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[2023] How Much Inventory Do You Need to Start a Boutique?

Clothes on display in a brick-and-mortar boutique store

While starting an online or offline clothing boutique, we have one major question in our mind, “how much inventory do i need to start a boutique?”.

Lonca's Advice: We recommend you to order one color per style and one pack per style. In other words, you should order one size of each product for your boutique. Yet, keep in mind that the contents of the package may vary depending on the supplier. Instead of going deep into just one category, focus more on breadth. We suggest kicking off with at least 2 categories and 12-15 styles.

As of 2022, there is a growth in the size and the breadth of product lines at fashion companies compared to 2020. So, there should be no problem with focusing on breadth in your boutique.

Back to a more detailed answer of how much inventory you need to start a boutique, we’ll need to consider multiple factors to answer this question precisely.

  1. What is your business model?
  2. How much budget do you have?

But first, let's take a look at the topics we will explore:

  • How Much Inventory Should You Start With?
  • How Many Categories Should You Have in Your Boutique?
  • How Many Items Should You Have In Your Boutique?

1. How Much Inventory Should You Start With?

In general, it is preferable to make an item out of stock than to keep unsold inventory on hand and tie up your funds. However, it goes without saying that you don't want to be so cautious that it limits your sales.

But how can you implement this idea when you’re starting a new boutique?

As a general rule of thumb, you should have at least 12-15 styles in your inventory. For example, if you are going for dresses, you need twelve different styles in at least three different sizes.

2. How Many Categories Should You Have in Your Boutique?

Your boutique should have at least two or at most three categories. For starters, here are the two best-selling women's clothing categories that you must have in stock:

  • Tops
  • Dresses
  • Bottoms (optional)

Inventory: Based On Your Business Model

You can have two business models for your clothing boutique: Online and Offline/brick-and-mortar store.

For Offline/Brick-And-Mortar Boutiques:

A physical boutique needs to have more item as compared with an online boutique.

Why? Because in an offline boutique, you cannot afford to have unoccupied space on racks and shelves. Empty shelves will negatively impact your customers, as they’ll think you have very little to offer.

And if you’re unable to attract customers, your revenue will go down.

For Online Boutiques:

An online boutique has some advantages over an offline boutique. You’ll just need inventory that can fill your page, and you can increase the inventory when you’re able to increase the sale.

In the digital world, sales depend on the type of platform you’re using and how you’re marketing your boutique. So, even if you have fewer items, you can still get success in the digital world.

Inventory: Based On Your Budget

If you have a limited budget, you should start with fewer categories — 2 is the sweet spot. Make sure your inventory holds up to the latest fashion trends.

If budget is not an issue, you can go deep with one category — your best-selling item- or go broad with the categories. Slow-moving categories can also be managed when you don’t have any budget constraints.

Since we are talking about two different business models in this article, we'll also discuss two different budgets.

3. How Many Items Should You Have In Your Boutique?

In this part, we'll see how many items you should have in your boutique.

How Many Items for Offline/Brick-And-Mortar Boutiques:

For a brick-and-mortar boutique, you’ll need to have a larger inventory. If you are on a limited budget, you should at least purchase 100 styles to have enough items to grab customers' attention. You can go for 300-400 styles if budget is not a problem.

100 packs can cost you anywhere from $3,000 (lower-priced wholesaler brands like Big Merter and Tasha) to $6,000 (Average-priced wholesaler brands like Dilvin, Hyfve, and Pol.) You can check out our guide on inventory costs for a detailed breakdown.

Of course, the precise sum may differ depending on the area, the items, and the specific facility. In any case, you'll need to have enough funding to support your business idea.

How Many Items For Online Boutiques:

You can start doing business with just $1,000-$2,000 worth of inventory for an online boutique. It will help you buy enough categories and styles to attract customers and handle orders.

If you are short on budget, we suggest starting with around 15 styles and 2 categories. Otherwise, you can go for 30 styles and 4 categories.

Inventory: Based On Profit Goals

Let’s look at a sample profit plan for your business.

Assume that you’re planning to book a monthly profit of $3,000. If the margin is set at 60% with an average wholesale cost of $20, your average retail sales price needs to be $50. Your total monthly sales need to be around $20,000 (assuming the profit margin of around 15%) to hit the $3,000 profit mark.

How much inventory do you need to buy for this? In total, you must sell around 500 pieces (each case pack containing 6 pieces, and we also take unsold inventory into consideration) to reach that amount of sales. This calculation requires ~80 styles to meet your profit goals. With a total initial investment of $10,000, you will book a monthly profit goal of $3,000 — simple math.

how much inventory do i need to start a boutique

How Much Inventory Do I Need to Start a Boutique?

In this article, we’ve explained the most important aspects of inventory handling with details.

Now, you're ready to fulfill your boutique dreams with the knowledge you just acquired. However, you still need clothing wholesalers to actually be able to fill your inventory. That's why we have prepared another blog to help you out. If you want to learn where to buy wholesale clothing both from online and offline channels, we strongly recommend you to check our blog.