How to Start a Fitness Apparel Business

Fitness Apparel Business Image

A fitness apparel business is a retail establishment that sells shoes, apparel, and equipment designed for athletic consumers. Products are sold on a local level and to online shoppers. These businesses support local athletes through community events and offer advice regarding the ideal products for their customer’s individual needs.

Learn how to start your own Fitness Apparel Business and whether it is the right fit for you.


Start a fitness apparel business 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 step guide to starting your fitness apparel 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 fitness apparel business?

Successful fitness apparel shop owners report a starting capital of $150,000 to $350,000, depending upon the size, amount of inventory, and geographical location. Manage start-up costs by investing in a modest location of 2000 square feet or less. As you get to know your customers, you will gain a deeper understanding of their needs and expand accordingly.

Once a location has been chosen, you will need to fill the space. Fixtures, business management software, and specialized equipment such as a foot and gait analysis system should all be included in your initial budget. Inventory should include apparel, footwear, accessories, and exercise equipment. A marketing strategy will help boost your business and simple, yet intuitive website will keep the community informed and allow you to reach customers on a national level.

What are the ongoing expenses for a fitness apparel business?

Industry leaders report monthly expenses ranging from between $4,500 and $21,000. The size of your store will define utilities and insurance costs and influence the amount of merchandise you will need to keep in stock.

Who is the target market?

When developing your marketing strategy, target athletes of all skill levels and financial means. This includes everyone from the high school tennis player to the ultra-marathoner. Runners are known for investing a great deal of time and money in their sport, so shop owners are encouraged to specifically target the running community in their advertising efforts.

How does a fitness apparel business make money?

A fitness apparel store generates revenue from the sale of each item. While a large portion of your sales will come from local consumers, an online store will extend your reach to athletes outside of the community.

How much can you charge customers?

Pricing varies from product to product. In addition to inventory cost, overhead expenses should be taken into account when setting an item price. If you are inexperienced in this aspect of the business, consult with your vendors for advice.

How much profit can a fitness apparel business make?

While many retail stores realize a profit in the first year, it typically takes three years to build a well-established business. Store owners who are committed to the community and maintain a pulse on the latest trends repot a profit of over $76,000 after the third year.

How can you make your business more profitable?

To boost profits, your inventory should include items with a higher profit margin, such as compression garments and insoles. Hosting educational workshops, fitness classes, and guest speakers will help bring both current and prospective customers, boosting sales in the process. Lastly, sponsor local sporting events as part of your community involvement. It is satisfying to see your business’ name on t-shirts and event advertisements and is a great way to boost visibility.

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.

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STEP 2: Form a legal entity


Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your fitness apparel 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.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

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!

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

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.

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 fitness apparel business

When developing your business plan, research what sports are most popular in your community. Get to know them on a personal and professional level, noting what needs are not currently being met. This will assist you in ordering inventory and allow for a more targeted marketing strategy. While printed and online advertising will prove beneficial, the best gift you can give is your time and attention. Organize group runs, host special events at your store, and sponsor local sporting events. Your commitment to their cause will boost your reputation and spark a deep commitment from the athletes you cater to.

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

How to keep customers coming back

Word of mouth can either make or break a business. Your involvement, strong customer service, and knowledge will go a long way towards building community support. These things, along with an inspiring disposition, will position you as a fitness leader, ensuring your store is the first name that comes to mind when people look for that new pair of workout gloves or shoes.

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 Fitness Apparel Business In Your State

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

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?

This type of business is best suited for the entrepreneur who is passionate about living an active and healthy lifestyle. They enjoy interacting with athletes in the community, sharing their knowledge of current trends in activewear and the newest in fitness-related medical findings.

What happens during a typical day at a fitness apparel business?


You and your staff will spend much of the day interacting with customers. You will consult with them regarding their unique needs, offering guidance on everything from the best shoe for their gait to nutrition and training schedules. The most successful fitness apparel stores draw athletes throughout the community, offering a place to gather and meet other like-minded individuals. Therefore, downtime should be spent creating an environment that encourages athletes of all kinds to participate and interact. Additionally, inventory is tracked daily and orders are placed on an as-needed basis. The store must be clean and well-maintained, with displays changed out regularly. Your customers are looking to you for guidance, so researching industry developments and trends should also be an integral part of your team’s day.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful fitness apparel business?


Interaction with customers, vendors, and your staff will be an integral part of each day. Therefore, strong interpersonal and communication skills, coupled with business acumen, will help set you up for success. Your commitment to customer service and fitness will help you integrate into this tight-knit community, building a loyal customer base along the way. Those considering entering this business venture are encouraged to work in a similar setting. This real world experience will help you gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies involved in owning retail store and offer networking opportunities along the way.

What is the growth potential for a fitness apparel business?


Most athletes are drawn to the individualized attention they receive when visiting a small, locally owned store. For this reason, many store owners concentrate on keeping their shop small, opening additional stores based on community needs. With the right vision and branding, entrepreneurs looking to expand further can open stores across the country and even offer franchising opportunities to other aspiring fitness apparel store owners.

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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 a fitness apparel business?


While sports enthusiasts love to spend money on their activities, they come from all financial brackets. Therefore, your store should carry quality products, with price points that fit every budget. A flexible return policy will offer that last push some customers need to purchase an item they’re considering. When choosing your vendors, inquire about their return policy. Many have made it a policy to accept returned shoes at no cost to the store owner.

How and when to build a team


Depending upon the size of your new business, it may be possible to operate the store yourself during those first few months. As business increases, you will need to start building your team. Many fitness apparel store owners have found success hiring high school athletes. This keeps payroll costs under control and offers another level of support within the sporting community. Every employee should possess extensive knowledge of at least one activity and be able to communicate with all demographics. Strengthen your team by hiring new employees that can help build on your current skills and knowledge.

Next Steps

Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Tool.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

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