Wanting to open my own shop...fantasy or reality?(26 Posts)
long time lurker but rare poster here!
I've been dreaming of starting my own business for years but only just got the nerve to finally look into this.
In a nut shell I'd love to open my own fabric store selling all kinds of yummy fabrics, alongside patterns and haberdashery bits. I've been sewing for a number of years now, and where I live, save for a cheap department store (I'm in the North-East), there are very few fabric stores here, and most of which are a good 30 min journey away from here.
I want to open a modest size shop for now, looking to expand into offering classes (and maybe an small on site cafe, but I realise that's a whole different ball game).
However, I have no idea whether this could be a good idea, or whether I'm just living on fantasy island. I have no capital, No mortgage or property (currently trying to save for one at the moment but I don't want my personal finances linked in with shop) and basically no idea how to go about it. I do have sales and shop work experience, and I have a close network of family and friends who have already offered help (with finances and book keeping and management). I don't think I would be looking at hiring staff for a while (unless business boomed and very quickly!) but I do have family willing to 'volunteer' in the shop to help out to get me started.
I've seen numerous adverts for business start up programs and mentors an courses, none seem to give a price and I am unsure if they are worth using or precisely what they do?
Clearly, I would need some form of loan to get going (to cover stock, initial rent and capitol until business starts to pick up), but would that be even possible in my situation?
Can anybody be so kind as to point me in the right direction? Or has anyone here set up there own shop from scratch, would you be so kind as to give me pointers?
As you can see, I am clearly very early on in the while planning stage, so any advise would be greatly appreciated!
Good luck, OP. I know nothing about the fabric business but I work in retail and looked into setting up a cafe. TFT Start Your Own Business 2016 is a book well worth getting. Whatever you do, if you open a shop make sure it has footfall that will stop. What I mean, is I have seen businesses open on pedestrian rat runs but fold because no one stops to shop there. Low rent is great, but not if no one stops to shop. Advertise well, where the relevant customer base will find you. Work out what you can invest. You might find it worthwhile getting a silent partner to help finance it. Ordinarily I would say only businesses needing human contact (hospitality, hairdressers, etc,) are safe from Internet competition. That said, I would want to see fabric I am buying. Would most?
Have a unique selling point, if only for marketing purposes. Perhaps not so important if there is little competition, but always helpful. Others will have more direct to experience of the market sector. If it is really your dream, suss out the risks, weigh the pros and cons and if it is still your dream go for it!
Hi OP I was toying with setting up an online fabric shop a couple of years ago amd went to a few Business Gateway sessions to help me write a business plan. I'm in scotland so I'm not set if Business A gateway is also in England but the classes were free and run by people who have set up their own businesses.
In the end I decided to shelve my ideas for a couple if years but it was a good exercise
I opened a shop in January.
It's 100 times more challenging than I thought and 100 times more rewarding.
The start up costs are large so zero finance is a problem .
You need to look at properties suitable and find out the rental cost plus rates. You can usually negotiate a few months rent free for fitting out.
You then have to add on insurance, epos system and staff as a minimum and how much stock you need to start with.
Don't think about coffee - serving drinks will need a different category . Shops are leased on a category system and once you offer food and drink they attract different rules.
You need to sit down and do your sums.
Fabric is a commodity that people want to touch before they buy. You would also be a destination shop - people will come and find you so you are less reliant on passing trade.
We've paid zero for advertising but if you are off the beaten track you may need to advertise and that's another cost.
Could you maybe see if you could start on a market. Do you have any trading sites locally like antique /craft markets.
If you have a track record a shop would be easier to get a loan/finance for.
I would also suggest a market stall - far lower overheads and you can learn the ropes in a small/safe/cheap environment meaning much lower risk. You'll learn what customers want, where to source your materials, etc. Easy in usually means easy-out if things don't turn out well. If you make a go of it, then think of moving into a shop.
As for online, I actually have a client who sells fabric online via ebay and their own website and it is doing very well, so people will buy it online, so it's not protected as you may think.
