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Young Americans invariably participate in a school social event known as a prom, a dance and entertainment event that for many is their first real adult dress up opportunity. Girls' prom gowns are available in many styles ranging from conservative ball gowns to more daring halter gowns and backless dresses. Plus size and vintage prom gowns are also popular options. Shopping for a prom dress is the start of the prom experience, which many will remember all their lives.
Examine the local prom market, note all the high schools within a two-hour drive, and pinpoint them on a regional map. Browse each school’s website for enrollment information for the junior and senior classes. This information will help you define your prom market.
Consider a tiered pricing structure for your gowns to accomodate young ladies with different income levels. Because young ladies of all sizes go to proms, stock some stylish gowns for the plus-size market. Finally, remember that prom season may include “winter formal” events during the fall and winter months.
Handle startup logistics. Before you order your dresses, bring some order to your business. Select a central location accessible for local high school students, with plenty of parking for your bustling business. Establish your business's framework with the aid of a Certified Public Accountant who has small business experience. Visit your city or county clerk’s office for a business license. Talk with a commercial insurance agent, and set up your communications and utilities services.
Transform your location. Large display windows will allow you to showcase several colorful prom gowns at once, and should draw curious customers into the store. Hire an interior designer to help you create a vibrant interior to appeal to the younger set. Ask the designer to bring along a couple of high school students for their opinions. Ensure that you have ample fitting room space and three-dimensional mirrors for all-around views.
Order your gowns and accessories for a range of different tastes and color preferences. Some girls may like classic ball gown looks, while others prefer the more daring halter fashions and cocktail dresses. Provide a good selection of color choices, along with accessories for add-on sales.
If in doubt, obtain some “expert advice” from high school juniors or seniors who may have already begun shopping for their prom gowns. Finally, give yourself some room for profit by ordering the gowns from a wholesale prom dress website.
Hire fashion-savvy sales staff with top-notch fashion sense, and who are familiar with the styles preferred by fashion-forward high school students. Conduct some interactive accessorizing sessions, to illustrate how to add evening bags, shoes, and jewelry to complete the prom outfit. Ensure that your staff has excellent customer service skills, and commit to keep your employees updated on the newest prom and formal fashions.
Hold a grand opening and position it to be the “must attend” event of the upcoming prom season. The centerpiece of the occasion will be a pre-prom fashion show. Recruit young ladies of various sizes to model colorful gowns of different styles and colors. Include accessories such as purses, shoes, boas and jewelry. Publicize door prizes to be awarded to show attendees.
Promote the grand opening fashion show with several tactics: (1) Leave flyers at boutiques popular with fashionable young ladies. (2) Advertise the show on social networking sites. (3) Schedule recurring spots on radio stations popular with high school students. (4) Recruit several young assistants to distribute fliers to their friends and classmates.
Most prom dress shops have a strict no-returns policy, or accept returns only for store credit.
- "Debutante: Rites and Regalia of American Debdom"; Karal Ann Marling; 2004
- Startup Biz Hub: Open a Prom Dress Store
Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.