Is there room for one more gown-rental business?

Question

Hello SERDEF!

I belong to a big family of eight, five of them female.  Among  us sisters,  we have, over many years, put together a substantial collection of gowns – ballroom attires, evening gowns, debutante gowns for our daughters, “ninang sa kasal” outfits. Our brothers have also accumulated tuxedos, suits and fine barong tagalog. Our mother too has her own collection of vintage gowns — mestiza dresses, kimona at saya, etc.  As a school principal in her time, she had to wear formal attire in official functions.

During our last family reunion, my sisters and I talked about the collection.  We all agree they are taking up too much closet space and very seldom used.  How best to put them to productive use?  This is what we asked ourselves.

Our discussion led us to the possibility of making a business out of the collection — a gown rental business.  I am a self-taught designer who sometimes designs my own gowns and some of my sisters’ and friends’ outfits. So I am thinking I can design and then a seamstress can sew more gowns, if we have to expand our collection.

Do you think this is a good idea? Aren’t there too many of such businesses around? None of us have ventured into business before.  We are afraid to spend a fortune putting up a shop that might fail eventually.

Please give us advice. Thank you in advance.

Jill Aznar, Cebu City

 Answer

Hi, Jill Aznar!

That is a great idea and I am so excited for all of you.

You are right, google “gowns for rent” and you get a big number of returns.  But there is always room for one more gown rental shop, just as there is room for one more restaurant, one more bake shop, one more grocery story, one more bank, one more beach resort, etc.

Your stock of family-owned gowns is fine – for a start.  And you are in the right direction when you thought of hiring a seamstress to execute your designs as your business grows.

If you are afraid to lose money investing on a shop, you can rent it first – you don’t have to own it.  Another possibility is to put up a shop in one of your residences (you can convert a garage or a driveway or part of your yard into a display area) with a counterpart virtual store where you can show online a photo and price catalog of your gown collection.  Virtual shops have been set up by many entrepreneurs with varying degrees of success.

BKLW Gown Rental and Accessory Shop is located inside a subdivision.  Aware she is not well-situated, owner Mia Canlas put up a virtual shop on Multiply.  Here, she posted pictures of her gowns.  One time, one of the gowns was rented by a Miss Earth candidate and she drew maximum mileage from it.  From then on, many customers frequented her site.

In an interview with Good Housekeeping Philippines, Canlas shared some useful lessons in running a gown rental shop.

  1. Be honest with your customers.  When I don’t think something looks good on them, I tell them to try something else.  I also give them a bit of history of a particular gown, where it was worn previously and when.
  2. In addition to the rental fee, ask for a deposit that is refundable as soon as the gown is returned.
  3. Don’t just rent gowns, sell accessories.  I have started to sell bows and accessories in my gown rental shop.  A customer who doesn’t find a gown she likes is likely to pick up accessories just so her time going to the shop would be worthwhile.
  4. Expand your services – The peak season for renting gowns is during prom months and Halloween.  During the lean season, we do uniforms for schools to keep the business going.

Here are more tips from “How to start a bridal gown rental business” at gaebler.com:

  1. Before setting up shop, you should evaluate your competitors.  Visit them and see what they have in stock, scrutinize their layout, their services.
  2. After you’ve evaluated your competitors, it’s a wise move to talk with someone who is in the business. If you think no direct competitor would be in his right mind to share business lessons with you, find someone who is located so far away from you that you would not be competing in the same market.
  3. You will want to lease a retail space in a convenient, high traffic location. A space that was previously used for clothing retail is best because it may already have dressing rooms, back room alteration stations and display areas.
  4. Next, you will need to stock up your start-up business with wedding gowns and formal apparel. Since rental customers want the most recent styles, avoid overstocking your shop with last year’s fashions. As fashions go out of style, you can sell them at a discount to help recover the cost of new purchases.
  5. Consider participating in wedding fairs.  Even if most brides would want to wear rather than rent their own wedding gowns, there is a possibility they’d consider renting gowns for the wedding entourage.

I hope this helps.  And if you think you need entrepreneurship and management training, you may wish to check out the training programs being offered by the SERDEF-UP ISSI, particularly our Start Your Own Business program and Manager’s Course.

Photo: “Trajes” by Daniel Lobo, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

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