Bags are always in demand. My sister has some 10 tote bags in her cupboard at any time, and then there are the other types of bags she owns. There are so many girls who own much more than this. Then these bags go out of fashion, get stained, loose color and they need replacements. Who is going to make all these bags? You?
Related post: 30 Different types of bags
How to start a business selling bags – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
Concern 1. Am I ready to make a living, selling bags?
If you make bags for a hobby, and you are getting lots of compliments for the finishing, their beauty and/ or the innovativeness of your designs you would definitely be thinking of selling them at some point of your making. Your cupboard can only take so much bags.
Or maybe you just love to buy bags and want to see if you can make a living buying them for others too.
But there are so many different types of bags in the market – at high-end designer bag boutiques of Dolce & Gabbana to the neighboring bag shops. Why should the customer choose yours?. Either your bags are cheaper or have a better design or have some very unique quality features. Which one would you prefer as a customer? If you can answer this you can sell your bags.
If you can give your customers a better bag or a better experience than the one they have now, the customer will come looking for your bag again and again. Are you up for it? Then, go and make/get your bag and sell it.
Concern 2. What are the best types of bags to sell?
There are four choices to source bags once you have decided to sell bags. Make them yourself at your sewing machine (handmade), make them with the help of specialized machinery, buy them wholesale from manufacturers or buy used ones for reselling.
Tote bags, travel duffel bags, cash bag, college bags ( backpacks) school bags, big shopper bags , purses and clutches, wallets- these are the ones that sell most. Laptop bags, phone cases are also much in demand. If you are skilled in sewing leather you can make leather bags and wallets. Leather is an all-time favourite material for bags. Then there are gift bags that have more seasonal demand.
Fold over clutches, cross body bags, small duffel bags are bags that always sell. Grocery bags / fabric shopping bags, snack bags, pencil cases are also things that sell well.
If you are ready for a bigger investment, you can make and sell eco-friendly biodegradable carry bags used in shopping; they are fast replacing plastic bags in all shops. They are more sturdy than paper bags and they are less damaging to the environment. But these bags require special machines to make them; quite different from sewing up bags in your sewing machine.
Concern 4 What is the profit percentage in selling bags ?
Pricing is a science and as I am not an expert I would refrain from elaborating on it. But from what I have learned from talking to those who are in this field, I would say about 20-30% mark up is common, after accounting for all expenses.
When deciding on your pricing, always factor in any taxes you may have to pay ( even in the future) and all your expenses. Talk to an accountant in your area or the state business unit for more clarity. An expert in this field will also tell you about the tax benefits of incorporating a business entity ( like getting your supplies at wholesale rates) and your options of setting up a sole proprietorship.
(Ensure that you sell to direct customers at the same price that the retailer who sells your bags will. Otherwise, it will be deemed as undercutting and you will lose your retailers soon).
Concern 5 Who is going to buy from me?
Who is your customer ? Identifying your customer is the first thing you do when you decide to make/sell bags. You could be selling to businesses or directly to customers. Maybe you are selling hand-bags to retailers or directly to the customer or you could be making shopping/gift bags and supplying it to businesses. Or you may decide to make beach bags and sell to beach / resort customers. Schools may decide to buy bags from you. Jewelry shops, sweet shops, hotels etc may require different types of gift bags.
Whatever you decide, make a customer persona who will buy from you and see what unique property you can offer in your bags.
Knowing your customer will make you aware of where they shop, what they look for in bags etc. Then you can better design your bags – Like a pretty name label area in a school bag or a small coin pocket with flap inside a tote bag.
You can decide to sell complimentary bags to events/ conference organisers.
The best customer is a customer who buys repeatedly. For this, getting orders from corporate houses and local businesses in whole sale works best. When you get bulk orders like this you can say you are on the road to success.
Concern 6 How to operate your bag business?
When you decide to sell bags you have to do a lot of multitasking like designing them, sourcing raw materials like fabric and hardware at the right price, manufacturing and then finally selling bags.
As I said you can sell bags without making them yourself. But if you make them yourself you can end up with more profit. You can adjust pricing according to your expenses and totally rule the market.
