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.

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 9 steps:

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 guide to starting your exercise clothing store. 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:

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 very important. If you don’t have a name in mind already, read our detailed guide on how to name a business or get some help brainstorming a name with our Exercise Clothing Store Business Name Generator.

Then, when registering a business name we recommend checking if the business name is available in your state, federally by doing a trademark search, searching the web, and making sure the name you choose is available as a web domain to secure it early so no one else can take it.

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account ( Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your exercise clothing store is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

Check out the Top Business Formation Services from our friends at StartupSavant.

You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

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!

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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.

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

  • 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.

Read our Best Banks for Small Business guide to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.

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Recommended: BlueVine is an online bank with free business checking and no hidden fees. Great for businesses who do not often deal with cash.

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 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:

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.

Business Insurance for
Exercise Clothing Store

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 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.

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 An Exercise Clothing Store In Your State

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

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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Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

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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.

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:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

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.

Next Steps

Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Generator.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

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