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Starting up in retail

Things to watch out for in the retail sector

Quote Retailing is big business in the UK, with sales in the sector worth over £23bn a year. End Quote

Retailing is big business in the UK, with sales in the sector worth over £23bn a year. As a small business you could pick up a slice of that cash.

Starting up in retail is much like starting up in any other sector, but there are certain things you'll need to think about carefully if your plans are to succeed. As with any new business, you'll need to have a solid business plan. Here are some other tips to get you started.

Find your niche
You need to see if there's an obvious gap in the market. If so, is that because you've thought of something nobody else has, or have others tried before and found that actually the gap's there because there's no business to be had?

Choose your site
Finding the right location is essential, but what works for one retailer might not work for another. If you're focused on convenience then you'll want to be close to your target customers. Selling specialist goods may give you a wider catchment area. You'll also want to look at rents and how much space there is. Will you want the potential to expand in the future?

Assess the competition
Have a look at the other similar businesses in your target area. The chances are that the competition will always be around. Look to complement what's already available, rather than taking on established businesses head on.

Decide what to sell
Make sure you think carefully about the products you're going to stock. Plan ahead - you can use internet searches and trade magazines to locate new merchandise before you start trading. Always consider your stock levels - be sure you can reorder products that sell well, but make sure you don't get stuck with a warehouse of stuff nobody wants.

Set up shop
Once you've decided on where you want to be and the type of premises you want, you'll have to look at layout, equipment and decorations. You need to be sure the atmosphere is right for what you're selling. Loud music might work well in a surf shop, but it's not so suitable for a kitchen equipment retailer. Don't forget the practicalities: can people move around easily? Is there enough space for all your stock? Are there enough tills?

Have you considered how technology could help your business? There are all sorts of options when it comes to tills and stock control. One to consider is Microsoft's own Retail Management System. You could even look into setting up an online shop.

Create your brand
Having a strong brand can be massively beneficial to your company. It makes your business memorable, gives it an identity and lets you associate it with certain values. Simple things can help here: Use a consistent logo, have a memorable name and makes sure everything you do reinforces the image you want to project.

Raise awareness
You'll want to make your opening day a success with some pre-launch publicity. Make a noise about your business and don't be shy: Contact local newspapers and radio stations, get involved with local events and seasonal specials and get your logo noticed by distributing leaflets and flyers. Special offers and gimmicks on the day will help get people through the door.

Check the law
Make sure you comply with all relevant laws. Have you checked there are no rules restricting when you can open? Have you checked the latest employment law? Have you gone through the proper process to form your company? Don't forget to consider what insurance you might need too.

Think about staff
If you're opening a shop then it's likely you'll be employing some members of staff. Make sure you're familiar with all the red tape and your legal and financial responsibilities. Choose your employees carefully, and always take up references.

More help

If you want more comprehensive help to start up a retail business, then why not take a look at the British Chambers of Commerce Guide to Successful Retailing? It's packed with useful help and advice to get you through the challenges involved in starting from scratch, and has plenty of tips to help you succeed once you've started up. Best of all, it's completely free. You can download it right now (pdf format, 2,979KB). Alternatively, fill in this form to order a printed copy completely free of charge. You'll also get the chance to order other guides on a variety of different subjects, though you will need to sign in with a Microsoft Passport.

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