Start by learning all about bag making; hire and train assistants if you can afford to; buy one or two sewing machines ( industrial sewing machines – you need these machines for continuous sewing and for sewing through layers of thick fabric, pleather/vinyl/leather etc)
In your handmade bag business, you are not the maker alone. You also need to front the business effectively. Read upon the effective ways to handle a business.
Ensure that you are covering all the formalities with a competent lawyer. If at some point of time you get to open a store of your own that is another set of formalities. Starting an online store with web solutions like Shopify may also feature in your future.
Top-notch customer care : Respond to complaints immediately. Customer service is non-compromisable. customer complains should be addressed. if the complaint is about a design make alterations, if it is about your finishing like stitching make changes or amends. You should have refund or replacement policy in place, from the first day.
Quality stitching & finishing: Ensure that the stitching is perfect at all levels. Even the inside stitching matters. This should not be compromised. Ensure that your assistants also follow the quality standards you adhere to.
On-time delivery: Do not take more orders than you can fulfill.In business being able to be timely is very important. This leads to trust and consequently more customers/orders. Being a disciplined worker who is also hardworking is very important in this field.
Best materials & hardware: Sourcing cheap bag sewing accessories/hardware will lead to an inferior product. Word spreads fast, especially bad opinions/reviews. Ensure that zippers and other fittings are of top-notch quality. Do not use cheap polyester lining instead use good quality fabric – your customers will surely become repeat customers. Do not compromise on quality.
Most people advise new entrepreneurs to innovate. But a first-time entrepreneur should not innovate too much, in my opinion – doing what other bag sellers have done before you more efficiently is more effective than being the first person to make a crocodile skin bag that also serves as an umbrella. Instead you should be making more of those sling bags your friends admired.
Concern 7 What are the things you need to start a bag business?
Ideally, you need startup capital to take your business through the next 6 months along with capital investments for machinery, space, labour and material. But realistically speaking most people start the business without enough capital. They want to test out the market first and then invest. For those who do not have these resources, they can start by making some, sell them and recoup investment for making more.
A business account with a business-friendly bank is a necessity. It is never good to start a business in debt but sometimes we have to. Borrow from a family member with a set interest, this will make you accountable and at the same time not at the mercy of banks/money lenders.
You need a dedicated space for your manufacturing and storing bags; either rented or a makeshift place in your own house would do for starters.
Then you have to buy the machinery needed. An industrial sewing machine (with walking foot preferably) can handle the heavy stress of sewing through layers of cloth involved in making bags. Check out if you can get some concessions for buying equipment; in my area there are subsidies for women starting a business; even up to 50 % off to buy required machinery.
A good dealer will be able to guide you what kind of sewing machine you should buy (depending on your budget and requirement).
If you like to make embroidered bags you will need to buy an embroidery machine.
You may need to hire employees at some point of time in your business( if you are not an expert in bag making you will have to hire experts in sewing bags right away and that will cost you extra dough) because it makes sense to concentrate on selling rather than making.
In a business, selling trumps making. You can hire people to make your bags for lesser money than you could for selling effectively, at least with your sincerity. This is what I think. If you like the making part and not the selling part, ignore this.
Check out the list of sewing techniques you should master when you are starting to make bags.
Related post : 100 + Sewing tips & Techniques
Fabric – Buy bag making fabric like vinyl, faux leather, leather, tweed, linen, canvas, suede, cotton, lining cloth.
Hardware, fasteners and other materials- different types of zippers, rivets, strap hardware like D rings, webbing sliders, magnetic snaps, screw back twist locks, swivel snaps, gate rings for the bags, frames for purses; materials for making handles like webbing , stabilizers, labels.
You need business cards, and a pretty brochure.
You will need a card swiping machine, and a computer with accounting software. You need to keep track of inventory and customers.
You will also need to think of packaging – paper bags ; Boxes and bubble envelopes if you are shipping the bags to customers. You will have to fill them with packaging paper / bubble wraps to maintain shape then wrap in clear plastic so that there is no water damage. For more expensive bags you can make gift bags to pack.
Concern 8 How do I market my bag business?
The bag industry is a very competitive field. You will have to up your game if you want to stay there for a long time. But when you think of the demand and the ultimate rewards, you will want to stick on. Some clever marketing processes can make your bag business a success.
