Clothing continues to be a successful industry in terms of ecommerce year after year. In 2019, Statista reported online sales from apparel and accessories amounted to US $103.13 billion. This is projected to increase to US $194.4 billion by 2023. With this in mind, we wanted to put a guide together on how to start a clothing line.
This will help you put your best foot forward if you were thinking of starting an apparel business. Here are 8 steps highlighting how to start an apparel business. The steps are thoroughly researched so that you cover all bases at the beginning of your journey.
So sit back and start taking notes as the first day in your ecommerce adventure has just begun.
In This Article
- 1 How To Start A Clothing Line In 8 Simple Steps
- 2 Top 5 Ecommerce Platforms That Are Great For Selling Apparel
- 3 Start a Clothing Store with Shopify
- 4 Sell Apparel with WordPress + WooCommerce
- 5 How to Start a Clothing Line with Magento
- 6 Squarespace - The All-in-One Apparel Platform
- 7 Sell Clothes Online with Poshmark
How To Start A Clothing Line In 8 Simple Steps
1. Choose Your Product
Firstly you need to choose your product, or products. It’s best to start small and really understand your product in the beginning. Think about clothing items that you enjoy browsing, wearing, or designing yourself. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start a t-shirt business. Or you could be more interested in a niche market like plus size clothing. Once you have a few choices in mind you can research each one of them in terms of market size, and competition. Then you can decide which product is the right fit for you.
2. Decide Your Business Model
Next you need to decide on your business model, and there are many to choose from depending on your product. Here are just some of the business models that successful clothing brands use.
Dropshipping is the cheapest option to start a clothing line. You only pay a supplier for a product once your customer purchases it from you. The initial investment you will make is to create an online presence, and spend money on advertising.
You might be thinking about how you can make profit from dropshipping. Dropshipping can be the most profitable business model of them all, as you don’t incur the costs of shipping and manufacturing. Due to this, any profits that you make will be a larger win than if you were using another business model.
If you’re looking for a more personable business model then print-on-demand could be the one for you. Print-on-demand is where you source white-label products and work with a supplier to customize them to your own brand. You’ll normally work with your supplier to create each piece as the order comes in. This makes it similar to dropshipping as you won’t pay for the product until you’ve sold it to a customer.
Finally you can go the wholesale route when you start a clothing line. With wholesale you’ll purchase your clothing products in bulk, with a bulk discount. You can then sell these items at your own price and ship items to your customers. With wholesale, you’ve the added costs of shipping and inventory management.
Ideally this model is used after building your clothing business through dropshipping first. Once you’ve built a brand and following you can be more confident to incur this extra cost.
3. Create Clothing Options
Once you’ve decided on your product you can research the many product options available to you. You can offer a male and female version of your product. Or many color variants. You can even offer different style options. If you have resources at your disposal you can start with 2-4 different designs. But if this isn’t the case a single product store can be the right choice for you. Experimenting with product options is the key to long-term success. Be open minded and keep researching options even after you start your store.
4. Find a Clothing manufacturer
So you’ve found your product, and decided your business model. The next step on the journey to start an online clothing line is finding a clothing manufacturer. This can be the hardest step as you need to reach out to many manufacturers, build relationships with them, and decide on one or two that you can trust. The relationship you have with your manufacturer is very important. You need to trust that they’ll deliver your product on time, and to high quality. Your clothing manufacturer needs to trust that you’ll pay them on time, and provide clear communication about orders. It can take many weeks to find a clothing manufacturer that you want to work with. Be strong and be clear about what you need from them.
5. Know Your Audience
Now the fun starts as you’ll get to know the audience that you want to target. This means taking the time to research competitors. Look at social media to get feedback on what customers are saying about brands. Analyze pricing strategies, and investigate the marketing approaches of your competition.
At the end of this step you should have a better understanding of the brands that you’ll be competing against. You should know what your audience looks like. You’ll also have an idea of potential marketing activities you can engage in.
Things to consider when choosing your target audience include:
- Salary bracket
- Buying habits
Keep in mind that this might be your audience when you launch your clothing line but your audience can change over time as you offer more products, and your brand matures.
6. Choose Your Pricing Strategy
Step 6 is choosing your pricing strategy. After doing competitive research you’ll have noticed what others charge for similar products. After crunching the numbers you’ll be aware of the minimum you can charge for your product and start to develop a pricing strategy that is competitive and aligns with what you want your clothing line to be perceived as.
If you’re more interested in profit you could choose the cost-based pricing strategy. This means you add the cost of producing your product and marketing costs together. You then add the profit margin you would like to achieve to this number, divide by the units you would like to sell, and this is the cost of your product.
Alternatively you can choose a competition-based pricing strategy where you base your pricing on your competitors. Or a value-based pricing strategy where you assign a perceived value to the solution you’re providing your customers.
