Just decided to start dropshipping clothes? If so – congratulations!
Why the congratulations? Because ever since the inception of dropshipping, clothing has been among the most popular segments. And it’s still going strong to this day. Just look at these stats from Statista:
- Retail e-commerce revenue from apparel and accessories amounted to $102.5 billion in 2019,
- Revenue is estimated to increase to $153.6 billion by 2024.
- That’s nearly a 50% increase in just five years!
Clearly, you won’t be short of potential customers. On the other hand, this market is already crowded, and it’s only going to get more so.
So we’re here with some road-tested strategies and tips you can use when dropshipping clothing. Put these in place and you should be just fine.
How fine, though? Well, with a few years of patient work and perseverance, building a successful dropshipping business that allows for a comfortable lifestyle is totally possible. Let’s find out how.
Researching your clothing dropshipping niche
If you’re going to start a clothing dropshipping business, doing extensive research beforehand is absolutely crucial.
Generally speaking, there are two types of market research:
- Primary market research has you do all the hard work yourself – collecting data on trends, gathering “intelligence” on competitors in the clothing sector, running focus groups, etc.
- Secondary market research gives you access to data gathered and processed by a third party. The downside is that it’s often quite expensive. It is probably also being done by larger established companies.
We’re going to assume that you don’t have piles of cash lying around for expensive market reports (you’re dropshipping after all). So, let’s go with the first option - primary market research.
If you’re not yet clear on exactly what type of clothing you want to sell, competitor research is a good place to start.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Which types of clothes and/or accessories appeal to me (you need to be passionate about the products you’re selling)
- Which of them are popular enough to be worth the effort
You can then start browsing the websites of big clothing brands and snooping around on social media.
You might also consider researching key terms on Google Trends (and Facebook Analytics, although it will only be available until June 30, 2021). These can help you identify, respectively, what’s gaining in popularity, and which interests and patterns of behavior characterize your potential customers.
Identifying your target audience
Having a comprehensive profile of your target audience is a must.
Try to really zoom in on the clothing niche that you’ve chosen, whether it’s sandals, swimwear, or scarves.
- What are the features that bring your target audience together?
- What problem are they looking to solve with your clothes?
For instance, a certain type of sneaker could be popular with urban Scandinavians aged 20-34. It might also be popular with 40 somethings in India, for whom it serves as a symbol of upward mobility.
Whatever the case may be, you need to know exactly who is likely to be interested in your offer. And you need to understand what they want from that product (comfort, status, uniqueness).
Another thing to consider is whether you can realistically offer them what they desire? As a dropshipper, you’ll be heavily reliant on suppliers (more on that later), which means that you need to make sure that you can actually find someone willing to provide the products you aim to be selling.
This can be a big challenge in the fashion sector, where big brands dominate. But, with enough thought, you should be able to find a product that matches your target audience’s needs.
To help with this process, base your research on these questions:
- What are the financial capabilities of your prospective customers?
- How likely are they to make impulse purchases?
- How frequently will they buy the items you’re planning to dropship?
The answers to these questions will play a key role in your marketing strategy.
Choosing to dropship men’s or women’s clothing
The simple answer to whether you should sell men’s or women’s clothes is: sell either or both.
You can go with whatever works for your product and target audience. That’s because, according to a large survey by Freedonia Focus Reports, men and women buy clothing online at about the same rate (that’s despite earlier preliminary studies indicating otherwise).
There are a few useful points from this survey to bear in mind when forming your business strategy (more on that in a moment):
- The survey shows women shop for clothing more frequently than men, although at least some of the difference might be explained by the fact that women commonly purchase clothes for men and children, not just themselves.
- Women tend to purchase clothes at greater frequency than men. So for dropshipping, you might want to consider focusing somewhat more on women’s clothing. That’s because return customers are more profitable, and profitability can be a make-or-break issue for dropshipping.
Ultimately, everyone needs clothes and online shopping has become popular across the board.
So the question of male, female or unisex ultimately comes down to your own preference.
