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How to Start a Retail Business

July 8, 2024

Many people dream of starting a business and becoming their own boss, but it takes a lot of hard work, time and money. So, in order to succeed it’s important to be as prepared as much as possible. To help you on your way we’ve put together this guide to setting up your own business in the retail industry.

Choose your Product

When thinking about how to start a retail business, this is an obvious place to start but it helps to have direction. There are many different ways to decide on what type of retail business you want to start. For example, you might notice a gap in the market; choose a product you’re passionate about, or simply decide on a product that you know will sell well.

Here are the types of retail store you could start:


You'll also need to decide if you want a permanent, brick and mortar shop for your retail space or something else. For example, it could be a pop-up shop, a market stall, or even an online retail business. You'll need to do some research about other local businesses to make sure you won't have too much competition. These are a great way to experiment with your product(s) and see if you can successfully run a business without committing to too many overheads. A pop-up is also a great way for a small business to generate a buzz locally – especially if you want your product to appear exclusive.

Online retail businesses can cost less to start-up than real-world retail stores, and with an online store you can test your product with a wide range of new customers.


Create Your Retail Business Plan

Creating a detailed retail store business plan is crucial for success, as it forces you to consider everything of importance to your shop. It’ll help you establish your business structure, the direction, and give you an insight into your competitors, target market, and customers.

Your business plan should include:

  • Competitor Research 
    What are your competitors doing? How are they marketing themselves? Is there anything you can learn? What could you do better than them? Conducting market research is essential to understand the competitive landscape and refine your store's vision and purpose. 
  • Marketing Strategy 
    This is a big area but you can start small by establishing a presence on social media to establish your brand identity, build awareness and show off your products.
  • Customer Experience 
    Why do they want to buy your product? What does a snapshot of their lives look like? How would your product enhance their lives? Answers to these questions can help you decide which products to sell and how to promote them.
  • Employees 
    This might be a long-term goal but it’s good to establish the kind of people you want and may need to hire in the future. That way you won’t be scrambling around when you find yourself in need of some help!
  • Management 
    This concerns the practical side of things including your opening hours, policies on topics such as customer data and equal opportunities as well as any legalities you might have to address.
  • Financial Projections
    As things progress this will give you an idea of how successful your business is and whether it’s growing or not. Make sure you set yourself realistic and achievable goals. There are various accountancy software packages available which can help you with this. [1]

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Business?

There’s no easy answer to this as it depends on many factors including your goals, location and the type of retail shop you plan to set up. But you’ll need to look at all potential costs to get a good idea of the amount of cash you’ll need. This can be a daunting task and will require a lot of research. Here’s what you should factor in:

  • Expenses 
    Rent or mortgage, utilities and if you have employees, wages too, insurance, business rates, and any finance-related costs you might have. 
  • Stock 
    Investigate how much stock will cost and set a monthly budget.
  • Equipment 
    You may need cash machines, a computer, and maybe even  secondary office space to run your business from.
  • Branding 
    Your brand is part of your identity and can attract customers, show people what you do and make you appear professional. This could include a logo, website and any other marketing materials you might need.
  • Promotion 
    Once you've established your business, you'll need to let people know about it. This could be via free platforms like social media, but you may also want to advertise in other places and you'll need to take the cost of your marketing efforts into account.

So, make a big list of everything you’ll need to run your business and start attributing costs.

Remember to be realistic with your priorities and question if you really need things. Do you really need a fancy coffee machine for customers to use and a state-of–the-art sound system?

Once you’ve got your final number add a little extra to it as you’ll inevitably encounter unexpected costs.

Your final number will help you figure out if you need to save more money or approach a bank for a business loan.

Consider Your Legal Obligations

Choosing the right business structure is crucial for your retail business as it affects legal protection, tax obligations, ownership, and funding opportunities. If this is your very first business you’ll need to learn what’s expected of you from a legal point of view. This will stop you from falling foul of the law and having your business penalised.

Get to grips with the Sale of Goods Act, the Supply of Goods and Services Act, and the Sale and Supply of Goods Act. Review tax and VAT regulations to establish what your obligations are, especially if you have employees.

Sort out your Finances

Whilst it’s important to keep a very close eye on all your incomings and outgoings, an accountant might be outside your budget. So do your research and choose some accounting software that you’ll find easy to use. It’ll help save you time and keep your finances well organised!

Protect Your Business With Insurance

Insurance can be easy to overlook in the excitement of setting up your own retail business, but it’s very important. And it’s vital that you get the correct insurance, as getting it wrong could see you overspending, or even worse, being underinsured in the event of a claim.

Instead of offering a “one-size-fits-all” product, we can help by finding you an insurance package that’s perfect for your business. All you need to do is tell us what you’d like covering and we’ll find and arrange it all for you – and we’re happy to offer advice if you’re unsure. Give us a call on 0330 134 4564.

Now You can Focus on the Fun Things

Developing a unique brand identity is crucial for your retail business. This encompasses a distinctive business name, branding concept and design, market positioning, and ensuring consistent branding across all customer touch points. It's also vital to check for trademark availability and claim relevant domain names and social media handles to maintain a cohesive brand image.

Once you’ve decided on a product, developed your business plan and sorted out funding you can tackle the fun things. What will you name your shop? What do you want the logo to look like? What layout can you use to keep customers interested and spending the most money?

Starting your own business is an exciting time – but it pays to be prepared!





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