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How to Start an Underwear Store

by Al Stewart

Starting an underwear store requires a thorough understanding of the merchandise, pricing trends and other retailing fundamentals. Underwear is a fashion category that features a highly diverse array of apparel items. Included are numerous women's products such as camisoles, bras, shapers, and pantyhose. While men's underwear is comprised mainly of boxers, briefs and tee-shirts, the segment has seen growth due to the popularity of unconventional colors and the trimmer cuts that compliment “slim fit” suits and dress shirts. To succeed, a specialty underwear store should focus on fashion and sex appeal that will drive store traffic and impulse purchases.

Develop a business plan focused on launching an underwear store that will be a compelling alternative to chain stores that carry extensive selections. Typically this means opening a boutique that offers an inviting decor and selection of underwear not really available from competing retailers. Determine the scale of the operation and identify who your likely consumers will be.Tabulate projected expenses to establish the volume of underwear that must be sold each month to break even.

Familiarize yourself with the key players in the apparel industry with an eye toward upscale luxury underwear brands. In the men's category, for example, there numerous selections of underpants priced from $30 to over $100. Many are marketed by brands with small but highly loyal followings. Conduct an Internet search for apparel distributors that wholesale underwear and contact them to determine the brands they offer and terms and shipping policies.

Find a location that balances your desire to hold down costs with the need for visibility. Consider pedestrian traffic, price per-square-foot and the nature of nearby stores to determine if the location is suitable for a new underwear store. A location close to other fashion boutiques, for example, will enable you to draw impulse shoppers.

Create a marketing plan that positions your store as the source for high quality underwear. Develop ads that entice customers with products that are unique and exciting. Include a catalog with attractive models and create compelling in-store displays. Set a monthly advertising budget aimed at building in-store traffic, particulate in the first few months of operation as you build word-of-mouth advertising.

Develop a website to drive interest in the new brick-and-mortar operation. Include images from your catalog and reenforce the appeal of your underwear store as a fun and exciting shopping experience. Include coupons and other incentives to drive interest. Use social media outlets to develop a following.

Plan a grand opening event that will attract shoppers and create a buzz about the store. Offer incentives such as gifts and discounts to bring store traffic. While there may be numerous options available to consumers, use the event to start an underwear store that offers a fresh, compelling alternative.

Tip

  • Offer hard-to-find novelty selections likely to draw impulse buys. For example, include men's boxer shorts made with a Superman logo pattern or women's panties fashioned to look like men's briefs.

Warning

  • Do not open the store until you have established the key elements including distribution, in-store personnel and marketing.

About the Author

Al Stewart's 30-year background as a writer/editor includes staff positions at "Adweek," "Billboard," "Chain Drug Review," "Cable World," "DNR" (men's fashion), "National Floor Trends," and "Variety." A native New Yorker, he is now a writer/editor living in Los Angeles. He has a BA in political science from Wagner College.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images