Can I just add op, that I looked in to doing exactly this myself but ultimately binned the idea. I wanted to stock my own choice of the modern 'designer' craft fabrics that you purchase by the quarter. When I looked into all the fine details with each supplier I found they dictated the prices you could sell at to keep the 'value' of the brand high. In the end I walked away from the idea as I wanted to control my own pricing. At the time I was interested all the top brands did this. It may be different now though, check it out.
thank you all for being so kind and replying to me, its really appreciated!
Booksandcoffee: thanks for the book recommendation, I think I will get that and have a good study of it! In regards to fabric and internet, yes a lot of people (myself included!) do buy fabric online. However, I also think it can be an impulse buy (I can't be the only one that walks by a yummy store and pops in 'for a look' and walks out with bags full). I much prefer buying in a store as you rightly said, so I can have a good feel of the fabric, many times I have bought fabric and was disappointed because it wasn't quite what I thought it would be! In that sense, a decent shop is ideal so you can have a good look and play with the fabric and speak to someone who understands the fabric and can help point you in the right direction for what you are looking for. With the resurgence in sewing now, I feel that a lot of newbie sewers would find it helpful to be able to talk to someone in store and be given help and tips to get them on the right track. As for a USP, I think a friendly shop with a selection of decent fabrics (not just cheap poly-cotton which is all there is here!) with knowledgeable staff would be a great start. I would like to become more destinational, as other forums I am on that are directly linked to sewing, there are many conversations based around where people can go to shops whilst travelling or on holiday around the country. This would also require a website to have an online presence so I can be easily found so i suppose that's another element to think about and budget for!
SunnyL: Sadly they are Scotland only, there are similar in my area but all have made it clear that help is prioritised to those affected by the recent SSI closure or unemployed (which may give an idea to my location!)
Pagwatch: I am tempted to start with a market stall, there are very few markets around here which I could try on, just a few seasonal craft fairs, which I may give a try. The regular markets here are all second hand clothes/cheap grocers/meat vans in areas where people sadly have very little expendable money. Without meaning to be rude, I would be looking to open a shop in the main town centre or one of the many very close (practically joined!) town centres, which are a little more of a destination and attract people with a little more money, I worry trying a standard marker around here would not give a fair estimate of business potential if that made sense? I loved to hear you have opened your shop so recently, that must have been very exciting! If you are happy to answer, what sort of products do you sell and did you try a stall first?
Badbadbunny: thanks for the insight re internet shopping. I am familiar with the bigger sites which sell fabric and other goodies and accept people do love online shopping. May I ask, is your client a newer or smaller business? I only wonder because it would be good to hear how new(er) businesses are finding the market! It is positive that they are doing well!
Bangingonmybongos: I had a vague thought that some companies may be doing this from my own shopping experiences as some things are the same price everywhere. Is it just the 'branded' companies you found where trying this? I would love to stock tilda and/or moda as I love their range, but I would be focussing on a big selection of dress type fabrics (not really bothered about branded or designer as I don't think I would have quite the right catchment to make that work here) so I wonder if this is ubiquitous?
Thanks again everyone, you have all given me really good food for thought!
I'm happy to answer questions. No, I didn't try a stall first. I opened a wine shop and bar just off the High Street in one of the most expensive regions of England. My advice was based on your intimation that you don't have any financing and our start up costs exceeded six figures.
If you have substantial private funds it's a different conversation. What are the rents in your town for example?
I opened a wine shop and bar. A very small premisis off the High Street.
For our start up we had five figure rent per year. Rates in the £1,000s . Staff costs - you have to have staff unless you don't intend to have a holiday, be ill, and work 7 days a week
plus fit out costs/builders/insurance/music licence fees/stock /epos system/cleaning costs etc etc.
A shop rental tends to be for a 10 year lease with a 5 year optional break.nso you are committed to pay 5 years rent regardless of how your business does.
That's why I suggested a market stall or a space in an antiques or crafts market.
How do your finances stack up against those ball park town centre costs.
High street proper in our town is £100,000 plus per year.
Unfortunately capital is going to be the most important consideration. You need to do a business plan to work out how much you will need, but with stock, rent, rates, insurance, etc I would expect it to be over £15,000
Also it is very likely that you won't be able to take any money from the business for at least the first 6 months, but possibly a lot longer - can you afford this?
