How to Get Inventory for an Online Boutique

Online clothing shops are a wonderful way to run a successful retail business that doesn’t require the overhead associated with a physical store. Unless you plan on manufacturing inventory for your online clothing shop, you’ll need to source apparel from wholesalers and other creators. We’ll show you how to do just that in this guide on how to get inventory for your online boutique.

Here’s a look at the specifics of what we’ll cover: 

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How to obtain inventory for your online boutique

If you want to know how to start an online boutique, one of the first things you’ll need to do after writing your Business plan for a clothing storeIt is source inventoryYou can find out more. If you’re looking to go the wholesale route for sourcing apparel, you have three primary routes you can take: attending trade shows, working with online wholesale suppliers and working directly with manufacturers. 

1. Trade shows for boutique wholesale clothing

Attending a trade show is a great way to get inventory for an online boutique because you can touch the fabrics, see the quality of the clothes and network with brands and suppliers while you’re there. 

Keep in mind that most trade shows require you to prove that you’re a fashion buyer, such as by uploading a business card or sharing your job title and business name upon registration.

These are the best trade shows to buy wholesale boutique clothing:

  • Agenda – Hosted in Las Vegas twice a year and featuring more than 1,000 brands, Agenda specializes in exhibiting streetwear and providing an educational and supportive community to designers and buyers.
  • American Handcrafted – American Handcraft Philadelphia is an essential event for boutique owners seeking to purchase handcrafted apparel, accessories, gifts and other goods.
  • COAST – COAST is Miami’s premiere fashion trade show and is held four times a year. The juried event features an exclusive collection of emerging and established designers.
  • COTERIE – This show connects the best brands in women’s fashion, including apparel, accessories and footwear, with buyers from around the world in New York City and online. COTERIE has an annual swimwear and resort wear show in Miami.
  • Designers & Agents – Designers & Agents showcases a curated selection of 300 designers every season in New York and Los Angeles.
  • MAGIC – This wholesale trade show specializes in exhibiting the latest trends in contemporary clothing for women and men. The show is held several times per year at different venues across the United States including New York City and Las Vegas.
  • Pure London – This London-based fashion trade show showcases womenswear, menswear and kidswear brands twice a year.

2. Online clothing wholesalers

If traveling to a trade show isn’t an option for you, you can also source apparel via wholesale boutique clothing websites. Purchasing inventory online will be more hit or miss than attending trade shows because you won’t know the quality of the items until you receive them. If the wholesaler offers samples, this will help to avoid disappointment.

Just like with trade shows, you’ll need to prove that you’re a fashion buyer to gain access to wholesale inventory and pricing. 

To get started, check out these websites selling wholesale boutique clothes:

  • COTERIE – The popular trade show also has an online shopping platform.
  • LA Showroom – This online wholesaler sells a wide variety of womenswear, menswear, kidswear, footwear, beauty products and accessories.
  • FashionGo – FashionGo has been around for nearly 20 years and offers everything from kidswear and fragrances to women’s fashions. A revolutionary tool allows wholesalers to search their catalogue using similar products found elsewhere online.
  • Magnolia Fashion Wholesale – This Miami-based wholesaler specializes in contemporary womenswear and offers shipping to 80 countries.

A list of internet wholesalers can be a key part of starting an online store. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many trade shows offer virtual or online trade shows.

3. Collaborate with manufacturers

To get your inventory, instead of dealing with wholesalers you could also deal directly with the manufacturers. Look for the manufacturer name or logo in product descriptions if you see products that you are interested in at another online shop. Next, do your research on the brand to find out if wholesale pricing is available. 

How do you vet wholesale suppliers? 

It can be intimidating to invest in stock with a new supplier. Take these measures to ensure you’re working with trustworthy wholesalers and manufacturers:

  1. Get references from the supplier. Next, contact them to find out how they feel about working with the supplier.
  2. Find out if you’ll be working with a dedicated sales representative. Your requests might be overlooked if they are not.
  3. Pay attention to the sales rep’s communication style and responsiveness. If they take days to respond to an email and don’t have the answers you need, then you’ll probably have a frustrating working relationship. A mutually beneficial relationship could begin if the respond quickly and is organized.
  4. If possible, visit the supplier’s warehouse or ask for samples. Observe how well-organized the stock is while you are there. Test the quality of your products by touching them.

