YES! Okay, this is the fun part. Time to go shopping. But this time, you’re not shopping for you – you’re shopping for fun, unique pieces your ideal customer will absolutely LOVE. Sweaters she’ll live in all winter long. Earrings she’ll get loads of compliments on. Jeans that make her legs look miles long. Shopping for inventory for your online boutique is basically one epic shopping spree.
But honestly… it can also get tricky. Think about it – when you’re shopping for yourself, you’re mainly just focusing on your personal taste, value for money, and what’s most on-trend for this season. But when you’re shopping for your online boutique, you’ve got to consider all of those things… PLUS order amounts, profit margins, what supplier to choose, and so much more. So many boutique owners tend to get a little bit mixed up – and stressed out – along the way. But with the right tools and the right strategy, buying inventory for your boutique can (and should!) still be plenty of fun.
Let’s go over how to buy inventory for your boutique, step by step.
1. Figure out your finances
First things first, figure out how you’re planning on paying for the wholesale boutique items you’ll purchase to fill your inventory. Do you have some of your own money set aside to invest in your boutique business? Are you planning on getting a small business loan?
Once you figure out where the $$$ will come from, create a budget and figure out how much you can afford to spend on your first inventory order. (However much you tend to go over budget on your own personal shopping sprees is your business… but when it comes to running a boutique, it’s important to be strategic about how much you’re spending up front!)
2. Do some market research
As you shop around for wholesale boutique items to fill your inventory with, it’s important to remember who you’re shopping for. (Hint: it’s not you!) Take some time to identify your target customer. Figure out what sort of clothes she likes, other brands she wears, how much she typically spends on a T-shirt, what she likes to do for fun, etc. Then, purchase inventory just like you think she would. Sure, you want to make sure the style of clothing you purchase is authentic to your individual tastes and values – but ultimately, your customers are the ones who will be wearing what you’re selling.
Once you’ve figured out your target customer, do some market research to identify competitors who are also selling similar items with your target customer in mind. Take notes about what’s selling well, what categories of items they sell, and how they market their inventory. We’re not suggesting you copy every little thing they do (please don’t!), but it’s always a good idea to draw from ideas that are already working well.
3. Choose a supplier
When you want new clothes for yourself, you go to the mall. But when you want new clothes to stock your boutique’s inventory… where do you go? Most boutique owners purchase items from wholesale vendors. These suppliers typically act as a middleman between manufacturers or distributors and retailers (that’s you!). They purchase items in bulk, then sell them at a markup to retailers. Other wholesalers work as more of a mediator between manufacturers and retailers, allowing retailers to purchase from a wider selection of factory-direct items at even lower prices. (That’s how Supplied works.)
Just because an item’s listed as wholesale doesn’t mean you’re getting it for the best price. Again, many wholesale items still involve a significant markup. Do some pricing research before choosing to order from a certain supplier. Research what other wholesalers are selling similar items for as well as typical retail prices for those items. Remember, your margins have to cover the costs of overhead, employee wages, packaging, etc – make sure you take those costs into consideration when ordering from a supplier and then setting your prices.
4.Choose your items
Shopping time! Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you shop for your first inventory order:
Constantly keep your ideal customer in mind
Start with just a few categories that go together – you can always expand later as your boutique grows and you have more capital to work with
Stick to your budget – sure, you have to spend money to make money, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to stock your shop
Consider your product assortment – make sure your inventory is cohesive and representative of your overall brand, and purchase items that tend to inspire multi-unit purchases.
Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit – stock a limited quantity of a certain item, restock if they perform well. (This works best if your supplier doesn’t have a strict minimum order requirement.)
- Take a look at shipping/return policies – you’ll want to be well aware of any additional charges and how long you’ll have to wait before your items are actually in hand.
5. Stock by season
Boutique shoppers tend to expect online stores to restock new items with every season – spring, summer, fall, and winter. If you’re starting now, you’ll want to start stocking winter items (and holiday gift items) well in advance of the major holidays, usually in early October.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to stock new arrivals regularly in between. Customers love seeing what’s new, and regularly stocking new items will give past customers a reason to keep coming back.
Now that you know how to buy inventory for your boutique, you’re one step closer to starting the online boutique of your dreams! Got any other questions about how to buy inventory or anything else about starting a boutique business? Let us know in the comments!