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4 Tips On Opening A Brick-And-Mortar Retail Business

shop interior

So you’re considering opening a physical retail business? Congratulations, you have a tough ride ahead. While it may seem like every other day there’s a new store is being opened in town, the fact that many others are closing down – at the same time – is cold harsh reality. The retail industry is facing many challenges now, especially in the face of slowing consumer spending and the rise of online shopping.

But for many consumers, brick-and-mortar retail shops still provide the best shopping experience.

So if you’re planning to open a retail business, here are four tips you may want to consider that can help you create best chances for retail success:

1. Obtaining the space – buy or lease?

Many people will tell you that when it’s time to look for a retail space, it’s all about “location, location, location”. That is certainly true, as finding the right location dictate the foot traffic in the immediate area and thus, the number of potential customers who might step through the door, as well as convenience for your regular customers. The kinds of businesses around your area may also impact on your business; you may create synergies with them that give more reasons for customers to come visit, or it may have a detrimental impact (if they’re sleazy, for example, or targeted at a totally different demographic).

But experts will say it’s not just about the location. It’s about details in obtaining a space at all – for example, you need to decide if you want to outright purchase the shopfront, or lease it from commercial or private landlords. You’ll need to find out if the space you’re looking at allows you to even obtain the requisite licences or approvals to run the type of business you want; for example, certain retail businesses, like car showrooms, require special access for the cars and defined floor load limits to be displayed, and not all retail spaces have that kind of infrastructure.

If you need some guidance, here’s an excellent guide from leading UK commercial property supplier Pall Mall Estates that details some of the main points to remember when looking to open a retail business, including property leasing, legal obligations, tenant obligations, business responsibilities and other key considerations.

2. Dressing the shopfront – the importance of branding.

Now that you have your space, how do you dress it up so that it not only communicates what your brand really stands for, but is also visually appealing and help entice people through your doors?

Here’s where branding comes in. This can be a lot easier if you’re a franchisee of a big franchise business that already has an established brand, and have branding guidelines that dictate how you can or cannot kit out your space. But if you’re totally new to the market, you may want to enlist the help of branding experts to help you create your brand first so as to be able to identify the various branding elements that will help you set the tone and look for your shop space. But if you choose to do it yourself, make sure you spend some time observing how other competitors in your space – or even good examples outside your industry – approach branding and pick up some ideas from them.

3. Creating a retail experience – a.k.a. how to make people buy more.

Here’s where visual merchandising is actually a whole industry on itself; it’s actually both an art and a science!  Display marketing, for example, which determines where and how you display your products, can have an impact on whether a customer finally completes his purchase. By creating an environment which appeals to customers on a subconscious level, shop owners can persuade people to spend more money in-store. In fact, failing to understand the importance of creating the appropriate purchasing experience through merchandising will render other marketing efforts useless.

There are simple tips like keeping your space spotlessly clean, the importance of dressing up your windows, to engaging as many of your customers’ senses when they’re in-store, such as through the appropriate music, use of pleasing scents that enhance the mood, to even the use of colour psychology to draw the right attention. Experiential marketing experts such as RPM can help advise on creating visual displays in-store (or even outdoors) to create the optimum retail purchasing experience.

4. Marketing – getting the word out.

You’d probably agree that there is no point being the best-looking store with the best range of products in town… when nobody knows you exist. Sure, word will start to get around as customers tell their friends about the wonderful in-store experience they had in your retail shop, but that may take some time. Some business owners – those who are watching every penny – can be loathe to spend money on marketing their businesses, but marketing – whether it’s in the form of paid offline or online advertising, public relations, etc – can spell the difference between an early ignominious doom, a slow but sure death… or future sustained business success.

And you don’t always have to be spending a lot of money to buy attention. The idea is to build customer relationships and showcase your industry expertise, so even involving your business in community and charity events can help grow attention and build loyalty.

Just remember – without marketing, there is no market; and without customers, no business is going to survive.

The retail business can be an extremely challenging one, and business owners intending to opening a brick-and-mortar retail business need to consider a multitude of things in order to increase their odds of success. We hope that the above tips can tip the odds in your favour, and wish you all the best in that endeavour!


Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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