Our guide contains more useful tips. How to Buy Wholesale 

How to organize and store your inventory

Below are some pointers to organize, store, ship and deliver your inventory. These tips will simplify your life and make you happy. 

1. Organizing your boutique’s inventory

To keep your inventory organized, you must create a system using software. This will allow you to track stock size, stock-keeping units (SKUs), sales, etc. 

You can use the following: Retail POSIt has an ecommerce component like Small Biz SenseUpload your inventory easily to a single dashboard. Whenever you make a sale, quantities are automatically updated and you’re notified, so that you can jump to the fulfillment process.

2. Storing your online boutique’s inventory

The benefit of running an online boutique is that you don’t need to rent a storefront. You can start your own business and store your inventory from home. You can rent a storage or warehouse unit if you outgrow your current space.

You’ll need shelves and bins for at-home storage. Clear bins should be able to close so you are able to see all of your stock and keep them dry. To keep your inventory fresh, you might consider adding odor eliminators to your bins.

Make a labeling system to identify your products and bins. You can add the SKUs you need to your ecommerce program and these labels will be added to your inventory.

It’s important to stay organized. Or, you can look online for ideas. YouTube can be a wonderful resource to help you organize your inventory. You can see this video by Hanger emptyHere’s an example: This video by Jenna JadeHere’s another simple, low-cost storage solution. 

3. Shipping inventory

Your ecommerce software will alert you when a customer completes a purchase. Then it’s time to package and ship the order.

Please Keep Shipping materialsKeep plenty of spares. You should stock up on plastic mailers, boxes and tissue papers, as well as packing tape. 

A scale and shipping labels printer can help you save time at post offices. You should look for fulfillment solutions that can integrate with your existing systems. Software for e-commerceTo import orders, print labels bulk and send tracking and shipping information to customers.  

How do you set the prices of your online boutique?

You have many options for setting prices in your online shop.

This is the first strategy. Important markupThis strategy involved simply increasing the wholesale price by doubling it. It is common in the entire industry. However, it may not give you enough of a profit margin as it doesn’t take your costs (such as labor, shipping, marketing, software and discounts) into consideration. 

Second, you can use the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP)As the name implies, this is the recommended price for the item. Some manufacturers mandate an MSRP, which doesn’t take your costs into account. Some manufacturers offer the MSRP only as an option, in order to ensure that all retailers are on the same playing field.

A third option is to utilize the Method of absorption pricingThis involves adding all costs to your business, including labor, marketing and software, then dividing that number by the units bought and adding your preferred profit margin. 

How to order inventory online for a boutique

An exciting way to manage a small retail shop without having to spend too much overhead is to open an online boutique. Now that you understand how to start an online boutique, here’s a checklist for how to get inventory for your online boutique:

  • You can buy wholesale clothing using one of these methods.
    • Expose at trade shows
    • Sites for wholesale online
    • Work directly with manufacturers
  • Vet suppliers by:
    • Contacting references and asking for them
    • Finding out if you’ll be working with a dedicated sales representative
    • Paying attention to the sales rep’s communication style and responsiveness
    • Visiting the supplier’s warehouse and/or reviewing samples
  • You can store and organise inventory using:
    • Use ecommerce software for stock management
    • You can create a system that stores your inventory
    • In order to send orders, purchase shipping supplies.
  • You can set prices by using any of these methods:
    • Keystone Method
    • MSRP
    • Pricing method for absorption

Are you looking for an ecommerce platform to take your online shop to the next level of success? Speak to usTo learn more about Small Biz Sense eCommerce.

Cyndy Lane

Cyndy is business journalist with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business. With over a decade of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Cyndy has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, insightful and approachable journalist. She has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners and is able to explain them in a way that is relatable and actionable for her readers.