Rags To Riches

Getting The Word Out

Once you've obtained good merchandise, the second challenge facing a start-up is marketing to potential customers. Jones and her partners rely on a multifaceted marketing campaign that includes handing out fliers in front of the shop, advertising in a local business newspaper and holding fashion shows at consumer expos targeted to women. A local modeling group volunteers to help with the fashion shows in exchange for the experience and exposure.

Your advertising methods should be tailored to your area and target market. Due to her Silicon Valley location ("arguably the most computer-literate place on earth," she says), Nesbitt has found her Web site, which her husband designed, to be her best and most cost-effective promotional tool. In fact, besides the Yellow Pages, it's now the only advertising she does. "We get an astounding number of people in the door because they found us on the Web," she says.

As important as advertising is an attractive, appealing shop. A successful store must be fresh and clean, and merchandise must be displayed to emphasize its style and quality.

"It shouldn't look like a junk store," cautions Jobes, who says a beautifully designed shop goes a long way toward dispelling any hesitation customers may have about buying used clothing. "You want the atmosphere to be conducive to buying, so it should look as good as it possibly can."

With the right combination of stylish clothing, marketing smarts and a flair for display, your consignment clothing store will soon be putting customers on the best-dressed list--and putting you on the road to business success.

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Rags To Riches.

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