Start a shoe store by following these 10 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 shoe store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
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 a shoe store?
A shoe store’s startup costs can be hefty. Expect to pay about $10,000 in initial franchising fees. Grand opening marketing can cost about $5,000, and initial inventory can cost as much as $50,000 for a smaller shop.
A lot of these expenses are high because shoes can cost a lot of money. You should plan to have about $2,500 on hand for insurance startup costs. On the high end, a shoe store’s overall costs can reach $200,000 when utility deposits, professional fees, computer systems, and business licenses are considered.
What are the ongoing expenses for a shoe store?
Expect to pay about $2,000 per month for rent. Monthly utilities will be about $300. As a shoe store owner, you’ll need to pay your employees between $8 and $20 per hour, depending on their position. If you’ve hired an IT team, expect to pay as much as $30 per hour for skilled labor. Additional costs include marketing fees, which cost about one percent of your yearly net sales and consistent inventory costs—which can be as much as $75,000 per year.
Who is the target market?
The best customers are return shoppers. Because shoes aren’t purchased often, every impression counts. Shoe store shoppers may come and go, but those with a love of boots, athletic shoes, or shoe care products can be very profitable.
It’s a good idea to extend discount services to other stores. Often, shoe stores will use “pull marketing” tactics, gaining return customers from other clothing stores.
How does a shoe store make money?
Shoe stores make money by selling shoes, shoe accessories, shoe care products, and other items. Some shoe stores may offer shoe cleaning services, though such services are pretty rare.
How much can you charge customers?
Customers can be charged as little as $10 for a pair of nice laces to $400 for a pair of nice boots. Average shoes cost about $70, though prices vary greatly.
How much profit can a shoe store make?
An average shoe store makes about $851,076 in sales, yielding a profit of about $127,363 for the owner. Shoe stores offer a big return on investment, sitting at about 46.1 percent. As a shoe store owner, you’ll need to manage your stock and pricing to ensure high profits.
How can you make your business more profitable?
It pays off to diversify or specialize. When starting a shoe store business, research popular brands. Once you’ve achieved some popularity, make sure your customers go to you for preferred shoes. You can specialize in selling boots, for example, or athletic shoes.
You should also start an online store. E-commerce is incredibly effective, and the most successful shoe stores have online buying portals. Prioritize customer service, and make shipping affordable. You can greatly increase your profits by expanding into a digital market. If you’re really good at e-commerce, you can even make an entirely online store.
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 Shoe Store Name Generator
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
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your shoe store is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
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?.
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:
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
- 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.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported 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 guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
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 a shoe store. 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
A shoe store is generally run out of a warehouse or factory. 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 clothing line 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 store 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.
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.
How to promote & market a shoe store
Market online. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the best realms for clothing and shoe sellers. Offer discounts, and attract new customers via an e-commerce platform. If you’re operating out of a shopping strip, make sure local fashion sellers are aware of your location. Network with them, and exchange customers when possible.
How to keep customers coming back
Customers, by and large, will be attracted by your products. Your store’s reputation will grow if it offers well-priced, reliable shoes. To retain customers, you’ll need to incentivize return visits. Shoe shopping is a rare occurrence, so you’ll need to be independent of your competition.
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.
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.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Shoe Store In Your State
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?
The shoe business is great for anyone who loves fashion. Retail experience helps, as does an appreciation for shoes and apparel. Those who like accessories, like purses and jewelry, may find the shoe business to be exciting as well.
A successful shoe store operator will need to be good with pricing, marketing, and management. They should also have a good eye for designer and discount shoes. By focusing on a niche, like athletic apparel, a shoe store owner can have a lot of success.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a shoe store?
A shoe store owner stocks, promotes, and sells shoes. As a retail operator, a shoe store owner needs to prep stock, clean the store, manage employees, and market his or her products. Typically, a shoe store owner helps customers find their preferred products. A lot of shoe store employees are skilled in figuring out a customer’s size, too.
From the administrative end of things, a shoe store owner will conduct transactions, work on marketing campaigns, manage expenses, and try to boost the store’s profits as much as possible. A lot of shoe stores extend into the world of e-commerce, so having Internet expertise is certainly beneficial.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful shoe store?
Successful shoe store owners have a keen eye for marketing. They’re also good at acquiring wholesale shoes at competitive prices. The business values of paying bills on time, following by a shoe brand’s rules and following industry regulations counts. From all angles, shoe selling can be a complex job to undertake.
What is the growth potential for a shoe store?
Shoe stores have a lot of growth potential, as local providers. Because the market for high-fashion shoes is open, a shoe store can even become a multi-national provider if they offer rare, interesting, or incredibly reliable shoes.
At some point, however, shoe store owners will need to differentiate themselves from the competition. It’ll pay off to either specialize in a particular type of shoe or to offer an incredibly diverse stock.
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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
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
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 a shoe store?
Start by being an independent seller. Working with other brands can be difficult for beginning shoe stores. If possible, enter into the e-commerce market. Your store’s reputation will grow, too, if it isn’t in an oversaturated area. If you face a lot of Big Box competition, enter the boutique market and offer special, high-price shoe selections.
How and when to build a team
Build a team immediately. Starting shoe stores should be operated by at least two to three employees. By having a team—even a small one—you can make sure your store’s operations are handled with care. Shoe stores with long histories often thrive, but they thrive upon having incredibly capable employees. When managing a shop, make sure you’re focusing on customer engagement. Shoe shopping can be a long, drawn-out process, so employees should work to fulfill the buyer’s journey while ensuring as many sales as possible.