Starting up Online or On The High Street: What Should I Do?


The retail sector is one of the hardest in the economy to crack. To make a success of a retail startup, a great deal of patience, knowledge and innovation is needed, while having plenty of financial resources is also useful in case there are problems along the way. If you want to get into retail, you can either set up shop online or in a traditional high street shop.

Both online and offline retail come with numerous challenges, but what are they? Here are a few things start-ups need to know about starting an retail business online and maintaining a ‘brick and mortar’ shop.

Online retail

  • A growing proportion of retail sales come from eCommerce, although it can be hard to succeed using the internet alone.
  • Fewer fixed costs from not having to run a shop, hence lower barrier to entry into market and cheaper resources to establish an online shop.
  • Online retail sites are better for companies offering services as opposed to products
  • Useful for targeting international customers, although shipping costs can be high. Your online business has the potential to serve a larger customer base from different countries, but its probably a good strategy to serve your local customers first id you intend to ship products to customers.
  • Useful if demand in the local area is insufficient. Opportunities for growth are endless but it could take time to scale.
  • Competition is high, hence the need to offer unique and great services that differentiates from the rest.

Offline retail

  • Best option for retail, especially if hoping to do well with local customer base.
  • Useful for selling certain items, especially those that have a short shelf life such as fresh food and toiletries
  • Ideal for directly engaging with customers.
  • Great for improving brand awareness, especially in a local community
  • Initial startup cost is high since you will have to invest in physical assets to kick-start your retail store.

Choosing either one or the other might sound like an easy decision to make, but the most successful companies tend to dabble in both. In most cases, businesses that started out as ‘bricks and mortar’ have moved into online territory, doing very well in the process.  Do your research, find out what works and whether you can be successful starting off online or offline.

Checkout how they’re doing

A shining example of how offline stores can make the smooth transition to the world of ecommerce is supermarket chain Tesco. They have managed to succeed where many of their rivals – including Morrison’s – have failed by taking advantage of online retail in a way which helped them to stay at the top of the supermarket pyramid.

Lighting up the high street

Amazingly, it’s possible that online retailers can move onto the high street without too much trouble. This might seem strange, but a handful of UK-based firms have managed to move online with relative ease.

The electronic cigarette retailer ecigarettedirect.co.uk has recently opened a store in Neath, South Wales, which has succeeded in boosting the brand name in the region, providing local jobs and improving sales. Should the Neath store succeed, more may follow in the near future.