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How to start a retail business and create a business plan

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Starting up in business can be both demanding and rewarding, and for those looking to establish themselves in the world of retail the choice can present unique challenges. There is the initial decision over whether to establish the business as either a bricks-and-mortar operation, or whether to go completely online. Then there is of course the competition – the retail sector is tough and it is worth bearing in mind that any business no matter how unique is going to have to compete, not just with similar retailers but with a wide variety of different shops for the consumer spend.

Is the retail sector right for you?

Sit yourself down and consider if retail is really the type of business for you, because it is important to be committed. As many of the larger high street chains are proving at the moment, business is tough and with consumers tightening their belts there is less spending money to go around.[2]

Owning a shop is also hard work. If you decide to run a high street outlet you must ideally work in the shop yourself to get to know the business from the bottom up. This leaves less time for other important tasks like managing the finances and marketing the business. Even if your business is online you will have to manage stock and the mailing of purchases to customers as well as promoting the website online.

Many retail start-ups now establish a customer base for their products online before venturing into the world of the high street. This is a less risky way to get started because it requires less start-up capital.

What will you sell?

Many people want to own a shop because they have a special interest in something, for example fashion or crafts. The decision as to what type of retailer you want to be and what type of products you will sell will form the foundation for your business and it is very difficult to change once you are up and running. [2]

Doing some research into what customers are buying and into your competitors is an important step. It will help you to clarify who your customers will be and what they will buy. For example you may want to open a shoe shop. So you would find out: which other shoe shops will be in competition with me, what type of shoes do they sell, who is their target customer, what is the quality and price of their shoes? Is also useful to find out what the demographic is in the local area, for example what is the average age of residents, where do they usually shop, what employment opportunities are in the area?

Doing this research will show you who your potential customers are and how much money they have to spend. It would be pointless opening a designer shoe shop in a town where most of the locals are over 50 and most people work in a factory!

Objectivity is the name of the game here. If a particular hobby or product is close to your heart you may not be able (or want) to see that selling it it would not make a profitable business.

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