Developing a strategy for your dropshipping business
When it comes to business strategy, a lot of people just go with their gut. According to research by the University of Michigan, entrepreneurs who go the extra mile and write up a formal business plan are 16% more likely “to achieve viability than the otherwise identical non-planning entrepreneurs.” In other words, plan more and your dropshipping business is more likely to succeed.
A robust dropshipping business strategy or plan should answer the following key questions:
- Why do you want to start a business?
And no, “To make a lot of money” is not a good enough reason. Given the inevitable challenges along the way, you’ll need something a bit more substantive to keep going. Now, you don’t have to solve “the meaning of life, the universe, and everything”, but getting a decent grasp of your own motives will definitely help. More freedom and flexibility? Building a community of like minded people? A passion for a particular product? These are all great reasons to start a business.
- What is your identity as a company?
Try to come up with a mission statement. Will you be dropshipping low price apparel or high-fashion clothing? What about environmental sustainability? Wear your values and commitments on your sleeve - it will help you stand out in a crowded market.
- What measurable goals will your dropshipping business try to achieve?
Be specific. It’s better to sometimes fall short than to have nothing solid as a reference point to begin with. Goals might include a number of products, sales volume, return customers, or a number of markets you’re present in.
- How will you achieve those goals?
What specific strategies do you plan to use?
If possible, your business strategy or plan should cover the first 3-5 years. Things won’t always go exactly as you’d like them to go, but at least you’ll know what needs to be adjusted, what works, and what doesn’t.
Creating a concept for your clothing store
Your store needs a strong concept – selling a bunch of random items that have little or nothing to do with each other won’t get you far.
There are many ways to tie your products together. You could focus on:
- Pattern or color
- Or type of use.
Let’s explore these themes in a bit more detail.
Dropshipping clothing store concept 1: Material
Organizing your store around a specific fabric or other material (velvet, cotton, denim, etc.) will give it a distinct theme. You can then create any number of sub-categories.
Picking material as the “center of gravity” for your dropshipping clothing business also makes it easy to find suppliers for the items you want. The same supplier may be able to offer multiple products from the same material.
It can also help with advertising and SEO. Customers after a specific material will gravitate to your dropshipping store.
Dropshipping clothing store concept 2: Style
Style is another great way to give your dropshipping store a coherent look.
You could start off by only focusing on one style of clothing. This will help you develop a clear identity and niche. You can then gradually add related products.
Just remember that, whether you’re selling party dresses or cargo shorts, try to keep things separate on your online store. This will make it easier for shoppers to find what they’re looking for.
Dropshipping clothing store concept 3: Pattern or color
Choosing a pattern - stripes, polka dots, checkerboard, tartan - or a color makes your online store attractive to the eye. Again, it can also really help with advertising or google search.
If you get the balance right, you should be able to attract regular buyers and fashionistas looking for the latest trends.
Dropshipping clothing store concept 4: Type of use
This is probably the most common concept for a dropshipping clothing store.
First, pick a usage situation: sports, outdoor activities, relaxing at home, cocktail parties – you name it.
Then select clothing products that are suited to this use. Having them all in one place will make the store more attractive and more convenient for your potential customers to use. Plus it gives you greater potential to cross-sell additional products, one of the best strategies around for increasing productivity.
Setting prices for your dropshipping clothing store
When it comes to setting prices, the first thing you’ll need to do is make sure you cover your costs. So, check out this guide to how much it costs to start dropshipping in 2021.
Then, once you have some sample products you’re considering dropshipping, use this profit margin calculator by Oberlo. It will give you a clear idea of the lowest price you can sell at without losing money.
Once you have the lowest price, you should then consider these questions:
- How much are your target audience willing to pay?
- Are they likely to make impulse purchases?
- Can you provide something that would justify a higher-than-average price?
Another thing to consider is, of course – competition. If your niche is highly exclusive and you are focusing on a small target audience, following your competitors’ prices is pretty much all you can do. If there are only a few options available, shoppers will compare you to others quickly and vote with their feet if you’re too expensive.
