and scanners) separately, but often it’s more convenient and cost-effective to look into packages that include both.
If your EPOS system doesn’t come with a card reader, you’ll need to buy one separately. You may find it helpful to have a look at our round-up of what we think are some of the best card payment machines for small businesses.
Department stores and boutiques
Having your clothes on sale in department shops and fashion boutiques will give your brand unprecedented exposure and will usually mean good things for revenue – while stores will pay wholesale (read, significantly reduced) prices for your clothes, it’s likely they’ll order a lot of units.
You will need a good track record of sales, plus a strong infrastructure with the capability to accept big orders and manufacture a large volume of clothes – so it’s not something to consider as soon as you’ve started.
When you are ready, it’s as simple as looking for shops that reflect your clothings’ style and retail pricing and arranging meetings with their purchasing agents (if you’re working with a PR or marketing agency, they may be able to help with this).
Get a catalogue of your clothing professionally printed and have it at the ready to show them.
Your own shop
Opening your own clothing shop is another route to go down – but you’ll have to spend significant capital to get it going, and you’ll have a lot more to lose if it doesn’t work out.
So, before opening a shop, you will need to build up a strong sales history by selling in any of the above capacities; develop seamless manufacturing capabilities; and drive brand awareness through effective marketing to give yourself the best chance of success.
Check out our comprehensive guide to opening your own shop to learn more about running a retail business, or our guide to launching a clothes shop for more industry-specific advice.
John Bright, founder of The Good Neighbour shop, told us: “I had been a buyer for one of the UK’s biggest online retailers, so it felt natural to stick with online retail. I naively assumed if a website was set up, customers would find it, but it’s much harder to get visibility. By using platforms like AppearHere, I have been able to easily book spaces to run my Pop Up’s.
“[Physical] spaces allow me to introduce the brand to new audiences, engage face to face with customers and also see a growth in online sales from that and surrounding areas. Historically, it use to be almost impossible to get onto the high street but Appear Here have helped make this happen.”
Keeping track of your finances
Launching a clothing line will take time and money. Fortunately, accounting software can help with both.
From buying materials to paying staff, there are a number of outgoing costs to keep track of. At the same time, you need to know how much money you’re bringing in and what that might mean for your taxes. You can hire external help in the form of an accountant, but this can be expensive and isn’t always the best pick for early business owners.
To help keep everything in order, without spending a lot, we recommend that new businesses consider accountancy software. It is designed to simplify finance processes, saving you time and, ultimately, money. If you’re interested, you can take a look at our top picks today.
Quickbooks is our top-rated small business accounting tool.
How to write a clothing line business plan
When starting a clothing brand, writing a business plan can be a hugely useful exercise, pushing you to think thoroughly about every aspect of your start-up.
Even if you’re just running your brand on a part-time basis, it’s worth having a detailed blueprint down on paper so you have clear goals to work to and measure your success against – but remember that you don’t have to stick to it rigidly, and it can be altered as your brand progresses.
It’ll need to include:
- A description of your business’ concept
- An analysis of the market and your competition
- A SWOT analysis
- The marketing strategies you’ll use
- Any plans you have for hiring employees
- Detailed financial forecasts
- And more…
For detailed instructions on writing a business plan, visit our business plan template, where you can download a free business plan template developed by the government-backed Start Up Loans Company.
In order to create as thorough and accurate a business plan as possible, you will first need to…
Find your target market
First thing’s first – any successful brand will have a clear idea of its target market (that is, the customers it’s trying to sell to) and will ensure everything it does, including branding, remains tailored to their tastes and interests.
Matt Bird, founder of men’s clothing brand We Are Gntlmen, highlights the importance of this:
“You need to be relatable to your customer or demographic, and the easier you can make that, the better. Your branding tells your story and it’s the story that resonates with the future customer.”
– Matt Bird, We Are Gntlmen
Come up with a clear definition of your target customer by considering the following:
- Are your clothes gender-specific?
- Will they appeal to a particular age range?
- What do you believe your customers’ income level will be?
- What interests and personality traits do you expect lovers of your clothing to have?
- What type of person buys clothes from similar brands to yours?
Conduct market research
Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel once said: “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
In fashion, imitation isn’t a form of flattery, it’s a sign of unoriginality. When it comes to avoiding it – and gaining a bit of inspiration and industry understanding along the way – market research is invaluable.
