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How to Determine if Your Shop Needs a Retail Location

Business Lessons

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One of the most common secondary business ideas that apparel decorator shop owners have is to open a retail store to sell their decorated product.  It’s a natural.  After all, most have been sending out quality work to others who in turn mark it up and sell it to the public. 

Why not make that money too?

Retail isn’t for the timid or weak and poses a completely different set of business challenges.  For starters, the average retail store is open seventy hours a week, including weekends.  Are you ready for that type of dedication? 

Of course, many shops will simply sell their product in a carved out space in their shop.  That takes care of the working hours, as their shop is already open.  However, that doesn’t do much for the most important part of a retail business and that’s location. 

If you are serious about really selling merchandise, operating out of your shop could spell extremely limited sales.  It’s common sense.  Which business will sell more t-shirts...the corner area in your shop, or a spot at a popular mall?  Retail is all about traffic.  Are you positioned for that?

Location, location, location. 

You’ve heard that before right?  This is the most important decision for your retail shop you can choose.  Don’t just pick something that’s close to your house or next to your shop.  You need to choose a spot that works for your business and has a lot of foot traffic. 

Here are a few guidelines to consider for opening a retail store:

Mall Management - like with any group or organization there are rules that you must follow.  Leasing a space in a mall is no different.  Mall management staff can help you understand their rules, but they are based on presenting a unified front to the shopping public.  Their rules are usually strict, and breaking them can hit you financially.  Make sure you understand what you are agreeing to and what it could mean to your primary business before signing anything.

Many shops start off with a small kiosk or pop up location in a mall, and just do it for a limited time, such as during the holiday shopping season.  This could be a good way to gauge your success, without committing to a full blown operation.

Inventory - for you, this could be your strength, as you have total control of this process.  Hopefully, you have the creative genius and taste to pull this off.  If not, consider getting some outside help to mentor you in the process.  Absolutely create your wares with a demographic in mind, and have all of your marketing efforts focuses on this at all times.  Warning: just because you think that the line of apparel is awesome doesn’t necessarily mean that the buying public will feel the same way.

Stay Current - foremost, listen to your customers and stay on top of fashion trends.  The only way you will know what they are looking for is to constantly ask them.  This can be with a more formal approach such as a demographic survey, or very casual with some customer service oriented conversation.

Think It Through - before you open, ask yourself if this is something that you are prepared to do. Ready to work until 8:00 pm on Christmas Eve?  Who is filling in when your retail shop employees quit or are sick?  How will that affect your primary shop business?  What are you going to do about shoplifters, or inventory that won’t sell?

Marketing - how are you going to advertise and market your store?  Social media?  Radio?  Television or print ads?  Direct mail?  Maybe even coupons?  Remember, before you start talking about what’s on sale think about how your customer perceives that.  Are you training them to only shop when there’s a sale on your merchandise?  What does that do to the foot traffic when there isn’t a sale?  How are you differentiating your retail shop from your competition?  Have you created your marketing plan that focuses on your customer demographics?  Do you know them?

Business Plan - you absolutely need one.  This idea needs to be heavily researched.  Ask yourself if you could survive for over a year without drawing a salary from the business?  The biggest reason retail businesses close is that they have an unrealistic idea of breakeven and profitability.  There shouldn’t be a shoot from the hip mentality with this.  Scout your competition.  Think about your staffing.  List every reason you can think of for the business to fail and work on those solutions.

Building a retail business can be a fantastic idea if approached sensibly, and with sound business focus.  Do your research, write your business plan, talk to people and get some help.

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