Friends and Family, local residents, online Store, Consignment Shops, Art/Craft Fairs – your venues for selling your hand made bags are many.You have to research and find the best way for you to sell your bags.
Trends change. Be aware of the change and alter your designs accordingly. Do not copy designs; you can be inspired but a direct copy could incur penalties.
Do not expect that all the bags you have made will sell like hot buns in your first sale. You may love the bags you have made but that may not be the case with others. Always test designs and then mass produce. The first one or two years are never profitable for businesses, especially for those with some investment.
A website is starting to be not an option but a necessity for businesses. Start a blog so that your brand gains recognition among your customers. You will need to book social media accounts in your business name. Joining a group like this one with dedicated passionate handbag makers can help you a long way in improving your business.
Facebook pages and Instagram accounts have proven to be good marketing tools to many and have lead to many sales. Getting customer selfies with your bags is as good as a testimony. Post them on your page as a marketing tool. Online marketplaces like Etsy, Ebay have made many people superstars in the bag business
Hire field staff to visit retail shops, fancy shops that sell women’s accessories to inquire if they will carry your bags in their shops. Exclusive bag shops / boutiques may also be open to carrying good quality bags on a consignment basis and if you can get regular orders you have a win there.
With regular orders on your way, you do not have to look for customers every month or be uncertain about paying your employees or meeting other expenses.
Concern 9 How to set up a booth to sell my bags ?
Setting up stalls in different places seems to be the most popular way of selling bags. Try to attend established shows conducted during times when people are in a mood to buy like just before a festival.
Usually, you may have to pay rent for getting the booth in the first place. Take that into account in your prizing. You will also have to take into account expenses like Booth display expenses, food and stay expenses, Transportation to events when you price your bags or even deciding to go.
Some craft shows will ask for a copy of your business certificate.So keep one ready.
Keep a diary of such events so that you would not forget to book a stall in advance. Ensure that you bring the appropriate bags for particular fairs /booths. The customers who frequent such booth vary.
When a customer walks past a stall/booth you get about one minute to attract her attention to your stall. Do you know that big stores hire special space designers to arrange their display? You need to take the display of your bags very seriously and make your display so attractive that visitors feel compelled to enter your booth, look through them and buy everything they see in your booth.
If you can afford, make custom display shelves for your booths which can be easily dismantled and transported in your car. Bags with a common theme are attractive to display. For eg. different types of bags in a single colour or monochromatic shades.
An eye catchy big banner/ signage can attract customers to your stall. A small discount or extra goodies can also make your offer attractive for bulk buys.
Have enough business cards so that the customers can contact you later when they really need a bag even though they do not need one from your display.Hang tags for bags, gift coupons, credit card swiping machine, cash box are some of the things I can remember off my mind.
You will need pretty packaging to pack your bags as they sell.
Take the brochure or album with the bags you regularly make and keep them in the booth. Maybe someone will find one of them more appealing than the ones you have on display and give a commission.
Concern 10 How can I start a non-woven carry bag manufacturing and selling business?.
If you want to make these shopping bags in bulk supply for retailers you need special machinery which will cut the required non woven fabric and then steam weld it in the required shape and stitch it . The cutting of handle is also done automatically with the machine .
They are very easy to operate and can be doable by a person who has undergone the training for it. Labour effort is minimal in this business and the product outlay in a particular time frame is enormous
You also need a special multicolor printing machine if the logo of the company has to be printed on the bag. You will have to create/buy special artwork embossed polymer sheets for this. This printing can also be outsourced if you do not have the printing machine.
The capital investment for this business is more than for the handmade bag business. You will need regular orders to make these bags to the full capacity of the machine you have, for this venture to turn into a cash machine for you. But the trend for these bags are up so you may not need to worry.
Most people who start selling bags, stop after some point, disappointed at not selling much of their bags because making one-off bags and selling it at will, is not a business. You need a business to sell bags or otherwise, it remains a hobby.
If you want a business selling bags, treat it like a business, not something you do in your spare time or when you feel like it. This is the first criteria in making a living selling bags. With proper business planning and marketing strategy selling bags can change your life.
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