Tips For Starting a Retail Business

Do you want to become one of the over 24 million men and women who own a retail business in the United States? Selling products and services is one of the most exciting, time-intensive, exasperating and fun adventures you will ever take on. The first challenge of many is to figure out what you need to do to get off the ground. Here are some tips from successful entrepreneurs.


The ways people sell goods and services are seemingly as varied as humanity itself. Here are just a few of the most popular:

  • The traditional retail store with a fixed location, many walk-in customers and a wide array of products on display;
  • A specialty retail store catering to a niche line of products or type of customer;
  • Non-store retailing including e-commerce, mail order, telephone sales, door-to-door, home parties and vending machines.

If one of these types of sales environments appeals to you, you must then make sure that you have the personality traits required for all entrepreneurs. These include the ability to multi-task; tolerate fluctuations and risks; deal with stress and the unpredictable; be self-motivated and excited by diversity. If you don’t possess these vital traits, starting your own retail business might not be right for you.


Competition is fierce in today’s business climate, particularly now that e-commerce has taken hold with so many consumers. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to understand and communicate what separates you from the rest of the pack. Are you going to sell a new product that people want? Or perhaps you have a new twist on an item that already exists. Is there a potential pool of buyers waiting to snap up what you have to offer? The time to ask and answer these questions is not once you have invested all of your capital and passion into your enterprise; it is as you are setting it up. Use resources such as online analytical tools, peers and local networking contacts to help you determine whether your fledgling company has the potential to take off in your area or with the customer base you are targeting.


Taking the rugged individualist approach when starting a new store or company is a recipe for disaster. By collaborating with mentors, investors and personal contacts, you can gain the informational, financial and emotional support that you will need throughout the process of planning, setting up and launching your new business. In addition, there are plenty of excellent written resources from well-respected entities such as the Better Business Bureau that can help you as you do the nuts-and-bolts work of laying the groundwork for your retail establishment.


Whether you sell your goods at craft fairs or in a fixed store, you need to find a place that is affordable, visible and not saturated with competitors selling similar products. Do your homework, looking at factors such as traffic and parking, what stores are nearby, proximity of competitors and lease term. Where you put down roots can make or break your business, so don’t jump at the first place you see.


The way your location is designed, including colors, lighting, themes and product placement will set the tone for the customer’s experience and satisfaction. An ideal store combines an appealing design with a layout conducive to efficiency, sales and customer satisfaction. Even things such as the way a customer waits in line to purchase products are crucial. Consequently, part of your layout should include doing research on the point of sale payment system that will make the checkout process as easy as possible while giving you added features to run your solicit business.


Now it’s time to figure out specifically what you are going to sell. Classify your inventory into categories and then divide these into sub-classifications. Determine how much money you want to spend on each sub-category. Find reliable distributors who can sell you what you need at a competitive price that will enable you to earn a profit.


Recruit people who are passionate and able to problem-solve and multi-task while being unfailingly pleasant to customers. The friendlier and more knowledgeable your staff is about what you sell, the more likely it is that they will quickly establish a rapport with buyers and move products off the sales floor. During the hiring process, be sure you are transparent about all of the responsibilities the job will entail.

The establishment of a retail business is a succession of small, sequential steps leading up to launch, marketing and, ideally, growth and success. It is not a task for the lazy or the impulsive. Making your store into the envy of the neighborhood or the internet will take endless hours, infinite patience, numerous resources and many fits and starts. However, if you have the drive, the support and the necessary tools, you can make it a reality.