Whether the economy is good or bad, people are always getting married--and the blushing bride is going to want a beautiful dress. Two out of three brides buy their wedding dress at a specialty bridal gown store. Brides are notoriously picky, but they will expect a personalized shopping experience. It is important to understand your customer and provide a memorable shopping experience that will generate referral business. You must also develop an appreciation for the importance of cash flow, because cash flow is critical to keeping any retail business open--especially wedding businesses, which can be somewhat seasonal.
Write a business plan. As part of this business plan, you will perform a SWOT analysis, which stands for "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats." You will also project your cash needs for starting up and for continuing to function during your challenging first year in the business. Additionally, you should develop a detailed understanding of your target market. Will you be selling wedding dresses to the wealthy or to the working class? Will much of your market come from a particular ethnic demographic? Knowing whether much of your business will come from the Catholic, Hispanic, African-American or Jewish markets may help you shape your inventory and the overall decor and retail shopping experience for your customers.
Identify a location. Your site should be affordable, but should also have access to adequate parking, a restroom facility, an adequate dressing room and potential to create an attractive-looking window display.
Contact one or more wedding dress wholesalers. These wholesalers manufacture, import or market wedding dresses and other bridal supplies in bulk to retailers. Your wholesaler representative can help you become an expert on products best suited to your target market, and they can help you make sure that your inventory is at an appropriate price point.
Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Typically, you will need a county business license and in some cases, a license from city officials. You may also need to register your business with state tax revenue officials. Contact your own state and local officials for information on what you need to do in your state or municipality. If you plan to form a corporation or a limited liability company, you will also need to get an employer tax ID number from the Internal Revenue Service.
Order your inventory. Be sure to order a mix of sizes and lean toward larger sizes. It easier to take in a dress that is too big for the bride than to let one out that is too tight. Keep careful records. You will need them when you do your taxes for the year. Remember that unsold inventory is money. Keep your inventory small, until you have a good feel for your cash flow.