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
- 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
- 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?
Industry size and growth
- Industry size and past growth – German data analyst Statista values the US shoe market at $92 billion.
- Growth forecast – The market is expected to expand an additional 4% annually through 2027, according to Statista.
- Number of businesses – There are more than 28,000 shoe stores in the US, according to market analyst IBISWorld.
- Number of people employed – The industry employs around 247,000 people.
Trends and challenges
Trends shaping the shoe industry include:
- Sharp rise in online sales, with Amazon alone accounting for 16% of the US market
- US exports to foreign markets are increasing sharply, with China and Vietnam representing a combined share of 47.3%
Challenges in the shoe industry include:
- Supply chain problems
- Steep import tariffs
- Rising production costs
- Average consumer spend – On average, Americans buy 7-8 pairs of shoes each year.
- Potential customer base – There are nearly 260 million adult Americans.
- Average prices – A pair of shoes costs an average of $70.
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.
|Licenses and permits||$100||$300||$200
|Marketing and advertising||$1,500||$5,000||$3,250
|Computers and IT Equipment||$1,200||$3,500||$2,350
How much can you earn from a shoe store business?
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.
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Step 2: Hone Your 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.
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.
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 or services
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 business premises
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.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
- Central location accessible via public transport
- Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
- Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
- Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
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: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
- Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
- Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.
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 Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
- Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
- Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
- Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
- Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
- Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
- Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
- Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
- Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
- Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
- Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr 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:
- 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 ZenBusiness’s 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.
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.
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 Licenses/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:
- 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
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.
- 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.
Some of your business will come from the casual passerby or online visitors, but still, you should invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness.
Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products:
- Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area.
- Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
- Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Now”. This can sharply increase purchases.
- Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.
Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your shoes and build your brand. Some suggestions include:
- Competitions and giveaways – Generate interest by offering prizes for customers who complete a certain action, such as the first purchase each week gets a 25% discount.
- Signage – Put up eye-catching signage at your store and website.
- Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood and at industry events.
- In-Person Sales – Offer your shoes at local markets, trade shows.
- Post a video – Post a video involving your shoes. Try using humor and maybe it will go viral!
- Limited edition – Offer a limited run of a unique shoe style to draw eyeballs.
- Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
- Pay–per-click marketing – Use Google AdWords to come up faster from searches. Research your keywords first.
- Influencer marketing – Pay people with large followings to promote your product. You can find micro-influencers with smaller followings and lower rates.
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. 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.
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.
Focus on USPs
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
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
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: Start Making Money!
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:
- 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!
- 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.
- Always implement quality control: A simple quality assurance check reduces product returns and customer dissatisfaction.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
How much money do you need to start a shoe business?
It depends upon the size of your start-up. However, it takes $23,500 on average to start a shoe business. If you are considering a franchise, the cost may be as high as $50,000.
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.