Think extremely carefully before going into bricks and mortar retailing, it's a very tough game whatever market you are in. I have a gift/home/fashion/lifestyle shop and could never have guessed just how demanding and time consuming it would be. If you are busy then it can be a lot of fun but if not, then you might be sitting in an empty shop surrounded by a lot of unsold stock.
I would recommend doing a lot of research into your market. Go along to some sewing/craft fairs like these ones www.ichfevents.co.uk/ talk to exhibitors there who are running similar businesses and find out how and what they are doing.
If you think it's still an option then do try out some markets, ideally the right kind of market, but no need to be too fussy at first, this is still market research and your assumptions about an area's potential might not be correct. It will also give you a taste of what it's like to be a salesperson for your own business and see if it sits well with you.
You can get enterprise start up loans and they help you with a business plan. Figures are key - how much do you need to sell per day to break even and is that achievable based on footfall.
I have an idea. Could you also sell handmade crafts made from fabric made by your customers? You take 30% or 40% commission of their crafts. There aren't many shops that do that and it could be a unique marketing idea for you and help you to build a community. Plus the people that sell their crafts through you would also be buying fabric in your shop when they come in to sell.
I agree, trying out a market stall first would be a good start and valuable experience. There's a really good fabric shop where I live and they started out as a market stall. They seem to be doing really well. You could also try doing some craft fairs.
Have you worked in retail? Being able to work in people facing job is essential. I know a few people who started a shop or cafe, but hated being on their feet / dealing with customers all day. Also, if you're planning on staying behind the scenes, then dedicated trustworthy staff / manager if what you'll need. But, hands-on is best. I've worked for small businesses & found that those where the owner grafted, instead of living the "my own shop" fantasy, were the most successful.
I've got to say that working in retail, over the years, has put me off opening my own place. Seeing the reality of it... Working in department stores, fine. Small business? The owner has to live & breath the job. And that doesn't guarantee success either.
The other thing I had the advantage of seeing first hand; I live in a large city centre & see shops, boutiques, bars & cafes come & go all the time. Often closing within a year. I get chatting to shop owners all the time & I know plenty of them are losing money... Some make it up at Christmas or other peak seasons, but most are in debt.
And just on working in retail, it can be long boring days! As another poster said, you could be sitting in an empty shop surrounds by unsold stock.
Anyway, that's my input on the practical side. Finance, I've seen a lot of folk helped out by family. Rich dads!
Also beware of family / friends getting involved. I've seen the fall-out from this too many times... Be prepared to pay good staff. Who know what they're talking about. People will spend when advised by an expert.
Are you me? This is exactly what I am planning at the moment (different part of the country though). Totally frustrated at the lack of decent fabric shops in my area.
It's been an idea for about a year and I've just spotted a vacant shop I'm hoping to look at. I've retail and financial experience and some small savings behind me.
I'm mostly stuck on a name!
Some great points in this thread Id not considered.
Best of luck to you - keep us updated with your progress.
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agemeyoung reported as pyramid scheme bollocks
SocksRocks It's very different from pyramid scheme.
I'd be very very cautious indeed about a shop. Especially if you don't have substantial start up funds of your own to invest. You're looking to meet (probably) quite high running costs from profit on the material - and also to eat and run your own expenses - and people often forget that. Finding the initial funding (and being able to repay it eventually!) might prove very challenging indeed.
Some of the other ideas from PPs sound more promising.
I had a desk to open my own shop. I'd worked in retail for years and was very good at it. It was a similar kind of shop to yours. I spent most days sat on my own in a beautiful shop with beautiful stock. I had a good online presence on social media. But I just didn't make enough money. I'd be paying someone else to look after the dc while I wasn't able to pay myself. After 9 months I sold it on as a going concern so didn't lose any money on it. It was a lovely shop and people still mention it and I think if I'd just carried on with it eventually it would have made me money but I just couldn't hack it being in my own all the time. Customers are weird too- they don't want to walk into an empty shop. So id have none for hours then suddenly it would be jam packed! In all honesty it was probably my faithful friend scho kept me going as if they needed any presents they'd always come to me. I don't regret doing it, I scratched the itch but I definitely wouldn't do it again
A desk?? Wtf. A 'dream' that should have been !
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