Opening and Managing a Children's Boutique Store
By Brenda Bell
Lots of young mothers have a dream to open a children's boutique store. Understanding the cost of children's clothing, lots of mothers think that if they could just own their own store, they could get their children's clothing for half price. What most young ladies starting this kind of business don't realize is the original cost of starting up a store. There are lots of things to consider in the overhead of the store to start with. You can expect to pay from 1200.00 per month to 4000.00 per month depending on your location. Then there are utilities, clerks, unless you plan on doing it by yourself. A lot of ladies think that they can do it by themselves but on a busy day, that is just almost impossible. Most don't realize that the minimum start-up inventory for a store of about 2500 square feet is between $100,000.00 and $200,000.00. That is money that you may as well consider throwing away. You never get that money back. That initial investment will be placed in your store and will have to be continually replaced. It is not like you buy $100,000.00 in goods and then you sell them and you buy more. It is absolutely necessary that you have that much money to start your store with, that you never expect to see returned to you again. If you think it is worth that to buy your children's clothing half price then you may want to reconsider. As a clothing manufacturer and supplier to Children's Clothing Boutique Stores, I have seen lots of ambitious young women get into financial trouble in a short period of time. If you have the extra money and you decide to go ahead with this venture, let me give you some purchasing advice. Beware of certain sales reps. Some of them will write you a $1,000.00 order in his or her showroom and when you get it shipped to you, it has been what we call padded. This means that he will write more styles on your order after you leave and you will get a lot more than you bargained for. My advice to you would be, never buy a lot or overload on any one manufacturer. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Buy small quantities from several manufacturers until you see what will sell in your area. Just because you think it is cute doesn't mean it will sell. If you love someone's goods and you purchase 1/3 of your merchandise from them, you have no guarantee that they will even produce those goods. You could be left holding an empty bag when it is time to receive your goods for the next season. When you order from several manufacturers, you will get to know each of them individually. You will see how they ship. By that I mean, if they ship to you during the time period that was designated on your order or if they actually even ship the goods at all. If they are hard to deal with, you may want to cut back on their orders and do business with the ones that you enjoy doing business with. I have noticed, as a manufacturer, that new store owners buy loosely. By that I mean they buy much more than necessary to begin with. My sales rep says, if they buy like a drunk, they will pay like a drunk. By this he means that they come into his showroom and order $5,000.00 or $6,000.00 from one manufacturer. When shipping time comes, they don't have the money to take all of that at one time and they don't realize it will all come at once from every manufacturer that they order from. First of all, different clothing items and gift items sell differently in different regions of the country. We make clothing that only sells in the south and you could not sell it at all in the northern USA. Sales even vary from city to city and certainly from state to state. This is why I say, "Don't buy too much from any line until you see how it sells for you". I had a customer tell me that she bought a lot of little girls coats her first year and then when she had a very mild winter, she was trapped with a lot of her money tied up in coats that she couldn't sell. This is a very typical thing that happens with store owners. Managing your debit cards and credit cards can also cause you great pain. I tried to ship a store a $400.00 order this week and her bank had her debit card set at a limit of $300.00 per day. We went through a week of difficulty and she finally had to go to her bank and sign papers to get this changed. Some credit card companies do the same thing. A lot of stores prefer to use credit cards instead of taking a COD shipment because of the fee that is charged for COD shipments. If you will ask, the manufacturer will probably prefer to pay the charge themselves than to take your credit card. Most manufacturers pay about 4% when they take a credit card because you are not there to swipe the card. On a $1,000.00 order, the cost to take a credit card would be $40.00. The $10.00 fee is much better. I even offer this service to my customers who have good credit and I feel that I can take their company check. So beware new store owner or you who are thinking of opening a Children's Boutique Store. Do a lot of research. I have a on-line Children's Boutique myself that is www.zulikids.org. The only reason for my retail children's store is that I have lots of customers from my Bell Fashions wholesale business (www.bellfashions.org) that order merchandise from me and then when shipping time comes, they don't have the money or lots of them are going out of business. I do not want to be in the retail business but because all people are not honest in their dealings, it has forced me to be. If you are considering becoming a retailer, please check out all of your options in the planning stage and proceed very carefully if this is what you decide to do.