Who is it suited to?
Like many retail businesses, you don't need any formal qualifications to start up a clothes shop. However, to increase your chances of success, there are certain skills you will have to learn.
The fashion market changes throughout the year, with clothes coming in and out according to the seasons and busy periods from March to May and September to December. Stock control, is crucial. You need to have enough of popular lines when it's busy, but also make sure that unsold clothes don't pile up when trade slackens or when the seasons change.
You will therefore need to be well organised with a good understanding of fashion so that you can predict changes. To help keep control of stock, it might be worth investing in an electronic point of sale (EPoS) system, which will record every item that is sold and calculate how much stock you is left. It enables you to keep your shop well stocked, and will quickly tell you which lines are selling well.
Creating an image
Clothes are all about image and you need to ensure that the image your customers aspire to is reflected in every part of your shop. This obviously starts with the clothes themselves, so knowledge of fashion and the ability to know which labels your customers will like is essential.
Image also extends to the shop as well - the way clothes are displayed, the fixtures and fittings, the ambience of the shop and even the name. So setting up a shop can require a certain flair for interior decoration.
Serving the customer
Many smaller shops distinguish themselves from their larger competitors through the service they offer their customers. Running a shopping you'll be in close and constant contact with the general public, so the ability to get on with people is a must.
Making your customers feel welcome may simply mean chatting to them and giving advice on fashion, colours and fitting. However, the personal service can also extend to taking measurements or making alterations, so some tailoring expertise can be useful.
Liz Urwin, who owns Bottega, a ladies fashion boutique in Cheshire, explains, "You need to relate to people and get on with them. I was surprised to discover that people come to independent shops to see the owner as much as to see the shop. They are disappointed if I'm not there."
"You have to be good at getting on with people. It's an intimate relationship, sticking pins in and doing alterations on people. You have to be comfortable getting up close and personal."
The nuts and bolts
As well as dealing with clothes and fashion, remember that running a clothes shop will also require some business expertise. You will need to be competent with figures in order to calculate stock levels, work out profit margins, negotiate prices and complete tax returns.
You should be prepared to work six days a week and put in long hours, especially in the lead-up to Christmas. Underlying all of this should be a passion for fashion and an enthusiasm for the clothes you are selling. "You need to be able to enthuse about your stock in order to sell it. You need to be excited about new stock when you are showing it to customers - and not just for the first week, but over the following couple of months," says Urwin.