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As the owner of a pet clothing business, you’ll either resell or design and fabricate pet attire. You might own a brick and mortar store, run your business online, or operate in a hybrid model by serving customers in both modes.
Who is this business right for?
Hopefully, you love dogs and other animals. You should also have good instincts for finding vendors, pricing items, and promoting and marketing your business. If you’ll be making rather than buying and reselling items, you must also have a talent for pet fashion, clothing design, and sewing.
What happens during a typical day at a pet clothing store?
Your typical workday could consist of a range of activities including:
- Finding and ordering inventory from online and/or offline vendor resources
- Maintaining and keeping up the appearances of your digital or brick and mortar store
- Greeting customers and meeting their needs
- Scheduling and overseeing staff, if any
- Paying bills and conducting business
What is the target market?
Your customers will be pet lovers, and especially those with the financial means to spend generously on their dogs and other pets.
How does a pet clothing store make money?
You’ll sell for retail the merchandise you buy from wholesalers such as DogSmartWay.com and PetEdge, or through such general online vendors as Amazon and eBay. According to this Forbes article, the markup on human clothing from wholesale to retail is 100 percent. Assume the same markup for pet attire and adjust for competition and customer expectations.
What is the growth potential for a pet clothing store?
U.S. pet owners spend an estimated $69.36 billion annually on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This includes expenditures of nearly $1.5 billion on supplies and medicine. The estimate represents an impressive year-over-year growth rate. The 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey Debut is an excellent source of additional market profile information for your business plan.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful pet clothing store?
You must be able to think critically and from a retail perspective. You must be able to get a deep understanding of your market. If you open a brick and mortar business, it must be in an area where you’ll find an upscale customer base. Write a business plan first so you can see where your opportunities are and how you’ll reach your base.
What are the costs involved in opening a pet clothing store?
Your costs will vary depending on whether you operate online or at a brick and mortar location. Here are some of the startup costs you’ll confront under either scenario.
Rent and utilities -- $15,000 a year or more if you open a retail location. This estimate is based on a 700-square-foot location, which is probably the minimal size for your store. Depending on your city or region, this cost could escalate. If you operate a web store only, you can conduct business from your home and have no rental costs. Also explore the possibility of operating a kiosk in an existing pet-oriented retail store.
Inventory -- $1,500 on up. Your inventory can be kept at a minimum if you operate online or you sew your own clothing for custom orders. If you have a store your inventory costs might approach $5,000 to $10,000.
Staffing -- Initially, you’ll only need what you need to live on. As you add employees, that cost might escalate to $12,000 a year for a single part-time worker, and higher.
Logo development, signage and marketing materials -- Up to $5,000 or more. Regardless of how you operate your business, you should have a professional image. You’ll also want to spend on a grand opening promotion whether you’re operating on- or offline.
Online presence -- $1,000 or less for website design and implementation. You must have a professional web presence whether you’ll have an ecommerce site or only use your digital presence to push business to your brick and mortar store. Your costs could escalate if you provide a state-of-the-art ecommerce portal.
Liability insurance and professional services -- $750 or more, est. You should see a lawyer and accountant at least once in order to get your business off the ground the right way. An insurance agent will be able to estimate your needs in that area.
What are the steps to start a pet clothing store?
Once you're ready to start your pet clothing store, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- 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.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your pet clothing store is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your pet clothing store keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
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.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a pet clothing store?
Take advantage of the “cute” factor. Pet owners love their “babies.” Establish a presence that shows that you share their love and affection for animals. Start by brainstorming creative and appealing business names. That will literally be your calling card.
Also consider areas of specialty and becoming a niche retailer. This might mean exclusively clothing large or very small animals or exotic pets, or only providing attire for special occasions, such as for Halloween. This degree of niche specialization will be easier if you operate your business online rather than through a physical store. That’s because it's easier to service a niche if your market is the world rather than a distinct geographic sliver.
How to promote & market a pet clothing store
Start by finding out where your customers hang out. Where do they take their pets? What other websites do they visit and what materials do they read. Start your business with customer surveys to find out how you’re likeliest to come in contact with ideal customers. Also consider booth rental at dog shows, pet fairs or expos or related events.
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How to keep customers coming back
Produce fliers and distribute them (with permission, when necessary) at doggie daycares, boarding kennels, dog parks, veterinarians, and other pet and owner hangouts. Consider partnering with associated businesses such as pet stores and retailers who don’t offer apparel.
How and when to build a team
You might be able to stay solo if you offer your business online only. If you become a brick and mortar store owner, you’ll probably need help to cover your hours of operation, but only do so as you see revenue growth to cover the added expenses.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a pet 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.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
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.
Certificate of Occupancy
A pet 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 a pet 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 pet clothing business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
That depends on your product offering and the competitive landscape in your marketing area.
What are the ongoing expenses for a pet clothing store?
Once you’ve established your presence, your ongoing expenses will be your store if you have a physical presence, and your inventory and labor. If you operate online, you can keep inventory costs lower than if you must create and maintain a store display. You’ll also be likelier to be able to run the business without additional staffing if you operate online only.
How much profit can a pet clothing store make?
Profit margins of 8 percent are common in specialty clothing retail for humans after all expenses are paid. The same or higher margins might be possible in the pet clothing business.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Consider offering additional related services, such as pet grooming. Make a rental arrangement in your physical store to bring in a dog groomer once a week or more often. You can also sell such associated products as pet toys, and mugs, books, t-shirts and other items for pet-owners.
You’ll find additional business expansion ideas in this article