Business Overview


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.

Who is this business right for?

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.

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.

Additionally;

  • 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 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.

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.

Getting Started


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 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 steps to start an exercise clothing store?

Once you're ready to start your exercise clothing store, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

  1. Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your exercise clothing store is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your exercise clothing store keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  9. Establish a 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.

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

Where can I 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.

Recommended: Fizzle.co offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.

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.

Growing Your Business


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.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

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.

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.

Legal Considerations


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, check out our informative guide, 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.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential


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.

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

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.

Next Steps

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