How to Start a Shoe Business

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Many people, both male and female, love shoes whether it's because they collect them or like to show them off. If you are a shoe aficionado and want to start a business, why not go with your passion? When starting a shoe business, there are many things to consider as well as many ways to go about setting up your new venture.

Things You'll Need

  • Shoes or a shoe dropshipper
  • Website or physical store
  • Business plan
  • Marketing plan
  • Budget (ranges from $500 to over $50,000)
  • Decide whether you want to be a sole proprietor or form a corporation or a partnership. There are advantages to each type of business structure, with different tax and legal implications for each.

  • Devise a business plan. Your business plan will be your blueprint for the future, and guide you toward your financial goals. It doesn't have to be an elaborate document; it can be as simple as you writing down your budget for the next few years, your plans for expansion and how you plan to fund your new business.

  • Come up with a marketing plan. Your marketing plan will determine where you advertise, your public and community relations strategies, your marketing budget and how you plan to let your target market know your business exists. It's a smart idea to hire a marketing firm or PR agency to help you with this task if you have no knowledge of marketing or public relations; these are complex fields that encompass everything from advertisement to social media, and they are essential to the success of your new business.

  • Pick a niche and target market. Simply put, your target market is who you want to sell to. Defining your target market will help you develop your marketing and public relations plans and ensure you don't waste time and money trying to sell to the wrong people. Your niche, or specialization, will define exactly what kind of shoes you're selling. Having a niche differentiates you from the competition and will give your business a focus.

  • Choose a business name. This is best done after you figure out your niche and target market. Choose a name that will appeal to your target market and that is not already in use by another shoe business. If you plan to sell women's luxury brand shoes, you may want the name "Luxe Shoes"; if you're selling baby and children's shoes, "Tiny Toes Shoes" would be an appropriate choice. However, don't try to sell trendy mid-priced athletic shoes under the name "Great Shoes"--it's too broad, and doesn't tell anyone exactly why the shoes are great. "Sporty Kicks" would be a better choice, because it sends the message that the store is selling athletic shoes.

  • Determine how you will source shoes. There are two main choices when it comes to finding shoes to sell: dropshipping and buying them wholesale. Dropshipping will work only for online businesses; with this option, another company handles fulfillment, shipping and returns, and all you need to take care of is marketing and getting payment from customers. It's the easiest option for those who are working with smaller budgets or who have an online shoe store.
    If you want to have a brick and mortar store, you will need to buy your shoes wholesale. This can be done by going to the website of each shoe brand you want to sell and filling out their wholesale inquiry or contact form. A representative will then contact you and ask for information about your business, as well as let you know the shoe company's policies and pricing.
    If you plan to sell vintage shoes, you will need to source them on your own by visiting garage sales, estate auctions and salvage stores.

  • Choose a location. For online shoe stores, finding a location is as simple as buying a domain name, web space, choosing a payment processor and building your website. If you're going to have a physical store, you will need to pick a location your target market frequents. That may be a mall, shopping center or a boutique located in a certain district. Choose wisely--if you know your customers frequent a certain area of town, try to find space there.

  • Set store policies. When it comes to shoe stores, this is especially important because people that buy shoes tend to bring them back often. Determine how you will handle returns. You may want to have a return limit policy, or offer free shipping when customers send shoes back if you have an online store. Be firm, fair and consistent with your policies to develop customer loyalty. Let your customers know they are appreciated, and treat them with courtesy and respect at all times to build up your reputation.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want an elaborate business plan but aren't sure how to put one together, you can hire a freelance writer that specializes in writing business plans to do it. Keep in mind that if you plan to go to a financial institution for funding, such as a bank, you can't skimp on your business plan; it will need to be complete and thorough. You can conduct an Internet search to see if there's already a shoe store in existence with the name you want to use; you should also look through trademark registries to make sure it's not a name that's restricted. If you want an easier way to start a shoe business, you can purchase a shoe franchise.
  • The best thing to do when picking a business structure is to consult an attorney; he will be able to advise you, let you know what you need to do in your state to file for your chosen business structure and help you avoid costly mistakes. The downside to dropshipping is there isn't a great deal of variety; few brands offer this option, and many businesses use the same dropshipping sources.
  • Photo Credit Doronef, Wikimedia Commons
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