Let’s start with the hardest first. If you’re going to open a women’s apparel store, you already know that the tastes of the “fickle” female customer are hard to stereotype. Every expert we spoke with agreed that the very first thing a prospective women’s apparel retailer must do is decide where the “market-vendor” gaps are. In other words, which customers in the store’s trading area will you serve, and what apparel can you provide (and at what price) that can’t be found easily elsewhere? Once you’ve determined this, you can buy accordingly.

“‘What do I have that will entice a woman into my store?’ That’s the big question the women’s apparel store owner needs to ask,” says D.L.S. Outfitters’ Kira Danus. Yes, we know that’s easier said than done, and it really depends on where you’re going to open your store, as Danus notes. “There’s a huge difference in consumer mentality across the country, and I’d advise a store owner in Duluth much differently from one in Los Angeles.”