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How to Start a Shoe Store Business

Written by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Shoe Store Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$9,000 - $38,000

Revenue potential

$105,000 - $840,000 p.a.

Time to build

3-6 months

Profit potential

$52,000 - $252,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Steady

Commitment

Full-time

If you’re passionate about fashion and always on the lookout for the next big footwear trend, then opening your own shoe store may be a highly profitable use for your talents. Whether you focus on stylish stilettos or sleek sneakers, there are countless ways to capitalize on people’s love of shoes, which is why US footwear is an $81 billion market. 

To help you gear up for success, this step-by-step guide has all the information and insight you need to get your foot in the door and launch a successful shoe store business.

Step 1: Decide if the Business is Right for You

Because a shoe store business will take a significant amount of effort and time to start, weighing the pros and cons is essential in measuring the risks and potential rewards.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Low to moderate startup costs
  • Work the hours you choose from your own home
  • Express your creativity in shoe designs
  • Simple yet globally scalable business model
  • Few regulations and compliance requirements

Cons

  • Stocking many sizes gets expensive
  • Unsold stock could mean sizable losses
  • Product returns for online sales can be as high as 40%

Shoe industry trends

Did you know that the average American owns 14 pairs of shoes, from low-cost flip-flops to high-end footwear?((https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-behind-behavior/201510/how-much-are-your-shoes-really-costing-you))

Industry size and growth

shoe store industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

shoe store industry Trends and Challenges

Trends shaping the shoe industry include:

Challenges in the shoe industry include:

  • Supply chain problems
  • Steep import tariffs
  • Rising production costs

Consumer spending

shoe store business consumer spending

How much does it cost to start a shoe store business?

The startup costs can be minimal or hefty depending on your start-up strategy. Starting your shoe store business will cost you between $9,000 and $38,000.

If you’re going for the minimum budget, you’ll most likely start from a home-based office with a strong e-commerce website and online stores at major marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. The major cost will be stocking your initial inventory of at least 100 pairs of shoes, plus marketing and website development.

The high-end budget might include an inventory of 500 pairs and renting out a commercial space for your brick-and-mortar store. 

Start-up CostsMinMaxAverage
Licenses and permits$100$300$200
Insurance$200$600$400
Marketing and advertising$1,500$5,000$3,250
Website$1,500$4,500$3,000
Software$400$1,000$700
Computers and IT Equipment$1,200$3,500$2,350
Inventory$3,500$17,500$10,500
Storefront Set-up$0$5,000$2,500
Miscellaneous$600$600$600
Total$9,000$38,000$23,500

How much can you earn from a shoe store business?

shoe store business earnings forecast

The revenue potential of your shoe business depends on your costs, marketing plan and sales volume. The average price for a pair of shoes is about $70, while shoe businesses often have a margin of around 50%. So for every pair of shoes you sell you should make about $35. 

As a home-based solopreneur making online sales, in your first year or two you might sell around 125 pairs each month. This would give you $105,000 in annual revenue and about $52,000 in profit. After a few years you might sell 1,000 pairs per month, but with a physical store and sales staff your margin would fall to around 30%. As a result, you would have about $840,000 in annual revenue and a tidy profit of a quarter of a million dollars. 

What barriers to entry are there?

The barriers to entry in a shoe business are fairly moderate. The industry faces minimal regulations and compliance requirements. However, the intensity of competition poses a considerable challenge to the new entrant. Well-established brands, local shoe stores, department stores and thousands of independent sellers on sites like Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress make it difficult to attract customers. Also, it can be hard to build customer loyalty in a saturated market with no switching cost to the client.

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

For a small to medium-sized start-up, the best way is to outsource production to a manufacturer. It will minimize your startup investment and relieve you of a lot of the stress and challenges that come with sourcing raw material, managing production staff, and overseeing operations.

