Textile manufacturing is a $60 billion per year industry in the U.S. With numbers like that, it's easy to see why textile retailing is an appealing business concept for entrepreneurs. From local craft stores to online textile providers, the retail textile trade is a vibrant business sector.
But since no single startup is capable of meeting the needs of the entire marketplace, the first step in becoming a textile retailer is to discern which segment(s) of the marketplace you will target in your startup. In many cases, a narrower market approach is capable of delivering better bottom line results than a broad marketing philosophy.
For some textile retailers, a niche strategy tailored to the local craft community will offer the best chance for startup success. For others, a combined retail/wholesale approach, sourcing individual consumers and small-scale commercial manufacturers with material, will be the more lucrative option.
The key is to properly analyze the marketplace to determine how your business will offer a unique value proposition to buyers. In other words, you will need to decide what special characteristics your business can bring to a marketplace already full of established competitors.
Analyze your competition, too. As a small business owner, you will compete against local and national textile companies. If you decide to sell and market your products online, you will also face competition from top industry players with popular brand names and big advertising budgets. Some of these companies are located in India, China, Vietnam and other countries with low production prices, which gives them a competitive advantage.
Choose Your Niche
As a small textile business, you can specialize in one type of fabric or provide your clients with various options. Check the industry trends to see what is in high demand. Also, consider your audience and its needs. Brainstorm textile business ideas and decide what types of fabrics you are going to sell.
Organic cotton, for example, is popular among sustainable brands. As the number of customers seeking natural, chemical-free fiber clothing and home products increases, so does the demand for this material. In fact, organic cotton production increased 10% from 2016 to 2017, according to the Organic Trade Association. More than half of manufacturers operate in India.
Assess Your Options
Depending on your goals, you can specialize in natural fibers like silk, linen or wool or synthetic fibers such as rayon, nylon, polyester and lycra. Each type of fabric has unique characteristics and uses. Polyurethane laminate, for instance, is breathable and waterproof, making it ideal for outdoor apparel, raincoats and sportswear.
Tightly woven fabrics are used in the manufacturing of jackets, ski wear, tents, hats, protective clothing and other waterproof products. Cotton, portobello canvas, woven canvas and chenille are known as ticking fabrics and make a great choice for bedding, cushion covers and other home products. These materials are strong, durable, easy to clean and resistant to wear and tear. Additionally, they feel comfortable on the skin.
A small textile business that specializes in ticking fabrics can team up with local home designers and companies that manufacture home products. Over time, it can expand its services and start selling sewing machines and supplies, yarns, patterns and more.