On the other hand, if you’re targeting a fairly broad range of potential buyers, and your offer isn’t particularly unique, you don’t need to adhere so strictly to what others are pricing their clothing at. But some basic research is still necessary.
Once you have thought about your target audience and competition, it’s time to calculate the highest possible price you can charge.
Find quality clothing suppliers for dropshipping
When it comes to finding quality clothing suppliers, you have three options:
1. Working directly with manufacturers. Most manufacturers don’t advertise as dropshippers or suppliers, but some will offer this service. Before contacting anyone, make sure that you have a good understanding of their industry, and are able to make a mutually beneficial offer. You’ll need to show you know your audience and can sell their products effectively.
2. Find suppliers through a paid directory. There are paid directories with thousands of verified suppliers from around the world, such as Salehoo and Worldwide Brands. You will have to pay to get access, but (unless you’re really strapped for cash) the benefits will easily outweigh the cost.
3. Look for wholesalers yourself. If you decide to go this route, first and foremost – beware of scammers. If a supplier asks you to pay a subscription or one-time fee, you might as well hang up the phone. At most, you might be charged a small fee for items shipped or be subject to a set minimum order size.
Depending on your situation, you might want to stick with domestic suppliers, as this makes communication much easier. On the other hand, these can be more expensive.
Always order a sample first to make sure that everything runs smoothly before you enter into a new partnership. And don’t forget to check about returns too. Return rates for online clothing are very high compared to other niches, so make sure your supplier can accept returns.
If you’re still unsure where to begin or can’t find suppliers that meet your needs, check out our ultimate list of dropshipping suppliers, and our list of the best dropshipping suppliers in the U.S.
Or, here are some options for sourcing clothes for your dropshipping store.
Estonia-based BrandsGateway has a network of warehouses and offices pretty much around the world. What’s great is that deliveries are made within five days regardless of address or location, and you get tons of high quality pictures to use in your store.
BrandsGateway can be easily connected to your store via Shopify or WooCommerce plug-ins. And these come with a host of features like automatic inventory updates, real-time order syncing, and more.
The only drawback is the price, which currently stands at €1,695 per year (or €1,188 with discount offered at the time of writing). Monthly subscriptions are available as well, so if you find the annual price tag a little too steep, you can give it a go first, and decide later.
Gertex – a leading Canadian supplier of hosiery, loungewear, headware, and accessories with a focus on fashion-forward designs – sells brands like Great Northern, Snugabye, Densely & Co., Day In Day Out, Sophi, In Motion, and more. In addition, they also offer baby clothing and accessories, footwear, and winter goodies.
This is a good option if you’re interested in private label, branded, or licensed programs.
To make it easier for dropshippers, Gertex is currently building a dedicated drop ship website (coming soon), which you can find by clicking this link.
BrandsDistribution is a BIG supplier. In fact, it claims to have been the worldwide leader in selling B2B fashion – clothing, footwear, bags, and other accessories – for the past 10 years!
With BrandsDistribution you get to choose from 120+ top brands, including Adidas, Nike, Gucci, Dr. Martens, and tons of others. There are over 500,000 individual products in total, and they can be shipped from their headquarters in Italy to 50+ countries around the world.
The BDroppy app allows you to import thousands of designer products (supported formats include xls, csv, xml, and json) into your store in a few clicks. You can then manage all your sales through a single multi-channel dashboard integrated with Amazon, eBay, PrestaShop, Shopify, and WooCommerce.
Other functionalities include multilingual and multicurrency management, automatic order and catalog synchronization, and professional images for your marketing campaigns.
The price starts at €99 per month – not a bad bargain at all!
My Online Fashion Store
This one is only available to US dropshippers, so feel free to skip it if you’re not based in the US.
This supplier is great if you want to start your own fashion store. That’s because they’re entirely focused on dropshipping stores, including a dropshipping program and a Shopify app that offers one-click product imports and automatic inventory syncing. If your store is not on Shopify, they also support platforms like BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and Amazon.