7. Develop Your Brand
Next you’ll need to develop your brand and start to build the online store for your clothing line. When working on how to start a clothing line, branding is the most important aspect that will be informed by all the steps that come before it. Your brand determines if your audience will enjoy your offering or not, so you need to be clued into your product offering, and target audience when deciding your brand’s color scheme, messaging, it’s look, and it’s feel.
Take time to work with a designer to build a style guide so that all marketing collateral is consistent with your product.
8. Choose Where To Sell
Finally you have built your business. Now you need to choose where to sell your products. Will you spend more time on Facebook Ads, or influencer marketing? Is your online store more important, or do you have a physical presence in a prime location?
Your launch, marketing strategy, and sales plan can be as big and bold as you want it to be, but it needs to ultimately sell your product. Take the time to build these things, and think about what your audience wants.
Top 5 Ecommerce Platforms That Are Great For Selling Apparel
When it comes to how to start a clothing line, designers have the largest pool of ecommerce platforms to choose from. So we give you five hand-picked ecommerce platforms specifically evaluated for compatibility for selling apparel.
It can get overwhelming when choosing a platform, and you may end up choosing the one your friend has been talking about for years. But the ecommerce platform you pick should not only have the features to help you scale your business, but also fit into your business model. So we’ve rounded up some of the best ecommerce platforms based on these features:
- Store customization
- Selling tools
- Low commissions
- Customer support
- Custom orders and shipping
- Unlimited products
So whether you’re selling haute couture or used apparel – there’s a solution for any situation down below.
The full-service ecommerce platform that takes care of all the mumble and jumble of hosting, security, and admin is the best all-around choice for designers.
What we love
The great 24/7 customer and m-commerce support is a significant bonus for retailers. The variety of selling tools, excellent shipping options, the shopping cart button, and custom themes make Shopify the top choice for many sellers. Fast loading speeds reduce bounce rates, and SEO features help users easily scale and grow their business.
Although there are plenty of plans to choose from starting from as little as $9, there is a commision charge per sale that beginners should be aware of.
The basic plan is $29 per month, plus a 2.9% commission charge per sale. You can also test the platform with a free 90-day trial.
Sell Apparel with WordPress + WooCommerce
A potent tool for apparel businesses with specific needs, the free combo is the top choice for small and medium clothing ecommerce stores.
What we love
The ecommerce plugin is free to use, and is highly customizable. Users have full control over the look, feel and functionality of their site, boost sales with a variety of sales plugins and integrations, and can boost SEO with customer reviews.
Full control means full responsibility, and sorting out hosting, security and maintenance can be overwhelming for beginners. There’s also a lack of customer support, but there are plenty of user-generated guides to help users get started.
WordPress + WooCommerce are both free, but users face yearly hosting, domain and SSL certificate fees.
How to Start a Clothing Line with Magento
The perfect choice for big projects and sites that already handle a large amount of traffic and sales. Users can enjoy the most extensive list of features, including marketing and customer segmentation.
What we love
The platform offers highly customizable beautiful designs to choose from. Create an original store look, easily scale your business, and effortlessly manage orders and shipment. Reach customers on the go with m-commerce, and get help whenever you need it from excellent customer support.
This is a platform for apparel businesses that have the cash to spend on a native web developer and designer. Not ideal for beginners with no experience with web developing.
There’s a free open source offering for smaller merchants with many features and tools, but paid plans will depend on the size of your business. Some companies pay as much as $18,000 a year to run their store with Magento.
Squarespace - The All-in-One Apparel Platform
The all-in-one platform offers designers everything they need to start, run and grow their business. With award-winning designs, create a store customers will want to come back to.
What we love
The rapidly growing ecommerce features like customizable emails, automatic discounts, unlimited products, and transactions are attracting many designers and fashion gurus. Its biggest selling points are beautiful designs, ease of use, and mobile responsive themes with great SEO functions.
The platform is still in its infancy stages and lacks features like plugins and an app store. There are also transactional fees to think about, and no mobile editor for sellers looking to manage their store on the go.
There’s a free 14-day trial and then opt for the Business plan for $26 per month, which has all the important features merchants will need.
Sell Clothes Online with Poshmark
Hailed as the Instagram of clothes, the platform is great for anyone looking to unload some of their used or unwanted apparel. Armed with excellent customer support, this may be the easiest way to sell clothes online.
What we love
The user-friendly mobile app allows merchants to sell on the go and provides shipping labels for stress-free delivery. The option to sell directly to the marketplace makes this an excellent choice for beginners and amateurs.
There are hefty commission fees to be aware of, and there’s little to none personalization features for merchants. If you’re a professional looking to build up your brand – then this is not a platform for you.
Free to sign up, but there are high transaction fees. Any item sold under $15 incurs a $2.95 charge, and anything above $15 faces a 20% commission fee.
So, which one is the best ecommerce platform for you? Well, it’s all down to what’s important to you. List all the must-have features and the ones that you can live without to make it easier to decide. And before you get paralyzed by indecision, remember there are free trials and if you outgrow one platform – you can always migrate somewhere else!