Formulating a clothing business plan
At this point, you’ll set out exactly how you plan to sell and your resources to do so. How much does it cost to start an online clothing business? While it’s possible to begin with any level of startup capital, a clear business plan will help you put your investment to its best use.
Whether you’re beginning with $500, $5,000 or a larger investment, your business plan will ideally set out your budget, costs, target audience, business model and your expected timeline for growth.
Identify your target audience
It helps to know exactly who you’ll be speaking to when selling and promoting your clothing line. Developing a customer persona will help you to clarify your target audience and design apparel that truly suits their lifestyle.
Identify the age, location, favourite brands and shopping style of who your typical customer might be, and consider how to sell clothes online effectively for this target audience. Do they tend to buy new clothes spontaneously, or do they search for exacting qualities when it comes to buying that new pair of pants? Is this group of people likely to buy several pieces of a collection at once, or do they love making the most of regular special offers and promotions?
Choose a business model
Finding the right business model is important when starting a clothing business and to succeed in the long term. The right business model for your needs can depend on a few key questions, including:
• What is your initial investment?
• Are you designing your own line of clothing, or reselling?
• Do you want to be more hands-on or hands-off in your business?
• How much of your profits will you be reinvesting into the business?
These factors matter, because there are various ways to sell clothing online. You might choose:
• Designing your own clothes and working with a manufacturer for production
• Selling a wholesale or private label clothing line under your own brand
• Reselling an existing licensed clothing line
• Offering print-on-demand options for items such as T-shirts or hats. While this type of service isn’t currently available through a store such as Amazon Australia, it could be an option for your business.
There really is a selling style to suit every seller. For example: if you have lower startup resources, then a wholesale clothing line might work well for you . If you want to ensure every detail of your clothing line is perfect or you’re creating something entirely unique, then working with a manufacturer can be an ideal way of doing so.
Define your brand
Your brand will help customers find your clothing line, recommend your products and return for subsequent purchases. Aim to develop a brand identity that is:
• Unique and not already in use by another seller
• Distinctive and recognisable
• Easy to recall and search for online
• Reflective of the design and quality of your clothing line
• Symbolic of any key brand values such as sustainability
• Does not infringe any third party rights
Don’t forget to set up your company structure and register your business name as needed. On Amazon you can use Brand Registry
to help protect your intellectual property.
Seasonality often matters when selling clothes online: both in a fashion sense, and in a weather sense! You may need to factor in weeks or months of lead time in order to have your summery clothing line ready for the warmer months, or for a particular fashion trend to hit the mainstream. Be sure to consider seasonality when designing and setting up your production line if this is likely to affect your brand.
What else do you need to start a clothing business?
As well as some capital and your clothing designs, there are two other key things that will help you as you sell online.
The first is time. You will need time to list, promote, provide customer service and fulfil your orders as they come in. You can choose to outsource your fulfilment and shipping processes, which can help to free up your time and focus for other aspects of your clothing business.
The second is passion. Running a clothing brand can take hard work and dedication and there will be challenges along the way. However, this type of business can also be ultra-rewarding when you see your customers enjoying and recommending your products.
Developing a production line for your clothing line
So you have your clothing designs ready to go. How do you bring those designs to reality? There are a few key factors to consider as you start production and create your own clothing line online.
Costing and budgeting
Managing costs will be an important consideration if you’re getting clothing made for your brand. Be sure to consider the costs of manufacturing, tag printing, packaging and barcode registration as needed. Producing and selling in larger quantities can often help you to minimise the costs for each unit and optimise your profit margins.
Scale up with a tech pack
A tech pack is an invaluable document if you’re going to be working with external designers or manufacturers, as it improves clarity while minimising mistakes and miscommunications. This document sets out technical information about each product, typically including:
• Annotated technical drawings of the garment
• Specifications for key details such as buttonholes, pleats or hems
• Quantity and order details such as delivery requirements
• Information on material composition, colour, weight and finish
• A sizing table that outlines expectations for fit
• Information on components such as tags and trims
• Feedback on any samples already produced
By investing in tech packs you can help increase your chances of a successful relationship with manufacturers, suppliers and designers. Tech packs may also help you reduce your lead times and manage inventory successfully, so you can deliver more products to your customers.
Consistent and compelling branding can help to create an amazing customer experience and inspire repeat purchases. When designing and manufacturing your products, consider branding as it applies to these two elements:
Clothing branding can include the permanent label on the garment with your brand name, textile composition and care instructions printed on it. It can also include the swing tag, also known as a hang tag, that is removable once the customer receives the item. Both of these are great opportunities to reinforce your brand and add to the shopping experience.
