Two of the most popular choices amongst budding entrepreneurs is the hospitality industry and retail. Independent stores are a popular choice with consumers, as many people like the ideology of supporting local businesses.
Furthermore, many of these boutique retailers can offer customers things they might not have seen elsewhere.
However, there is still a lot of competition that independent stores must face, both in physical form and online retailers.
With so many shops and restaurants available to consumers, it can be a hostile environment for a new independent business.
If you are interested in opening a small retail store or have recently done so, here are some things you need to think about and work on for success.
This article will take a closer look at retail businesses and some of the key elements a small business owner needs to focus on to make sure they succeed.
#1. Market Research
Any business plan needs to have thorough market research as part of the process.
Even if you have an already established business, keeping yourself in the loop about the latest trends, consumer demands and other developments that are relevant to your industry is essential.
Consider your competitors and assess how they are operating – are there things you can learn from them?
What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Send surveys to consumers to find out what they expect from retailers and how their shopping experience can be improved.
These are just a handful of the things you will learn from your market research, and all of this information will be invaluable.
#2. Business Loans & Insurance
The majority of start-up businesses will need to find funding, as not everybody is in a position to finance their business venture entirely by themselves.
To secure a business loan you must have a professional business plan prepared and be ready to make a presentation to either the bank or another private investor.
There are alternative government-run schemes that can offer entrepreneurs financial help, too. Make sure you research retail business loans, as these will be specific to your needs as a retailer.
It’s also worth noting that you will need to get the correct kind of business insurance, which will be a legal requirement, so don’t forget to factor those costs into your loan application.
You will need to make sure your insurance covers liability, stock and content, business interruption, and damages to the premises.
If you’re going to open a physical store, the location is very important. While you must rent a retail unit that is affordable, it also needs to be in a prime location.
You might not be able to pay high rents for a city-centre store, but consider the alternatives for the first few years of business until you can move to a more prestigious area or larger space.
Is there a local market you can have a stall at?
These are great positions for independent retailers to start with and build up a reputation. The main thing is that you get enough footfall and the location is easy to find.
You should also consider the general atmosphere of the area and how your store fits in with other businesses surrounding it.
#4. e-CommerceEvery business needs to have an online presence, and as a retailer, you will need to have a fully-functioning e-commerce website for your customers to shop online.
Your website must look professional and be easy to navigate, displaying your products correctly. You can hire a professional website designer to do this for you, or instead use a website builder such a Wix or GoDaddy.
They have a range of templates to choose from and they have e-commerce tools you can incorporate into your site. They also offer a range of packages that are suitable for a variety of budgets, which might be more cost-effective for a start-up company.
#5. Build Your Brand
As an independent retailer, it’s important to build your brand awareness and gain the trust of consumers. When developing your business brand, consider your company’s ethos and purpose, and explore different ways of portraying these in your logo and taglines.
For example, if you’re opening a health-food store, how can you make your branding different from other businesses offering the same thing?
Do your logo and brand name make it clear this is what your business does?
You should also use social media and other digital marketing techniques to enhance your brand awareness and make yourself visible to consumers across these channels. The best way to succeed is by getting people to talk about your business and maintain a positive reputation with consumers.
#6. Special Offers
You must get customers to keep coming back for more and attract new customers at the same time. If you’re a new store in town, people aren’t going to be familiar with your products and might need encouragement to try them out.
By having special offers and promotions running when you open, this will tempt people to come into your store and test your products.
You should also consider having seasonal sales, or a running 3 for 2 deal (or something similar) to keep attracting new customers throughout the year.
If people love what you’re selling, they’re likely to pay more for it after the initial discounts. It’s also worth considering providing your customers with samples of products with their purchases to help promote other items in your store.
#7. Reward Customers
It’s important that your customers feel appreciated, especially if they’re loyal to your store. Having a rewards scheme is a great way to retain customers and promote positive customer relationships.
Many retailers choose to do this in the form of a points system, where after so many purchases they can get money off a shop. You can also give them priority access to promotional offers or new products.
If customers fall in love with your store and products, they will certainly take advantage of your loyalty scheme and will be encouraged to spend more on your business.
#8. High Customer Service Standards
While loyalty schemes and promotional sales are both great ways to keep customers happy, there is more to maintaining these relationships than that.
If a customer is shopping in your store this experience must be amazing for them. Make sure your staff has been trained on how to offer top-quality customer service and learn about the products your selling.
The more knowledgeable they are, the more helpful they will be to your customers. The better the service, both in-store and online, the better your store’s reputation will be.
Retail is a very tough industry to get into, but that doesn’t mean your independent store won’t be a success. Make sure you’re paying close attention to the points above when opening your store to help you succeed in retail.