Retail Dogma

11 Steps to Start a Fashion Boutique?

You’ve decided to start your own fashion boutique store and now you want to know the exact steps to take to complete this process, and open your store successfully.

Here, we are going to show you the action plan we have used many times to open retail shops.

You will be able to download the steps to start a fashion boutique in a checklist format for free and use it to keep track of your progress.

So, let get started!

Plan to Open Fashion Boutique

1. Define The Types of Products to Carry

You will start by deciding which product categories you will carry at your fashion boutique on a broad level.

These are going to be:

  1. Your Core Category: Example women’s apparel
  2. Supplementary Categories: Example fashion accessories, swim wear, and other add ons

2. Contact Suppliers and Request Catalogues & Price Lists

Based on your broad category selections, you will then go out and seek suppliers in those categories.

There are many ways to find suppliers, and we have found that trade shows have been a great source for us. But you can also use the various online directories to reach suppliers and request samples.

If the category you have chosen has a trade show in the near future, try to attend it. It will save you a lot of time in finding good brands and seeing the samples at the same time.

Another way could be by reaching out to designers you like and ask to carry their products at your boutique.

You will then evaluate your suppliers, based on their previous work, capacity, order lead time, payment terms, shipping terms and of course the quality of the samples you will receive.

Remember to negotiate hard! Nothing is non-negotiable here, and every saving you will make on product side will go straight to your bottom line.

Read Also: Bargaining Power of Suppliers

3. Assortment Planning

Now you will decide on your product mix. How much of each product category you will carry and consequently also how much space at your store each category is going to occupy.

For example: you could say that my core category will be 60% and each of the supplementary categories will be 10 % each.

Then you will segregate this further down to how many styles and variants you will carry under each category/class/sub-class, and formulate your product assortment plan based on this.

Read Also: Depth vs. Breadth in Assortment Planning, Merchandise Hierarchy and Size Curve

For the first year everything will be hypothetical, but starting from the second year, you will use your sales data and perform inventory analysis and then adjust your buying strategy based on the findings.

4. Calculate the Buying Budget (OTB)

You will not be able to calculate the buying budget before creating a sales budget (step below in financials). Once you have the sales budget for your store for the first year, you will go ahead and calculate the Open to Buy based on that.

We explain this in full details in our free Open to Buy Guide, so please go through it.

5. Place Orders with Suppliers

Based on the order lead time of each supplier, you will start placing your order using the buying budget you calculated in step 4.

For example: If supplier 1 has an order lead time of 6 months, i.e it takes him 6 months to deliver the goods once you order them, you will place your order 6-7 months before the opening date. If supplier 2 has a lead time of 2 weeks, you will keep this order and only place it 2-3 weeks before the opening,…and so on.

6. Rent a Retail Space to Start Your Fashion Boutique

Once you have decided about the product range that you will carry and how many options you will have on display at a time, you will be able to decide on the store format and size you need.

This also should fit into your final P&L budget, as store rental should be around 10% to 12% of sales. So depending on your sales estimates and your budget, you will be able to know which rent figure will be suitable for you, and then will go location scouting with this information in mind.

Read also our article How to Rent a Retail Space for deeper insights.

7. Furnish The Retail Store

Now that you have the retail location sorted out, you will go shopping for display furniture, fixtures and props to use for trading.


These will depend on the design you will go for and on the space available.

8. Buy POS Software, Hardware and Other Equipment

You will then decide on whether you want to go for a cash register vs. a POS software, and if you have chosen a POS, you will decide on the POS Software provider.

We recommend going for a POS as it will give you better reporting capabilities, which we will then use for future buying decisions.

Also if you go for a cloud-based POS system, you can then integrate e-commerce, take your fashion boutique online and sell directly from the store and have your inventory synced in real time.

After choosing the POS, you will then buy the compatible POS hardware, such as barcode scanner, label printer, receipt printer and cash drawer.

You can also check out our Picks page for recommendations on software, equipment and services.

Apart from this hardware and software you will also need to design and print shopping bags.

9. Manpower Planning

You will first determine how many people you want to hire at your store and at which positions.

We recommend learning about retail scheduling to know more about shift-based scheduling and so also know how many people you will need to have sufficient coverage for each shift, every day of the week.

Don’t forget to take annual leaves, sick leaves and other types of leave into account while assessing your manpower needs. For example, if you are hiring 12 people, and the annual leave policy is 30 days per year, this means that you will always have one staff on leave all-year-round. So you will plan based on that.

After you have determined your manpower needs, you will start recruiting and also choosing a payroll service.

10. Plan for The Opening Event of Your Fashion Boutique

If everything is sorted out and you have decided on the date to open your fashion boutique, there will be certain planning for this day too.

This planning will include:

  • Staff Plan (see scheduling)
  • Stock Plan (ensure enough stock availability)
  • Shopping Bags
  • Cash float for the till
  • Testing all the equipment and software
  • Marketing Materials: Banners printing, creating special displays at the entrance (balloon arches, photo booth,..etc)
  • Advertising: Social media ads, SMS campaigns, Print media, PR,..etc

Read Also: Managing a Retail Store

11. Financial Planning & Monitoring

Financial planning phase is not the last step in order. it will be done at the beginning when you start by determining your sales budget, and will continue with you after you start trading at your fashion boutique, as you measure your performance against the budget every month and plan your future buying.

You will create a full financial plan that includes

  1. Sales Budget
  2. Open to Buy Budget
  3. P&L Budget
  4. Cash Flow Plan

In this step you will also decide how much you will pay yourself, and the cash flow plan will show you whether or not the business can pay you that much.

You can check out our premium plus membership for a full access to all the frameworks, templates, tools and guides for the entire financial planning and monitoring process for your business.

We recommend initially creating a 3 year financial projection for your retail store and then monitor how you perform against it, and adjust the budgets from next year accordingly.

How to Start an Online Fashion Boutique?

The same step-by-step process that we mentioned here will also apply for you if you are to start your fashion boutique online and not at a brick & mortar store. You will only replace the store related tasks with website building and launching.

Read Also: Moving from brick & mortar to online for more details.

That’s it! The plan you need to start your own fashion boutique!

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