Clothes are big business in Britain. Every year, fashion-conscious shoppers spend around £20 billion on their wardrobe, which is more than £300 per person. By 2008 the market was worth an estimated £22.2bn, a 9.6% increase since 2003. And to supply this extra large spending habit there is an equally burgeoning clothing retail sector.
In fact, there are as many different types of clothes shops as there are varieties of clothing - from the large department stores such as Marks & Spencer, high street chains like Next and New Look, to the thousands of independent clothes stores scattered throughout the country.
So it may seem that this is a market made to measure for the budding entrepreneur. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Clothing is also one of the most highly developed retail sectors in Britain and the established brands are frighteningly competitive. If you want to break into this market, you will have to look hard to find a gap and, even then, it will take a lot of work and resources to make it succeed.
So where are the gaps? How can a smaller clothes shop offer something that isn't already provided by the chains or larger stores? The key is specialisation. Generally the larger stores offer the greatest choice to shoppers - they have the space and resources to carry an extensive stock range and the purchasing power to offer that stock at low prices. The smaller, independent stores, on the other hand, can profit through specialising.
The crucial point is to identify a niche. This may centre on the style of clothing you sell or on the type of customer that you want to attract. For example, you may stock only suits or second-hand clothes. Alternatively, you may look to sell clothes to a particular group such as schoolchildren or extra large men.
Whatever type of shop you eventually decide to open, one thing is certain - you will have to put a lot of effort and money into making it work. It's a risky sector but if you get it right, the rewards can be high.
If you are thinking of starting a shop click here to read our general retail guide.
** Image courtesy of Valentinian on Flickr