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How do you create a unique experience that makes a stellar bridal boutique stand out and draws in brides-to-be? While having the perfect dress can be a major factor, excellent customer service is a huge consideration when brides and their parties choose what locations to visit.
When you’re thinking about how to start a bridal boutique, there are several critical factors that should be top of mind, including crafting a pleasant and stress-free experience for brides and having a well-thought-out plan for your business operations.
Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Research your market.
The first step is to do a little homework and determine what the industry is like in the area where you are located.
Consider three key questions as you conduct market research:
- Is there a demand for bridal services?
- Who are your key competitors in the market?
- Is there a specific niche you want to serve (e.g., LGBTQ+, modern versus vintage style)?
Answering these questions first can help you establish a plan for your bridal boutique business.
Write a business plan.
Now, it’s time for some heavy lifting: You need a business plan. A business plan will help set the direction for your business needs and operations to put your bridal boutique on the path to success.
You can start with the fun part — choosing a name for your bridal boutique. Think about the name and how it connects to what you plan to sell and the vibe you want to create in the shop.
This connects back to some of the market research questions you considered previously, specifically about what styles of dresses you will carry, such as high-end, designer gowns or specific brands, or what accessories or additional services you will offer.
The brands you carry can have a major impact on startup costs and cash flow because you will need to purchase initial inventory before you have any appointments. Source suppliers to determine what inventory is best for your business. Then you must decide whether you will offer additional services, such as customizations and alterations, or if you will operate a ready-to-wear boutique.
This information will help you begin to calculate startup costs — location and inventory will likely be two of your biggest investments — and if you need to raise capital. Other startup costs may include:
- Licenses to operate
Knowing your cost of doing business can help you set prices to establish a budget. Remember to think seasonally. Many brides will shop for a dress six to eight months before the wedding, with the usual wedding seasons in the spring and fall. Expect your business to have some seasonality.
A solid point-of-sale system will help you manage business operations and check out customers. Square for Retail is ideal for boutiques that need to manage sales and inventory without much customization, and is great for ready-to-wear boutiques.
Square Appointments supports a booking process for bridal boutiques with a free booking website. It has the ability to sync with Google Calendar, automatic appointment reminders, cancellation policies and fees, and waitlists. This option is great if you plan to offer more custom experiences or appointments for bridal parties.
Finally, identify partners or networks you want to engage with for your bridal boutique business. This can include anyone in the industry, such as wedding planners, vendors, florists, DJs, photographers, and beauty artists. The additional connections can help market your business to a larger, more diverse client base beyond western weddings — for example, henna artists for Indian wedding traditions.
Establish your business structure.
When you start a bridal boutique, business structure matters. It can impact everything from the permits you need to taxes.
Here are some of the things you may need to do to establish a structure for your business:
- Determine how you plan to operate—as an LLC, sole proprietorship, or partnership company.
- Register your business to get a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) and create a legal entity in the state where you plan to do business.
- Contact your locality to ensure you have the proper licenses and permits.
- Open a bank account and get a credit card for your business.
- Get business insurance.
- Look into a liquor license (if you want to offer complementary champagne, for example, during dress fittings).
While this list can feel a little overwhelming, you can start checking off each item with the assistance of your local small business administration or an attorney.
Set up your bridal boutique.
Once you select a location for your bridal boutique, it’s time to get things ready for an opening. This includes everything from creating the right mood with an interior design that matches the style of the business to setting up a phone system.
You also need to order inventory and payment hardware, such as Square Rgister, Square Stand, or handheld Square Terminal options for your point of sale. For any on-site work, you can even take payments with just your phone.
Market your bridal boutique.
For many who start a bridal boutique, marketing can be one of the more fun aspects of business management. While growing your clientele might start with word-of-mouth validation from customers, there are also plenty of other tactics you can execute.
Start by setting up a free website or online store. Establishing an online presence builds credibility for your business and provides a way for customers to learn more about your boutique. Optimize your website for search engines using keywords related to your bridal boutique business.
After your website is live, you can start other marketing activities to generate online interest in your business. Create a Google My Business page, a free listing for your location, and connect Square Appointments to Reserve with Google to make booking even easier for clients.
Additionally, social media can provide a strong marketing channel. Square allows you to integrate popular social media networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, to help showcase your business and even generate shopping ads.
In-person and tactile marketing tactics are also valuable, such as putting ads in local publications (especially if your area has a bridal or lifestyle magazine) and by visiting bridal events and shows with products.
Open your bridal boutique.
Once you have all the setups out of the way to start your bridal boutique, you are ready for opening day. Set regular store hours so customers know when to visit, and consider a special promotion or event to kick off the start of your business.
Consider offering special discounts to the first 50 customers or social media promotions to help brides learn about your business and schedule appointments when you open.
From booking the first appointment to payment and pick-up, Square offers solutions to help support your bridal business. Consider leveraging Square Appointments to help brides manage their schedules and book appointments for a fitting. You can also use Square Customer Directory to automatically create customer profiles where you can store and manage contact and payment details. This, in turn, can help you create and send targeted marketing campaigns to nurture relationships with your customers.
The biggest long-term consideration for your business is managing clients and creating a stellar customer experience. Selecting the right dress is an important milestone for every bride. If those customers have a good experience, they may drive future business to your business.