How to Start a Sneaker Store

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Start a Sneaker Store
Start a Sneaker Store (Image: Daveybot/Dave Morris)

Americans are big sneaker consumers. Starting a sneaker store could prove lucrative--however, the sneaker industry is also highly competitive. Many malls carry two to five athletic shoe stores. Plus department stores typically have their own shoe section. On top of that, anchor shoe stores such as Famous Footwear and Shoe Carnival can be found in most U.S. shopping centers. For your sneaker store to be competitive, you must set yourself apart by identifying a niche, demonstrating excellent customer service and offering competitive prices.

Review shoe trade magazines or websites, such as Women's Wear Daily for the latest footwear news (see Resources). This will help you identify your niche. While Nike, Reebok and ASICS are popular sneakers, you might be better off selling fashion sneakers such as those made by Sketchers, Diesel, Camper or Puma. In that case, instead of having athletic-themed accessories, you should consider more fashionable accessories, such as wallets, messenger bags, bracelets, watches and sunglasses. Consider incorporating a nightclub theme, particularly if your store will be located within a mall. Visit Alibaba.com and Sneakerfreaker.com, for insider news for shoe sellers (see Resources).

Determine how much room you will need for your store. For a specialty sneaker store in a mall, you may need at least 1000 square feet, including your back room and office. Your back room needs to be large enough to accommodate your inventory and may be as big as the show room. Your show room should offer plenty of benches for customers to sit at while trying on shoes, as well as full length and short mirrors and two or three display tables. For a small store, you should have at least two cash registers. Larger sneaker stores may have as many as eight. If you intend to open a store in a shopping center or as a stand alone sneaker store, it should be at least 1500 square feet. Contact mall management about vacancies fitting your needs. Also, frequent strip malls and shopping centers for vacancies. Other amenities you may need include phone jacks for your registers, a break room, water fountains and bathrooms.

Purchase your store front supplies. To stand apart, consider purchasing trendy versions of your supplies, such as colored mannequins, funky chandeliers and cool lighting. If you can't find colored mannequins, purchase a traditional mannequin and spray paint it. For cool lighting, visit Lamplust.com; for shelving, mannequins, mirrors and other fixtures, visit Barrdisplay.com (see Resources).

Purchase your must-have supplies such as shopping baskets, display cases, exit signs, shelving, racks, shoe mirrors, shoes store bags, shoe and leg mannequins, inserts, shoe sizers, footlets, shoe fitting stools or benches and any specialty gear. For custom packing supplies, visit Swalter.com; for measuring tools, visit Brannock.com. You will also need cleaning supplies, advertising signage, cash registers, receipt paper, schedule forms, bank deposit forms and gift wrapping materials (if offered). For cleaning supplies, shopping baskets, security systems and pricing tags, visit Nu-Era.com.

Visit Alibaba.com to purchase wholesale sneakers in some of the latest trends. For generic sneakers under $10 a pair, contact Allfootwear.com.

Purchase insurance for fire, damage and theft, as well as liability and product insurance and worker's compensation insurance.

Set up a merchant account. Visit Merchants Account Express (see Resources) to set up an account so that you can begin accepting credit cards. Check out their tools that can help get you set up with the right equipment, such as your Point-of-Sale (POS) terminal, Quickbooks and other software to help you track and manage your inventory and payroll.

Train your employees to be fashionable, knowledgeable, professional and friendly. Make sure they understand how to measure feet. They should be skilled at recognizing what a customer might be interested in and able to make suggestions for pairing items.

Tips & Warnings

  • To reduce theft, add a security system. Consider purchasing a website for your store from GoDaddy.com or a similar site. When in doubt about a business, refer to the Better Business Bureau. Contact the IRS immediately after incorporating to learn what your tax responsibilities will be. Visit your local tax commission office and incorporate your business. Then obtain a sales tax permit, a building or occupancy permit, a federal tax identification number and a business license, if your state requires it. Get all required legal signage for your back room, such as minimum wage and employment laws.

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