Market research should help you to understand:
- Who your competitors are
- How in demand your clothing will be
- How much customers will be prepared to pay for your clothes, and whether you can make a good profit from it
To get started, compile a list of clothing designers and brands that are similar to yours. Research into the size of each business, their geographic reach, their products and prices, and discern what their USPs are.
Google will help you to find out who the fashion businesses in your local area are, but the ONS, the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Chambers of Commerce also hold publicly accessible information.
Next – and here’s where your creativity comes in – consider the ways in which your brand can be better than each of these competitors. What can you bring to the table that’s truly new? What can you offer that they haven’t?
Testing your ideas
Before committing to a concept, it’s a good idea to test the water with people from your target market. To do this, you can try:
- Running an online survey – Inexpensive to set up, you can use online surveys to ask potential customers what they would expect from your events planning service, the money they would expect to spend on your clothes, how often they’d buy your clothes, what would make them want to buy them, and anything else you want to know.
- Holding focus groups – Talking to target customers face to face gives you a great opportunity to gain in-depth insight into what they think about your business concept, branding and more. It also enables these customers to share their ideas about what would make your brand amazing with you.
Come up with a pricing strategy
In broad terms, the way you price your clothing line will depend on the type of brand you want to be, and how much it costs to produce your clothes.
As Bird says: “You have to make sure that the quality of your product matches with your price point.” If you’d like to be a premium brand, use high-quality materials and top notch production techniques that cost you more – meaning you can give your products higher prices to make a good margin on them.
On the flipside, if you’d rather be more affordable to the consumer, you can make your products with cheaper materials and methods, giving them lower prices and still making a good profit.
Sean Hammon, founder of muscle-fit clothing range Oxcloth, cautions you to always think of your audience: “Your demographic will have its price that is it willing to pay for what you’re selling – it can be easy to price yourself out so don’t get greedy.”
As a basic rule of thumb, you can start to work out the pricing for a particular item of clothing using the following calculation:
The amount it has cost you to produce the item x 2 = wholesale price
Wholesale price x 2 = retail price
Remember, your wholesale price is what you’ll charge retailers to buy an item and sell it on in their store, while your retail price is what consumers will pay to buy the item online or in a shop.
You don’t have to stick to this rigidly – simply use it as a foundation from which to calculate the best prices for you. After all, you’ll need to make sure they cover your business overheads, production costs and any returns you may receive while leaving room for profit.
According to Hammon, “there are so many small costs you need to keep an eye on to make sure you’re actually generating profit.
“Your cost per sale includes the cost of goods, postage, average cost of returns, packaging cost, and your conversion rates – how much is it costing you to advertise to a customer who is converting to a sale.”
– Sean Hammon, Oxcloth
You’ll also need to take your competitors’ prices into account, and perhaps put yourself in a similar price bracket. Bird explains:
“Being cheaper doesn’t always work. When I started We Are Gntlmen, we priced ourselves 20-25% cheaper than our competition to try and gain an advantage. Customers don’t necessarily see it like that. If the price is cheaper, the first impressions of your brand are that it’s not quite as good as the business you’re trying to compete with.”
Summary: how to start a clothing business in 4 simple steps
If you’re seriously thinking about starting your own clothing line, these are the four steps that you need follow for the best chance of success:
1. Keep your initial costs low
Start with a basic ecommerce package from a website builder, or investigate setting up a market stall and use the ecommerce capabilities of your payment provider to set up a simple online store so you can sell your clothes through multiple channels.
When it comes to stock, see if you can negotiate a bulk price with a smaller manufacturer.
2. Embrace your brand
Make sure your idea is original; whether its your values or your designs, fashion-lovers will be quick to catch on to any copycat moves and you’ll be hard-pushed to persuade people away from a brand they’ve already become loyal to.
3. There’s no such thing as too much market research and use it to devise a marketing strategy
While you should never copy a brand and its products, you should definitely take a look at similar brands to see how they’re performing in their market. Have a look at their finances on Companies House, analyse their pricing so you can use it as a benchmark, and see where they deliver and what shipping costs they charge.
4. Sell, sell, sell
You don’t need any kind of license or certificate to start selling clothing. As long as you have the equipment and means to sell, you can get started at the drop of a hat.
One fairly low-cost and straight forward way to start selling almost immediately is via market stalls. While working at a stall can be more flexible than operating a ‘normal’ shop, traders tend to work quite long hours with the working day starting extremely early in the morning. Or, easily set up an ecommerce store to appeal to larger audiences.
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