Then once you have solidified a reliable customer base, you may consider shifting to in-house manufacturing. If you’ll explore outsourcing, you’ll likely partner with a manufacturing company outside the US. China, for instance, produces about half the footwear imports sold in the US.((https://www.usitc.gov/research_and_analysis/trade_shifts_2019/footwear.htm))

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a shoe store, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research shoe stores in your area and online to examine their products, price points, and customer reviews, as well as what sells best. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe your local market is missing a great leather shoes and boots shop. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as vintage sneakers.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your products and type of shoes

A crucial decision is of course deciding which products to offer. You could focus on one type of shoe, such as heels, athletic trainers, sandals or boots. Or you could stock a wide variety of all these types of shoes. In addition, you might also offer related products, such as socks, shoelaces, shoehorns and more. 

How much should you charge for your shoes?

Your price should be based on your costs, overhead, and target profit margin. But remember to keep an eye on your competitors because your prices need to be in the vicinity of standard market rates. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

If you decide to focus on heels, your target market will be professional women, and you could find them on LinkedIn and Facebook. If you choose sneakers and athletic wear, your primary target demographic will be teens and young adults, and you could track them down on sites like Instagram and TikTok.  

Where? Choose your shoe store location

In the early stages, you’ll probably run your shoe store from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers and rent out a physical storefront, and perhaps a production facility. Find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

Choose your shoe store location carefully. Look for a spot in a busy commercial district with high foot traffic, and consider the demographics of the area. Assess the competition and differentiate your store with unique brands or exceptional customer service.

Ensure the space is visually appealing and practical, and consider proximity to complementary businesses. By choosing the right location, you can establish a profitable and successful shoe store in the competitive retail industry.

shoe store business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Shoe Store Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “shoes” or “boots”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Footwear Frenzy” over “High Heel Haven”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Shoe Store Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Provide a brief overview of your shoe store, outlining its focus on offering a diverse range of footwear, target customers, and strategies for success.
  • Business Overview: Describe your shoe store’s range, including types of footwear offered, such as casual, formal, sports, and specialty shoes.
  • Product and Services: Detail the variety of shoes and related accessories you plan to sell, and any additional services like fitting consultations or custom orders.
  • Market Analysis: Assess the demand for footwear in your area, identifying key customer segments and current fashion trends.
  • Competitive Analysis: Compare your store to other shoe retailers in the area, emphasizing your unique selection, pricing, or customer service.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategies for attracting customers, like online marketing, in-store promotions, or loyalty programs.
  • Management Team: Highlight the qualifications and experience of your team, particularly in retail management and fashion merchandising.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the daily running of the store, including inventory management, staffing, and customer service.
  • Financial Plan: Provide an overview of financial aspects such as start-up costs, pricing strategy, sales targets, and profit expectations.
  • Appendix: Include supplementary documents like supplier contracts, market research data, or floor plans of the store to support your business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to shoes. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your shoe shop will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business 

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Venture capital: Venture capital investors take an ownership stake in exchange for funds, so keep in mind that you’d be sacrificing some control over your business. This is generally only available for businesses with high growth potential.
  • Angel investors: Reach out to your entire network in search of people interested in investing in early-stage startups in exchange for a stake. Established angel investors are always looking for good opportunities. 
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Since a shoe store doesn’t require massive funding, your best bet is probably to rely on your personal assets along with friends and family. If you have a great concept, you might also try crowdfunding — people love shoes! 