It’s worth noting that delivery within the US takes only 5 to 7 days, and they even offer free returns.
When it comes to pricing, you have two options. The first one is paying $29 per month for the Shopify app or $19 per month for a standard subscription on their website if you’re using a different platform. Both options come with a 14-day free trial.
Sparkle in Pink
This supplier – whose motto is “Adorable made Affordable” – is basically a small team of less than 50 professional designers. They are committed to sniffing out the latest trends and then making high quality clothing, footwear, and other accessories for children that is very affordable.
The company’s business model allows it to offer low (near-wholesale) prices without skimping on quality, as shown by its 4.87 star average rating.
Sparkle in Pink has been listed at number 3,325 in the prestigious Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing American companies in 2020.
Dropshipping with Sparkle in Pink is super easy. All you have to do is select the “Drop Ship My Order” option in your cart, type in the customer’s address at checkout, and presto! The order will be shipped the next business day.
Griffati is awesome (let’s just start with that)! It’s a European supplier of designer clothes from 300+ Italian and international brands - it offers 20,000+ outlet products in total.
The regular discounts are one of the best things about Griffati. These allow you to purchase top-quality items at up to 75% discount, which will turbo-boost your dropshipping store’s profit margins.
Another huge advantage of this supplier is that local shipping time is just 24 to 48 hours (or 2 to 4 days for international deliveries), which is truly exceptional!
Even though the company isn’t keen on revealing its membership prices, you can start with a 15-day “Discovery” trial and go from there.
ModeShe supplies clothing from a variety of women’s fashion brands, and it focuses on big discounts. Products include swimwear, dresses, lingerie, tops, bottoms, outerwear, and more.
Despite being primarily a direct-to-consumer supplier, ModeShe also has a special program for dropshippers that offers an additional 15-25% discount with no minimum order requirements!
Store integration is fairly straightforward and ModeShe even offers assistance for owners of Shopify stores (you can also use other platforms).
Even though delivery times are generally quite good – anywhere between 6-15 business days, depending on location – order processing can take as many as 5 days. This could be a downside, so keep this point in mind come decision time.
Clothing for seniors, the elderly, or people with disabilities can be a successful dropshipping niche. And if you are targeting this niche, Silverts is a winner. It has been around since 1930, and is considered to be North America’s largest supplier of adaptive clothing.
Here’s what’s great – if your application to Silvert’s dropship program is approved, you’ll get a 25% discount on all items. And this will be adjusted up to 30% when you hit $5,000 in sales.
In addition, you’ll get all the high-res, high-quality images you could possibly want, making your store look polished and professional.
The only bad news is that the program is only available in Canada and the US. If you’re based in North America, however, Silverts is a fantastic all-round partner to work with.
Matterhorn is a wholesaler of women’s clothing, handbags, swimwear, and accessories. It offers a total of 13,000+ made-in-Europe products from 150 top brands that you can dropship from your store for free. This means you only pay for the item and delivery.
The company supplies high-quality images and has no minimum order requirements. Furthermore, delivery is super fast (1-3 business days) and available around the world.
Matterhorn keeps growing its product range by adding roughly 100 new items every single day, and offers discounts on large orders, as well as to trusted, long-term partners.
BelleWholesale is both a business-to-business and direct-to-consumer platform. It supplies both men and women’s clothing to retailers, dropshippers, and wholesalers.
For sales of $120+, you get a $10 discount, and $5 for orders of $99+. All items are shipped via priority direct mail, which is available worldwide.
To register, all you have to do is create an account on their website and click the “Contact seller” button, or just skip the first step and get in touch directly. Once your account is approved, you’ll be marked as a dropshipper. Then you will get to enjoy a number of perks, such as hot-sale item recommendations only available for dropshippers.
Fine-tuning your online store
If you want to maximize traffic to your store and secure a high conversion rate, fine-tuning your presence online is key. After all, it would be a real shame if all the hard work you’ve put into starting your own dropshipping business comes to naught because people simply are not aware of it.
