How to write a clothing line business plan

The essentials of how to create a business plan for a clothing line - be it fashion or other apparel

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When starting a clothing brand, writing a business plan can be a hugely useful exercise, pushing you to think thoroughly about every aspect of your start-up.

Even if you’re just running your brand on a part-time basis, it’s worth having a detailed blueprint down on paper so you have clear goals to work to and measure your success against – but remember that you don't have to stick to it rigidly, and it can be altered as your brand progresses.

It'll need to include:

  • A description of your business’ concept
  • An analysis of the market and your competition
  • A SWOT analysis
  • The marketing strategies you’ll use
  • Any plans you have for hiring employees
  • Detailed financial forecasts
  • And more…

For detailed instructions on writing a business plan, visit our business plan template, where you can download a free business plan template developed by the government-backed Start Up Loans Company.

In order to create as thorough and accurate a business plan as possible, you will first need to…

Find your target market

First thing’s first – any successful brand will have a clear idea of its target market (that is, the customers it’s trying to sell to) and will ensure everything it does, including branding, remains tailored to their tastes and interests.

Matt Bird, founder of men’s clothing brand We Are Gntlmen, highlights the importance of this:

“You need to be relatable to your customer or demographic, and the easier you can make that, the better. Your branding tells your story and it’s the story that resonates with the future customer.”

– Matt Bird, We Are Gntlmen

Come up with a clear definition of your target customer by considering the following:

  • Are your clothes gender-specific?
  • Will they appeal to a particular age range?
  • What do you believe your customers’ income level will be?
  • What interests and personality traits do you expect lovers of your clothing to have?
  • What type of person buys clothes from similar brands to yours?

Conduct market research

Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel once said: “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”

In fashion, imitation isn’t a form of flattery, it’s a sign of unoriginality. When it comes to avoiding it – and gaining a bit of inspiration and industry understanding along the way – market research is invaluable.

Market research should help you to understand:

  • Who your competitors are
  • How in demand your clothing will be
  • How much customers will be prepared to pay for your clothes, and whether you can make a good profit from it

To get started, compile a list of clothing designers and brands that are similar to yours. Research into the size of each business, their geographic reach, their products and prices, and discern what their USPs are.

Google will help you to find out who the fashion businesses in your local area are, but the ONS, the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Chambers of Commerce also hold publicly accessible information.

Next – and here’s where your creativity comes in – consider the ways in which your brand can be better than each of these competitors. What can you bring to the table that’s truly new? What can you offer that they haven’t?

Testing your ideas

Before committing to a concept, it's a good idea to test the water with people from your target market. To do this, you can try:

  • Running an online survey – Inexpensive to set up, you can use online surveys to ask potential customers what they would expect from your events planning service, the money they would expect to spend on your clothes, how often they’d buy your clothes, what would make them want to buy them, and anything else you want to know.
  • Holding focus groups – Talking to target customers face to face gives you a great opportunity to gain in-depth insight into what they think about your business concept, branding and more. It also enables these customers to share their ideas about what would make your brand amazing with you.

Come up with a pricing strategy

In broad terms, the way you price your clothing line will depend on the type of brand you want to be, and how much it costs to produce your clothes.

As Bird says: “You have to make sure that the quality of your product matches with your price point.” If you’d like to be a premium brand, use high-quality materials and top notch production techniques that cost you more – meaning you can give your products higher prices to make a good margin on them.

On the flipside, if you’d rather be more affordable to the consumer, you can make your products with cheaper materials and methods, giving them lower prices and still making a good profit.

Sean Hammon, founder of muscle-fit clothing range Oxcloth, cautions you to always think of your audience: “Your demographic will have its price that is it willing to pay for what you’re selling – it can be easy to price yourself out so don’t get greedy.”

As a basic rule of thumb, you can start to work out the pricing for a particular item of clothing using the following calculation:

The amount it has cost you to produce the item x 2 = wholesale price

Wholesale price x 2 = retail price

Remember, your wholesale price is what you’ll charge retailers to buy an item and sell it on in their store, while your retail price is what consumers will pay to buy the item online or in a shop.

You don’t have to stick to this rigidly – simply use it as a foundation from which to calculate the best prices for you. After all, you’ll need to make sure they cover your business overheads, production costs and any returns you may receive while leaving room for profit.

According to Hammon, “there are so many small costs you need to keep an eye on to make sure you’re actually generating profit.

“Your cost per sale includes the cost of goods, postage, average cost of returns, packaging cost, and your conversion rates – how much is it costing you to advertise to a customer who is converting to a sale.”

– Sean Hammon, Oxcloth

You’ll also need to take your competitors’ prices into account, and perhaps put yourself in a similar price bracket. Bird explains:

“Being cheaper doesn’t always work. When I started We Are Gntlmen, we priced ourselves 20-25% cheaper than our competition to try and gain an advantage. Customers don’t necessarily see it like that. If the price is cheaper, the first impressions of your brand are that it’s not quite as good as the business you’re trying to compete with.”

Read our comprehensive step-by-step guide to starting your own clothing line to learn all the ins and outs of being a clothing entrepreneur!

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