No matter what industry you're in, starting a business is never easy. Retail stores are no exception — between picking a location and perfecting your products, there are tons of things to do and keep track of, and it can be easy to forget small but important steps that can set you up for business success.
Want to make sure your retail store gets off to a good start? Business News Daily asked retail store owners and business experts for their best advice.
Before you plan your grand opening, make sure you do these 10 things.
Create your mission statement
"Create a mission statement and continue to look back on it as you grow your business. It is so important to keep your original entrepreneurial mindset and grassroots approach. This is what continues to drive you to stay competitive and remember the reason you started your business in the first place." – Beth Arrowood, CEO and creative director, NIBA Collections
Know how to present your business
"Know your 'why' — you should be able to easily and succinctly tell people in a short amount of time why you are opening your store. Let people know how your business will benefit the community." – Jaclyn Joslin, owner and principal designer, Coveted Home
Figure out your finances
"I encourage entrepreneurs to take a good hard look at what it takes to support them personally for at least six months and then add that to their start-up expenses and regular operating expenses. [Don't] even plan on signing a lease or purchasing merchandise unless you have enough money in the bank to cover these expenses. This is how you go eyes wide open into a new business venture." – Jennifer Martin, business coach and founder, Zest Business Consulting
Plan for customer service
"[I've] learned that it's less about the product and more about customer service and giving [customers] a unique experience they wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else. So my advice before opening a retail store would be to make a solid plan and strategy on how to maximize an exceptional customer experience unique only to your store, as that allows for referrals and great word of mouth." – Rawie Laborce, founder, Rivermen [Customer Service Done Right: 5 Best Practices ]
Investigate your space
"Hang out at the store location before signing the lease. This will allow you to gauge foot traffic, business hours of nearby businesses, access to bathrooms, lighting during the day — [do you] need an awning? — [and] lighting at night —is it safe for an employee to close up alone? — etc. Most people are so excited looking at a retail space that they fail to really consider the pros and cons of the location. Spending time at the space may reveal some things that you can either address with the landlord, or may lead you to keep looking." – Christina Okubo, branding and creative consultant
Find a location with good traffic
"Don’t go cheap when it comes to real estate. The more traffic, foot or vehicle, you can garner, the better. For example, if you have a choice between two properties, one [with] a great anchor like Starbucks or Walgreens, the rent will likely be higher but probably worth it in the long run. The extra revenue will likely outweigh the extra cost of a great location." –Tom Scarda, franchise consultant, FranChoice
Design the right store layout
"Every store layout is unique and customers shop differently depending on the industry. Beauty and electronics require room for customers to play. Leaving room for customers to sample or smell beauty products is crucial. For electronics, you have to set them up in a way for customers to test and compare them. You want to make sure you create an environment that inspires this kind of engagement. Few people have purchased perfumes or TV without trying them out first. Go visit the top retailers in your industry to see how they lay out the store. What items have the most playing room? Which items are conveniently positioned at the register for impulse buys?" – Shannon Fitzgerald, founder and creative director, Brazen Branding
Take care of legal paperwork
"Check the licensing and permit requirements for their place of business. Your Secretary of State's office is a good place to start. Retailers should also define their type of business — LLC, Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, etc. — and file the necessary paperwork. This will impact their tax filings and licensing requirements." – Kiry Peng, CEO and president, Business Consumer Alliance
Finalize your products
"Make sure you have your products the way you want them. No test dummies or samples — this is the real deal! If you need to test the market do some market research or test on friends and family first." – Nicole Bandklayder, co-founder and CMO, BijouxxJewels.com
Network with potential customers
"Network! There's an assumption in retail, especially, that if you build it, they will come. Just stock the shelves, open the doors, and wait for the customers to roll in - right? Wrong. You need to get out into your communities to build brand awareness and word of mouth before opening. Who's going to come to your grand opening if they don't know about it?" – Claire Jones, owner, The General Store Seattle