The first thing to consider is visibility. Can people see your store when they search for particular items on Google? SEO is a complicated beast, so take a look at this highly readable breakdown of SEO best practices by alidropship to learn more.
You’ll also need to continually refine your store’s appearance – in many cases, this will be the deciding factor for potential customers to make a purchase.
Clothing stores need to be visually engaging. As a dropship retailer, however, you may not have access to every single item listed in your store. This means that you’ll be forced to rely on pictures taken by the manufacturer.
To compensate for the lack of control in the imagery department, make sure to provide lots of detail in your product descriptions. Here are some things you should consider including:
- Measurements. Exact measurements should be specified for each individual item. This will also help to reduce the number of returns.
- Washing instructions. How should the items be washed? Is dry cleaning necessary? What about detergents? Many shoppers want this information before making a purchase.
- Fabric. Since your customers can’t touch the items, you provide detailed information about the fabric. Include descriptions of what the fabric feels like to the touch.
- A descriptive product title. Not everyone is going to read through all the descriptions you’ve provided – some people prefer to “scan” until they hit upon something that appeals to them. Include color, brand name, and other searchable keywords right in the title. For example, titles like “Machine-washable sweater” or “Super soft cashmere jumpers” give useful information for shoppers.
Dropshipping clothing - the Takeaways
Dropshipping clothing remains a good business strategy in 2021. In fact, global e-commerce revenues in the sector are projected to increase by nearly 50% in three years’ time!
To do it successfully, you’ll need to dedicate time to finding a niche and a target audience, and then developing a plan for your dropshipping business.
The next step is sourcing. Finding quality dropshipping suppliers can be challenging. Luckily, you have multiple options (manufacturers, directories and wholesalers) to choose from, and plenty of tools that do the heavy lifting for you. Remember to get product samples and discuss returns with your suppliers.
The final piece in the puzzle is to spruce up your online store. Make it as appealing as possible, make sure to organize the listed items by material, style, color, pattern, or other feature to give it a consistent look.
Is it worth dropshipping clothes in 2021?
Absolutely. Global e-commerce revenues from clothes and accessories currently stand at over $100 billion and are projected to increase by almost 50% by 2024. The market is somewhat crowded, but there’s still plenty of money to be made in dropshipping clothing.
Which clothes are the most lucrative to dropship?
Given how quickly fashions change season to season, there’s no way to answer this question definitively. The most lucrative clothes to dropship will depend on your niche and current trends. This also means that if you want to stay in the game, you’ll have to do a bit of research. If you’re interested in dropshipping t-shirts, check out this comprehensive guide!
Should I sell men’s or women’s clothes?
A recent survey has shown that women tend to shop for clothes more than men, yet they also often purchase clothes for men and children, not just themselves. It also showed that men and women use online retail at roughly the same rate. Whether you focus on men’s or women’s clothing is mostly up to you – both segments are quite profitable.
What are the differences between dropshipping clothing and other items?
To become a successful online clothing retailer, you’ll have to be following trends pretty closely.
Another important thing is presentation. Have a clear focus for your online store. Stores that sell a random assortment of items are unappealing to most people, and are more difficult to market. For this reason, make sure that your store has a strong theme or concept based on fabric, pattern, type, or other features.
Where can I find quality dropshipping suppliers?
You can go directly to the source and establish a relationship with a manufacturer. This is beneficial to both parties because you get to profit by selling their clothes, while they get more exposure and increased sales volume.
Another way would be to consult a directory with thousands (or more) of verified suppliers in various categories. Some directories are free to use (e.g., Inventory Source), while others are paid (e.g., Wholesale 2B). If you’re struggling to find a suitable supplier, directories can be a big help, and since even the paid ones are quite cheap, there’s really nothing to lose here.
The third option would be to find a wholesaler yourself. This can be a little tricky because there are plenty of scammers out there. Beware of wholesalers who ask for subscription or one-time fees, and always do a test order before taking the plunge.