How to Start a Garments Business

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There will always be a need for clothing, and therefore for businesses that supply them. However, the garment industry is highly competitive and divided into myriad subspecialties. Imports from China, India, Mexico, Turkey and much of Southeast Asia drive prices down for major competitors, who can afford to locate overseas and ship to domestic markets. Therefore, when starting a garments business, it is critical to determine what types of garments you will sell, whether you will make or import them, who your competitors are and how you can keep your costs low enough to be profitable.

Things You'll Need

  • Business license
  • Fabric and notions or
  • A finished garments supplier

Plan Your Business

  • Determine your product line. You may focus on evening wear, bathrobes, or T-shirts, for example. If your goal is to work as a garments manufacturer, you will need to have a specialized, high-quality skill set. For instance, you may be designing and creating custom wedding gowns, high-end costumes or handcrafted hats. Your business may also focus on repairing garments rather than creating them.

  • Assess your competition. Unless your business is focused on garments repair, you will be competing with both local retail and online stores. General clothing items will face competition from the likes of Walmart, Amazon.com, Nordstrom or the Gap, and established designers such as Donna Karan or Martha Stewart. Evaluate each competitor on costs, price, marketing, distribution method and suppliers.

  • Determine how you can serve your customers better than the competition. It is unlikely that you will be able to compete with Walmart on price while starting up a new venture. You may instead compete on excellent customer service, customization, high-end design, convenience, or delivering specialty goods. In all cases, focus your efforts so that you stand out from the rest.

  • Establish suppliers. Whether you are buying finished garments from a factory in China or picking up one-of-a-kind antique ribbons for crafting high-end lingerie, you must have a strong working relationship with your suppliers. Investigate potential suppliers through your network, trade organizations and, if necessary, online advertisements. Speak with representatives directly and ensure that they can consistently meet your orders.

  • Obtain financing. You may need a small business loan or an investor such as a friend or family member. Budget enough to pay not only for your supplies, but also for any legal fees, licensing fees, insurance and wages.

  • Market your business. You should start marketing even before you have products available to sell, since it takes time to persuade customers to look at your products. Determine which media outlets your customers are most likely to listen to, then advertise on those channels. A website is a necessity. Craft your message and speak directly to your target customers. Let them know exactly how you can meet their needs.

  • Import or create an inventory. It takes practice and industry expertise to stock the most efficient inventory. Your goal should be to have as few garments in inventory as possible while still giving your customers instant access to their choices.

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