Here’s just one example. If you’re creating a premium swimwear line you might write some custom copy for the fabric label and care instructions, together with an embossed swing tag to add an extra sense of luxury to the unboxing experience.
Packaging is another ideal opportunity to enhance the customer experience and brand recall. You might use printed tissue paper, branded boxes, or sustainable shipping mailers that show you ‘walk the walk’ if your brand has a sustainable ethos. Packaging can build anticipation and recognition for a brand!
It’s also essential to find packaging that will protect your products in transit and ensure they arrive in top condition for customers to enjoy.
Important questions for your production process
The right production process will set you up well for happy customers, smooth inventory management and glowing reviews. Ask yourself these questions when researching and selecting manufacturers to work with.
What’s the right balance between quality and cost?
Your choice of manufacturer and product quality should align with the selling price of your products and with the ideal sale price range for your target audience. A product that competes on price will require competitive manufacturing costs. Meanwhile, a premium product may take more time and resources to manufacture but sell for a higher price.
Will you need to be close to your manufacturer?
Consider how and how often you’ll want to work alongside your manufacturer. You could choose a local Australian manufacturer, which may cost more but give you greater control over a premium product’s high quality. Or, you might look to an overseas manufacturer to lower costs and travel to see them as needed.
Are you working with an ethical manufacturer?
There is growing awareness around the sustainability and ethics of fashion, and as such many customers are willing to pay a premium for a product they know is made and sourced with ethical principles. It’s worth keeping this in mind as you research and choose your clothing manufacturer.
Will the manufacturer be able to keep up with demand?
Having hundreds of orders for a product you can’t ship is a recipe for poor reviews and may impact your account health. When selecting your manufacturers and suppliers, look for reassurance that your supply chain will be able to provide reliable inventory for your online store. Consistency in both quality and delivery will be key to selling success.
Ship products to customers
So you have your clothing line ready to go. Now to get those products out to your customers quickly and reliably. If you’re getting started with the basics of how to sell online, look into the following:
• Building your own professional online store, so customers can buy from you easily
• Using social media strategies to reach customers where they love to spend their time
• Search engine optimisation to help customers and search engines find your products
You might also choose to consider paid search or social advertising to share your products with more people, particularly as you first start building your customer base.
Of all of these, your online store is perhaps the most important element. Here you’ll showcase your products with high-quality photography and detailed product descriptions, telling the story of your clothing line and brand.
Sell on Amazon
It’s easy to start selling on Amazon. Simply register for your seller account, choose the selling plan
that suits your needs and follow the prompts to add your products
You’ll have all the tools to build your very own Amazon storefront, which can help you get discovered by shoppers. Don’t worry – even if you have no experience building websites, the templates and drag-and-drop tiles make it simple to create a professional online store where customers can explore your products in detail.
You’re never far from help should you need it, thanks to our Beginner’s Guide
, events and webinars for sellers
and seller support.Learn to start an ecommerce business on Amazon >
Selling online could drive demand for your products and can be a smart investment in helping increasing traffic and interest. You might like to read how Lisa from KIND-LY
used Amazon Australia to grow sales for her 100 per cent natural roll-on deodorant products.
Of course selling and advertising fees can apply in return, so be sure to factor these into your business costs.
Plan for fulfilment and shipping costs
Once your customers have purchased your products they’ll be excited to receive them. You can either choose to store, pick, pack and ship orders yourself as they come in, or use a fulfilment service that will carry out these steps for you.
A fulfilment service can help you scale even with a small team, and free you up to focus on growing your business – and on designing next season’s clothing line! Fulfilment by Amazon even includes our world-famous customer service for FBA products. Read how shipping and fulfilment works for Amazon sellers >
Keep in touch with your customers
Great customer service can turn one-time customers into loyal brand advocates. Important touchpoints can include pre-purchase questions, post-purchase support and follow-up communications. Aim to:
• Respond to customer enquiries responsively
• Provide a clear returns policy with consistent follow-through
• Monitor customer reviews and feedback
• Regularly check reviews and address any concerns
• Use customer insights to continually improve your service and products
To encourage brand loyalty, you might also consider creating giveaways, promotions and regular interactions with customers through your social channels.
Listen, refine and continually improve
Truly successful brands understand and meet the needs of their customers. From one season to the next, consider how you can deliver relevant products and great customer service. Perhaps it’s adding extra pockets to your popular sport leggings to fit the latest smartphones, or asking loyal customers what they’d love to see as you design next season’s pieces.
Making the most of feedback as you sell online can help you to carve out a reliable space in your category, and ultimately build long-term success!