Wedding dresses are a big-ticket item with a short lifespan. After a few hours of dancing the night away, the dress goes into a garment bag in the closet where it stays in the usually vain hope that "my daughter will wear it someday." A used wedding dress boutique that offers dresses in pristine condition for a reasonable price can provide a lucrative living. To succeed, you need high-quality merchandise, an advantageous location, an attractive store and a solid business plan.
Preparing to Open a Shop
Read your local business laws. Generally, you need a permit and a tax ID number to open a shop. You may also need to present a business plan to show the bank. A business plan is nothing more than an explanation of your goals and what you plan to do to achieve them. If you need a loan to open your business, your lender may require a detailed business plan that includes projected earnings and expenses.
Locate a shop. For used wedding gowns, this will usually be a brick and mortar shop, although you could also consider opening an online shop. Since most women want to try on a wedding gown if they're paying dearly for it, a physical building will allow you to offer more expensive merchandise. Choose an affordable location in an upscale area or in one with a lot of foot traffic. However, if you build a good business, people wanting the merchandise will come -- even if you're in a strip mall on the outskirts of town.
Search for inventory. Before you open your shop, you need material to sell. When dealing in wedding gowns, buy only what's in perfect condition, unless you're a handy seamstress or really good at getting stains out of clothing. A woman will not, in most cases, buy a wedding dress with someone else's red wine spilled down the front of it. Shop the thrift stores yourself, but buy only what's in perfect or near-perfect condition and only what's currently in style. Familiarize yourself with name brands by digging through bridal shops and thumbing through bride magazines. Advertise in your local area on bulletin boards in supermarkets and other shops as well as in your local newspapers, including the weekly and montly publications that are produced in many communities.
Setting Up Your Shop
Design your storefront. Have a sign made that expresses the feel of your shop. Don't use primary colors or childish script; go for elegance. Your storefront and signage will bring customers in the door, so make them as appealing as possible.
Display your merchandise in your shop. If you want top dollar for quality dresses, display them as if they were in a retail bridal shop. Don't crowd them onto racks carelessly; arrange them by type and size. Display the best on their own dress forms. Include a few chairs and a small table with bridal magazines, if you've got the space.
Advertise your shop. Don't skimp on advertising, but don't take out TV adds either. Local newspapers and radio, especially radio stations that cater to young adults who typically get married, will give you your best return on your investment. Clearly list your business hours and location, so that people can find you.
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