Retail has to be one of the oldest and most simple of business models. That does not make it simple to do! It means that the model itself is easy to understand, and if you get two basic things right, you will have a chance of success. The formula is based on the principle that you have something someone wants, and they are willing to pay you for it.
It’s easy to get it right in that sense, but it is also easy to get wrong. People can change their minds, find alternative things to spend their money on or simply find the same product you are selling at a better price elsewhere.
Yet retail is one of the best bets for starting a business, and this is especially true online. So how can you make it work for you and ensure that your retail business is a success?
How well do you fit the right profile?
Most people who make a success out of selling things online or face to face in a retail environment have one thing in common. Enthusiasm. It is the lifeblood of retail, and it should always come before selling.
It doesn’t matter if you are selling cars, plants, children’s toys or potions and lotions. People who are good at selling, enjoy people. They are enthusiastic, and they love what they do.
As well as enthusiasm you will need to be organised. Being organised is important for any business, but for retail it is essential. Make lists, have plans and know where everything is.
Thirdly you are going to have to be determined. That means when you make mistakes and you probably will, you have to learn from them and move on.
More than one great success story in retail took a few knocks before they finally found their stride. If you have all of these qualities, you are more than likely ready to go.
What will you sell?
Rather than looking around hoping an idea will click, or you will anticipate the big demand for a certain trend, focus on what you know. If you are in a certain industry or have some experience you will be more likely to know what is needed and by whom.
Likewise, do you have a hobby or a passion for a particular subject? How can you get involved in supplying say raw materials or presenting and selling a finished product?
Entrepreneurs have started successful retail businesses because their children were a certain age. They developed an interest in clothing or games or books.
Travellers have come back from abroad and started a business selling food or essential oils for example. The choices are endless. If you can create a demand for something, then you have a good chance of being able to supply it.
Develop your business plan
Always have a plan. Know your budget. Stick to it. Start small and solid and build slowly with a good foundation. A good business plan is the blueprint of everything you do. Don’t leave home without it.
Tweak it and adjust by all means, but live it, breathe it and swear by it. The cash flow can only go in one direction for so long before it starts to come back and makes sense. Know when that time is.
Get the right location
This is vital. You need to be somewhere there is foot traffic. You need to be in the right part of town for your product. Look at this physically but also think about it virtually.
Online shopping is huge and growing all the time. That is not the say there is no place for the shop, just the opposite in fact. Both should complement each other. But then, you could start your business online and even order from a third-party.
Your online location is, of course, your website. You need to draw people to you. That is done through your web design but also through your use of promotion on social media.
Figure out how much capital you need to get started
Get your finances right. Spend on what you really need. Expenses like rent (first/last month, security deposit), utilities, staffing, inventory, computers, phones, internet, Point of sale (POS) system, card readers, scanners and printers are the important initial costs you can’t avoid.
Other costs like licenses, permits, taxes, registration, legal and accounting fees are equally crucial to get you started right.
Build an inventory system
A crucial aspect of your business is controlling your stock, orders and payments. Understanding this is the key to your cash flow and your success. At the end of the day, week and month you need to know exactly what has been sold and where.
You will need to know what your stock levels are and how much you have to order in. All of these this can determine whether you succeed or fail. Talk to a company like Khaos Control who can help you with the software for all these things.
Getting the right system in place will allow you to focus on the front end of your business and finding new ways of expanding and growing.
Know your market
This is essential in the world of retail. Get into the minds of your customers. What sort of things do they like, want and need? What is going to appeal to them and what might they be interested in hearing about?
Knowing your market also means understanding what else is out there. What is the competition and where do you fit in? Where is the market heading? Do you need to diversify with a wider range of products or will you do better to focus on one thing that you do particularly well?
Listen to your customers
This links back to the beginning of the piece. Listening to your customers is the single most important thing that you can do. Talk to them and communicate with them.
If they are interested in your products and ranges, build up and foster that interest. Connect with them through social media and encourage them to share. Offer them incentives and special offers.
Build your brand with loyalty, good value and great customer service. People deserve and like to be treated well, and they remember the good and the bad. The customers are your business, and their loyalty should be important to you.
Making a success of your retail business is neither hard nor easy. It is simply a matter of getting the basics right, which can be hard work and then reaping the rewards, which should hopefully be a little easier!