Step 8: Apply for Shoe Store Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a shoe store business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your shoe store business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as vend, gofrugal, and StarCode to manage your point of sale, inventory, customers, and more.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Influencer Collaborations: Leverage the power of social media influencers to showcase your shoe collection. Partner with influencers whose style aligns with your brand, reaching a broader audience and creating buzz around your store.
  • Local SEO — Regularly update your Google My Business and Yelp profiles to strengthen your local search presence.
  • Limited-Time Promotions: Generate excitement and urgency by running limited-time promotions, such as “Buy One, Get One Half-Off” or exclusive discounts for the first 50 customers. This strategy encourages quick decisions and repeat visits.
  • Footwear Customization Events: Organize events where customers can customize their shoes with unique designs, colors, or accessories. This hands-on experience not only adds a personal touch but also creates memorable moments and builds brand loyalty.
  • Local Sponsorships: Sponsor local events, sports teams, or community activities. This not only enhances your store’s visibility within the community but also establishes a positive association with your brand.
  • Loyalty Programs: Implement a loyalty program that rewards customers for repeat purchases. Offer discounts, exclusive access to new arrivals, or special events for loyal customers to encourage them to keep coming back.
  • Interactive Store Displays: Create engaging and interactive displays in your store that allow customers to try on and experience your shoes in a unique way. This not only attracts attention but also encourages customers to spend more time in your store.
  • Strategic Partnerships: Collaborate with complementary businesses, such as clothing boutiques or fitness studios, to cross-promote products. This expands your reach to new customer segments and creates mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Themed Pop-Up Shops: Organize themed pop-up shops or mobile shoe displays at strategic locations, capitalizing on trends and events. This creates a sense of exclusivity and urgency, driving foot traffic to your store.
  • Customer Testimonials and Reviews: Showcase positive customer testimonials and reviews prominently in your store and on social media. Authentic feedback builds trust and credibility, influencing potential customers to make a purchase.
  • Seasonal Trend Guides: Regularly publish seasonal trend guides on your social media platforms and in-store, showcasing how your shoes align with current fashion trends. This positions your store as a trendsetter and a go-to destination for stylish footwear.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your shoes meet their desires. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your shoe business could be: 

  • The best boots you’ll ever buy
  • Vintage sneakers at incredible prices! 
  • Walk tall in our vast selection of heels 

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a shoe store, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in shoes for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in shoes. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business. 

Step 12: Build your team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a shoe store business would include:

  • Sales Clerks — service customers, either online or in-store
  • Marketing Lead — SEO strategy, social media, etc. 
  • General Manager — hiring and scheduling, maintain books

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Shoe Store – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

You’re now ready to begin your entrepreneurial journey and lead your shoe store business to great success! Thought you might want to bookmark this page, just in case. 

And to ensure your business starts off on the right foot, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Meet your deadlines: Whether it’s the deadline for a printing project or your bills, make sure you meet your time commitments—your creditors, service providers and customers will appreciate it!
  2. Provide more value than you take: Ensure your clients get more value from you than you take from them, and they’ll stick with you for life.
  3. Always implement quality control: A simple quality assurance check reduces product returns and customer dissatisfaction.
  4. Engage the local community: You know the local community and have a direct connection with them, so it’s better to serve their needs before you market your products on a state or national level.
  5. Address complaints with humility: Always listen to your clients, especially their negative remarks as these are areas where you can improve. And even if a complaint is illogical or unfair, address it calmly and professionally.
  6. Keep improving your production capacity: You never know when a big client will come calling. Be prepared for rapid expansion and you’ll be able to seize the opportunity when the time comes.
  7. Attend events: Participate in major shoe industry events and trade shows. Bring your bestselling shoe designs and prove yourself as creative and capable.

Shoe Business FAQs

Is shoemaking a profitable business?

Shoemaking can be a highly profitable business. The average gross profit in the industry is shy of 50%. However, you may want to outsource the shoe production to a specialized company in the initial period to reduce unnecessary stress of your business which might impact your revenues and profitability.

How can I start a shoe store with no money?

You can start a shoe store without investing any money. You may align with an existing shoe store and put up their stock on marketplaces and social media. Generate the demand and supply products with your own packaging. Reinvest your profits until your business starts operating independently.

What software do shoe designers use?

Shoe designers use popular designing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. These are versatile, hence learning them will broaden your designing capabilities.

How to attract customers to my shoe store?

To attract customers to your shoe store, focus on creating visually appealing displays, offer a variety of high-quality shoe options, provide excellent customer service, utilize effective marketing strategies, and consider implementing loyalty programs.

Is starting a shoe business online profitable?

Starting a shoe business online can be profitable, as it allows for a wider reach and lower operating costs compared to a brick-and-mortar store.

What age group buys the most shoes?

The age group that buys the most shoes can vary, but typically adults aged 25-44 are considered a significant consumer group for footwear.

How can I be successful in shoe business?

To be successful in the shoe business, emphasize providing high-quality products, staying updated with fashion trends, offering competitive pricing, delivering exceptional customer service, building strong supplier relationships, effectively managing inventory, implementing strategic marketing efforts, and continuously monitoring and adapting to market demands.

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How to Start a Shoe Store Business