You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your bridal shop business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a bridal shop business?
Owners have to calculate the cost of rent, inventory, staff salaries, marketing, and insurance. Costs can be anywhere from several thousand to $50,000 (or more) in the most competitive neighborhoods.
What are the ongoing expenses for a bridal shop business?
Bridal shop owners will need to account for their inventory, rent/mortgage, and insurance costs. They'll also need to take into account the staff salaries as well as ongoing marketing costs and acquisition of new designers.
Who is the target market?
The target market can theoretically be any socioeconomic group, as most brides prefer to wear a special frock for their special occasion. Owners will need to choose who they want to cater to when it comes to offering their fashions. For example, selling mainly to middle-class women, but also keeping an off-the-rack section for those who may be watching their pennies.
How does a bridal shop business make money?
A bridal shop makes money buying selling wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, and other wedding accessories to customers.
How much can you charge customers?
Brides are usually willing to splurge on a quality dress, even when their wedding budgets aren't exactly infinite. The average cost of a wedding gown is about $1,100, but brides have been known to spend well into five-figures.
How much profit can a bridal shop business make?
Retail markups are substantial in wedding sales. The wholesale cost of a wedding gown is typically double that of the raw cost of materials, and the retail price is typically double that of wholesale costs. So a dress that cost $500 could easily be sold at $1,000 wholesale and $2,000 in a store.
How can you make your business more profitable?
From accessories to tailoring to autumn formal dresses, there are plenty of ways to entice a wide range of customers into a store. Bridal shops can also consider adding a ‘trunk party’ element to their business where they take their fashions to the bride's home to show off.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your bridal shop business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a bridal shop business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A bridal shop business is generally run out of a bridal shop. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a bridal shop business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your bridal shop business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a bridal shop business
Your promotion techniques will vary greatly depending on your chosen clientele. If you’re selling haute couture for $50,000 or more, you’ll want to network by throwing exclusive parties or similar high-end fashion events. If you’re catering to those who make a more modest income, use internet advertising or television commercials to entice people into your store. Some of the best marketing is having the right staging for your windows. Featuring your best gowns on mannequins is a great way to give potential customers a snapshot of the styles they’ll find inside.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
The best thing an owner can do is to concentrate on the little things that make a customer’s experience spectacular. A cup of coffee or a glass of champagne can be a great way to set people at ease and show that you're willing to go the extra mile — especially if you're catering to a middle-class crowd. Customers want quality gowns at affordable prices, but they also want to be treated with respect and compassion during a stressful time.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Bridal Shop Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
People who love weddings and fashion will thrive in this business. Weddings are difficult to plan, but they can be extremely rewarding when it all comes together. A bridal shop owner should have an innate sense and passion for highlighting the excitement rather than the stress of weddings.
What happens during a typical day at a bridal shop business?
A typical day in a bridal shop will likely involve being on the sales floor as much as possible and researching new trends in formal fashion. Owners will also need to allot time for basic administrative duties, marketing, and stocking merchandise.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful bridal shop business?
Owners should ideally have experience in retail before getting started. They should be organized and have a knack for managing people and tricky situations. Those who design their own wedding dresses may find it difficult to transition from selling ad-hoc dresses to having a full-blown store.
What is the growth potential for a bridal shop business?
Growth potential for brick-and-mortar bridal shops may be stunted by the growth of online sales, but it’s certainly not impossible to achieve lasting success. The abundance of choices on the market today can be not only overwhelming in terms of abundance but also overwhelming in terms of variety, quality, and costs. Those who can hone in on the most in-demand fashions of the day and provide genuine customer service can build up a steady clientele from the very beginning.
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One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a bridal shop business?
There are a variety of ways to achieve success from your bridal shop business. You may have an eye for designers and a knack for customer service. You may be a talented seamstress or designer who creates true masterpieces for their clients. You may even be able to buy a bridal shop and hire a talented right-hand assistant who can put their vision into reality.
However you choose to make it happen, you need to understand the people behind the purchase. Special occasions are a beloved way to get a break from day-to-day drudgery. You’re selling not just a pretty gown, but an entire experience. People who do well in this business are not only hard workers willing to take on a variety of roles, but also uniquely talented in their ability to put an overwhelmed bride’s mind at ease.
There are also franchise opportunities (e.g., Bride’s Entourage, etc.) for those who aren't quite sure where to begin. Franchising ensures owners start with an established reputation, which can help their store get a leg-up in the very beginning. They'll also have a set business model to follow that has already been proven to be successful with clients. However, even franchise owners need to be willing to think outside the box when it comes to stocking and selling truly unforgettable dresses.
Owners may also want to highlight what makes their store unique from online shopping. Despite the surge in popularity, most people still prefer the personal interaction of shopping in a store. Offering people a one-stop shop in their town is a great way to cut through the confusion and frustration of shopping for a special dress online. Not only is it completely impersonal to buy from a faceless buyer on a website, it also takes some of the magic away from the dress.
How and when to build a team
Bridal shop owners who choose to do appointment-only consultations don’t necessarily need to build a team right away. However, if you’re planning to run a more traditional store, then it only makes sense to hire people right away. Look for people who have experience in both fashion and customer service. Employees will need to understand the more unique points of the business to succeed.