For some, shoe buying is an obsession. It's no wonder that huge shoe warehouses like DSW and Barefeet Shoes have arrived in suburbs and shopping districts across America. Fortunately, there is still an opportunity for small shoe businesses to thrive as long as the owners stay up to date with all of the latest styles and fashions.
Determine what type of shoes your business will focus on: men's athletic or dress shoes, women's shoes or sneakers, kids wear, or a mixture. Decide on the name of your business based on the type of shoes you are selling (e.g. Katy's Kids Shoes).
Decide where and how you will set up shop. It is best to open a shoe business in a shopping district around other clothing stores. Search for mall strips in areas that have a lot of shopping traffic to see if they have or will soon have stores for rent. Scour the area to make sure that there aren't other shoe stores in the area before closing on a shop; you don't want to be in a situation where you are constantly competing with another local shoe store for customers.
Contract with a shoe distributor to provide you with an ongoing supply of shoes. Handpick styles from its catalog or ask it to simply ship you a mix of its most popular shoes for each month and season. Visit wholesaler districts in your area (such as Canal Street in Manhattan, N.Y.) to browse their stock of shoes and negotiate a wholesale price. As a new customer, you may have to make upfront payment to shoe distributors and wholesalers, but make sure that you have reasonable return or exchange terms. Have the dealer ship items directly to your new store.
Open a merchant account. Purchase a credit card machine and a register to accept cash.
Purchase fixtures, shoe displays, tables and other shoe-related supplies to start setting up your new store. Put one display table right at the front middle of the store so customers see your best styles as they walk in. Line the right and the left walls with displays that reach no higher than the average height of your customers. Place signage around the store advertising the price of your shoes.
Take your time deciding where to place each shoe on display and organize the rest of your shoes in your back room so that you can easily retrieve sizes for your future customers. Place boxes of footies (keds) and shoe sizers throughout the store.
Hire a professional to manufacture and hang a weather-resistant sign (printed or neon) above your shop door with your shoe business name. Set a grand opening date for your store and advertise specials on your local radio stations and newspapers.
Monitor all of the latest shoe fashions that will be popular each season. When selling women's shoes, display size sevens on the floor --- it is perceived by many to be the ideal shoe size for a female. It's best to spend more money on advertising at the beginning than on supplies. When starting your small shoe business, just purchase the bare minimum shoes you need to fill the store; you can always order more when you get a handle on the demand for each style. Include a coupon in each printed ad you place to help draw people into your store.
You can also open an online shoe business, but keep in mind that while online shoe selling allows you a lot more personal freedom since you can fill orders from your home, it is sometimes difficult to sell shoes this way. Customers prefer to try shoes on before buying.