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Back to the Bricks: How to Scout a Perfect Location for Your Small Retail Store

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    For many small business owners getting into retail, the natural choice for the last 10 years or so has been to open an online, digital ecommerce store. But don't count retail out yet. When compared to 2019, retail sales in 2021 were up 21.9 percent. And total retail sales worldwide are forecast at $26.69 trillion in 2022. While ecommerce remains strong, retail is definitely seeing a growth spurt.


    So, let’s get back to bricks here and talk about choosing a location for your in-person retail store. If you’re on a journey to choosing a retail store location for your business, these tips on how to choose the right location just might be the inspiration you need to make the first step.

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    Where Should I Locate My Retail Business?

    While there are many truths in adages and common phrases, in this instance, there’s one that just doesn’t hold up:

    When it comes to choosing a location for a business, just because you build it does not mean they’ll come.

    Choosing the right location for your retail business is about balancing a number of different factors, including the needs of your business and the preferences of your customers.

    How to Scout the Perfect Location for Your Retail Store

    There are a number of different factors that go into choosing the right retail location for your small business. So, what are the steps to choose the right retail location? We’ve got a detailed list of steps and considerations to help you along your journey. 

    Consider What You Need in a Building

    Before you even set out to shop for a location for your small retail store, start off by making a list of your needs. Find a comfy spot, grab a piece of paper and brainstorm what you need in a building. Making a list before you go out shopping gives you facts to rely on so you’re focused on what you need and don’t get distracted by beautiful buildings or sales tactics.

    Get a good idea of your basic needs for utilities, bathrooms, retail space, storage area and administrative offices. Once you’ve got a good understanding of your basic needs, you’ll be more prepared to see buildings and find the best location for your needs.

    Choose for Visibility and Customers

    Once you know a building will meet your basic needs, then it’s time to think about your customers and visibility. The right building will be in a location that’s convenient and accessible for your customers.

    Before buying a retail location, you’ll want to research the local area. There are a number of ways to research an area’s demographics:

    • Speak to other local business owners.
    • Request local demographic information from the local library, chamber of commerce or census. 
    • Research online for any information about local demographics.

    By researching the demographics of a neighborhood or location, you’re getting a feel for who the customer is in that area. You want the retail location you choose for your business to be where your customers already are. 

    Just because there’s a lot of foot traffic in one area doesn’t mean that there are a lot of customers. Those people walking by may not be your ideal customer or they may not be shopping. Finding a location with good visibility and a location that’s convenient for your type of customer will help your retail business be more successful.

    Study Your Competitors

    A great way to get information about the best retail business locations is to study your competitors and similar businesses. 

    If there’s a retail location that you’re interested in, start watching to see what types of customers frequent that location and how many make a purchase. You can also try to strike up a conversation with the business owner and see if they have any information to share with you.

    By doing market research, you can start to see which retail locations are working and which aren’t. 

    Choose Complementary Neighbors

    As you start to look at other businesses to find out if their location is beneficial to their business, start thinking about which business will be complementary to yours. Choosing a retail location based on what other businesses are located there can help your business's success. 

    While you don’t want to choose a retail location that’s too close to one of your competitors, you should look for a retail location with complementary neighbors. For example, if you’re planning to open a jewelry store, moving into a shopping complex next door to a clothing store would give your business compatible neighbors. Both your business and your neighbors will attract the same type of customers and make for a comprehensive shopping experience for your customers. 

    Understand Zoning and Permitting

    When scouting out a retail location for your small business, it’s also important to get familiar with zoning and permitting laws. Some areas have regulations against which types of businesses can move into that location and have rules regarding what type of signage can be used. Before you sign a lease, be sure to ask questions and understand the policies, permitting and zoning that regulate that retail location. 

    Consider Long-Term Viability

    Another factor to consider when shopping around for your perfect retail store location is the long-term visibility. While you may not have a crystal ball that can see how your city or neighborhood is going to change in the future, it’s important to consider what might happen in the future.

    Neighborhoods change for the better and the worse over time. As you’re looking for a retail location, consider the changes that are happening and how those will affect your store over the next couple of years.

    Measure Affordability

    The affordability of your retail location is based on more than just the cost of rent. When you’re comparing your budget to the asking price, be sure to include all of the costs of managing a physical location. These include:

    • Utilities
    • Lawn care
    • Security costs
    • Building maintenance and repairs
    • Property taxes
    • Remodeling or updates

    Before you choose your dream location, it’s important to understand whether or not you can afford all of the costs that come with that location.

    Assess Functionality and Need for Renovation

    Your unique business will have unique retail needs. When you’re looking for a retail space, you’ll want to consider whether or not that space can accommodate the needs of your business. And, if it can’t immediately accommodate those needs, determine what the cost of updating or renovating the space would be. 

    Make Sure There’s Parking

    In most cities in America, the common mode of transportation is an individual car. If you want customers to come to your retail store, you want it to be convenient for them. This means that you need parking. As you’re evaluating different retail locations, be sure to ask about and assess the availability of parking and how that will affect your customers. 

    Assess for Accessibility

    While much of your decision of where to locate your retail store should be based on making it convenient for your customers, you shouldn’t forget about yourself or your future employees. Choosing a retail location that’s close to where you live and in an area where potential employees live or can conveniently get to can make for a better location. This can also increase work-life balance for you and your employees. 

    Trust Yourself 

    Yes, there’s a lot that goes into choosing a retail location that fits your needs and the needs of your customers in order to have a successful business. But, in the end, you just have to trust your gut. When you find a location that fits your basic needs, then it's time to tune into your instincts and trust in yourself that you will choose the right location.

    When it comes to choosing a retail location, there are a lot of different factors to consider. With this list in your back pocket and savvy business know-how, you have the tools and knowledge you need to start that process. And we’re here to help. If you haven’t yet started your business, the first simple step you can take is by getting a $0 + state fee LLC.

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    Page Grossman

    Page Grossman

    Page is a freelance content marketing writer with experience writing about small business, the future of the workplace and health. She also operates a weekly email newsletter where she shares advice on living an authentic, intentional life. When not writing, you can find Page traveling, fostering older cats and working as a sexual assault advocate.


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