How to Start an Exercise Clothing Store
An exercise clothing store focuses on selling various brands of clothing designed for exercise and athletic activities. Some clothing will be exercise specific, custom fit, or a recognizable name brand. Customers who choose these stores are often searching for unique or professional options, other than what may be found in department store selections.
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Learn how to start your own Exercise Clothing Store and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start an exercise clothing store by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Exercise Clothing Store
- Form your Exercise Clothing Store into a Legal Entity
- Register your Exercise Clothing Store for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Exercise Clothing Store
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Exercise Clothing Store
- Get Exercise Clothing Store Insurance
- Define your Exercise Clothing Store Brand
- Create your Exercise Clothing Store Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your exercise clothing store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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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 much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening an exercise clothing store?
There will be some initial costs to get started, which will include rent and utilities for a storefront, ordering merchandise, as well as grand opening advertising. You’ll also have some legal and detail-oriented costs like:
- store design and display items
- sales and inventory computer systems
- website creation, hosting, and monitoring
- trademarks, logos, and store signage
- cards, posters, and flyers for store promotions
- business insurance and licensing
An estimated cost average may be in the $50-75,000 range.
What are the ongoing expenses for an exercise clothing store?
Unless you are operating a strictly online shop, your store rent and utilities will continue to be a large part of your monthly expenditures. Payroll, taxes, and marketing and advertising will also factor heavily. Your merchandise buys will cost, but should be balanced through the sales generated. Some other costs are:
- Insurance and licensing
- Travel and training/product seminars
- Telephone, internet, and website hosting
- Continued market research
Who is the target market?
Your target audience is anyone involved in exercise or athletic events who wishes to shop and buy a bit more from clothing specific retailers.
How does an exercise clothing store make money?
Exercise clothing stores create revenue through the sale of their clothing and accessories.
How much can you charge customers?
Pricing for clothing will depend on the brands you carry. Again, your market research will dictate so much of how you price and what you carry. Remember, too, that most customers shopping a specialty shop expect to pay a bit more for higher quality in return.
How much profit can an exercise clothing store make?
Profitability will vary, from location and region of the country or world you operate in. Still, this is a profitable niche in the clothing industry. If you are in the right location and understand your available audience, you can succeed and do quite well. Many successful exercise clothing retailers net between $45,000 and 75,000, annually.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Since you’re selling exercise clothing, one of the biggest and most effective additions to your store will be exercise related accessories. Shoes, hats, scarves, gloves, and rain gear can appeal to customers already excited about wearing exercise clothing. Be careful, though, not to spread yourself too thin by offering too many options before you’re established or before you conduct proper retail market research.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Exercise Clothing Store Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your exercise clothing store is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
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?.
Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
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.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
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.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
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 an exercise clothing 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
An exercise clothing business is generally run out of a storefront. 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 an exercise clothing 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 exercise clothing business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
Recommended: Learn what business insurance for your Exercise Clothing Store will cost.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market an exercise clothing store
In modern business, one of the newest, yet most exciting, facets of marketing and advertising is the use of the internet and social media. these new mediums for communication and self-expression work like hyper charged friend referrals and personal testimonials. The constant flow of verbal and textual information, pictures, videos, and encapsulated slices of lives has a huge audience. Most of which are themselves generating just as much, if not more, content. Tap this resource and make aa digital footprint for your business.
While we’re focusing on the importance of imagery for clothing, it would also be wise to partner with gyms and exercise groups in your area. Make your clothing a popular statement amongst the gym crowd and see your sales pop. Especially if you can find individuals which embody the ethos of your store and its clothing, consider offering promotional items to help increase the number of eyes on your clothing lines.
Remember, too, to interact with the customer in your store. An online campaign, featuring photos of the everyday shopper, can also be an effective way to open your appeal to an even larger audience. The customers in the store have already decided to shop with you. Don’t let them regret their decision.
How to keep customers coming back
Continue to treat the customer as #1. Ask them what they do and don’t like. Listen to their wants and find ways to make positive changes, while still maintaining your original fire. Be original and friendly.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Exercise Clothing Store in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
For individuals with an eye for style, function, and form, an exercise clothing store may be the perfect fit. If such an eye for detail is coupled with the owner’s participation in sports and exercise, the customer benefits greatly. Being able to understand what each customer needs, based on their exercise goals and body type is paramount for success.
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What happens during a typical day at an exercise clothing store?
Interaction with customers will constitute a substantial portion of the day. There will also be time spent re-stocking and ordering new apparel, maintaining inventory, and researching new products and clothing approaching the market. A good clothing store, no matter the type, understands that paying attention to industry trends is an important facet of the overall job.
- clean, straighten displays, and ready the store for another day of customers
- plan and initiate advertising and marketing strategies
- compare store pricing vs. regional competitors
- maintain social media output
- create customer dialogue
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful exercise clothing store?
If you show great interest in your product, others will feel drawn to that same fire. Make it your business, literally, to know and wear exercise clothing. You want people to believe in your product, so you need to show them why. Follow the new lines, explore the fabric and design choices and move the business from a job to a passion. Then, tap into your ability to communicate your finds to your customers. You’re developing a return customer market in retail sales, more than in most businesses, because you always want to entice with something new and exciting.
You’ll also want to be able to
- understand sales techniques and small business finances
- market and advertise for your business
- display a prowess for blogging and social media
- connect and partner with clothing distributors
What is the growth potential for an exercise clothing store?
Exercise clothing is currently in a popularity boom with numerous different types of people deciding to embrace a casual, yet sleek fashion look. In addition, there are numerous individuals who spend a large portion of their time exercising, working out, or playing sports. Therefore, the current growth potential is very favorable. An important factor of your success, though, will be the market research you perform, prior to opening your business. You must understand your area and your competition’s market quite well, in order to create a market for your own business. Is the population the right fit and for which styles? Will your business be unique enough to bring new customers in? There are many exercise apparel stores currently operating, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
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.
Learn from other business owners
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Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an exercise clothing store?
Just like the real estate saying goes, it’s all about location, location, location. Your store needs to be in a heavily trafficked or easily accessible location. You need to be seen and you need to make sure the area you’re in can and will support your business. Too much competition or too little customers sink many a business before they ever get going.
Know your competition. What’s working, or not working, for them. And you don’t have to think about competing with them head to head but, rather, complementing each other. What’s your niche and how can you stand out?
Be creative, explore new possibilities, and don’t be afraid to take chances now and again. Ask your customers and your staff their opinions. Sometimes, you’re the one on the outside looking in and you need someone with a different perspective to change your view.
Create a comprehensive business plan, conduct your market research, and go for it. If you’re waiting for a sign to open your own business, you might be waiting a long time. The fact that you’re considering such move is sign enough. And, once you’re in business, follow your plan. Your budget is your guidepost, so keep yourself honest and follow it.
How and when to build a team
You can often manage a store opening with a skeleton crew. It’s often easier, as there is less training and a more cohesive spirit with just a few employees. But, as you see your sales and customer walk-ins increase, add some other employees who have similar passions about sports, exercise, and healthy living. A good team really helps in a store’s continued success.
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