IF YOU THINK EVERYTHING YOU PLAN ON PAPER IS ETCHED IN STONE…THINK AGAIN.
Are you in the process of transitioning from business plan to physical storefront? Or moving from one pre-existing location to a second one? Realize just how important it is to consider all of the details.
Your business plan, your playbook and any logistical blueprint you’ve been working with might suggest that all you need is to get those doors open; get the systems operating for everything to work out. That might not be (and often isn’t) the case. There’s a possibility that you’ve missed some aspects in your preparation. And how can you know what you don’t know? Expanding your retail footprint can be intimidating.
So, let’s walk through where your focus should be and what to beware of, while you’re looking for that perfect space for your brick-and-mortar retail location.
HUNGRY TO BUILD YOUR BUSINESS? SUCCESS IS ABOUT MOVING SMARTER, NOT FASTER.
1. Match made in heaven.
Customers first, right? Any location you scope out must take their needs into consideration:
- You’ll need to know your customers’ wants and how that translates into your brand’s presence in the physical space.
- You need to understand customer expectations and what your competitors’ offerings are.
- You must have a plan to draw customers into your store, starting with exterior signage (location permitting, visibility from the road).
- Your location needs to be accessible and appealing. Make it easy for your customer!
2. It’s all about the details.
If you like a location, drill down to demographics and get intimate with your target market:
- Analyze and embrace the demographic your business will cater to – your target market’s age, income, education and shopping habits.
- Understand the types of products or services they want and ensure your location best suits your business.
- Know what vehicle traffic to expect and provide adequate, accessible parking.
- Consider the level of foot traffic coming your way and accessibility to public transportation stops.
3. Like a good neighbour…
While exploring your surroundings and your neighbours, ask:
- Is the area safe?
- Are you prepared for certain times of the year to create fluctuation in sales?
- Have you gauged the lifespan of other comparable businesses in your area: frequency of new openings, closeouts, and length of stay?
4. Birds of a feather.
It’s vital to understand your competition, where they’re located and what they’re doing, whether that’s around the corner or within a quick drive from your potential location.
5. Do not zone out.
Understand the rules of running your business at the location you want. Familiarize yourself with municipal bylaws, zoning regulations, and more:
- Determine if your business is compatible with the potential location.
- Have you done your due diligence with the municipality to ensure you and your business meets all operational requirements?
- If you’re opening a restaurant, consider whether the potential location is already outfitted with everything you need (a good kitchen, the right type of plumbing, gas for ovens, ventilation etc.) or is it a complete gut-job (cha-ching!).
6. Your journey starts here.
Evaluate the physical space and what you need to sell your products:
- On the exterior of the building, examine doors (entrances, exits, accessibility), windows (size, purpose, quality, condition) and the roof (perhaps you want to add a large sign or a roof-top patio).
- Assessing the suitability of the interior retail space for product display is a given, but factor in other areas like restrooms, offices, storage areas, lunch rooms, etc.
- Envision the interior layout. Would this space feel empty, because it’s too big? Or cluttered, because it’s too small for what you’re selling? Use a critical eye.
- Determine what codes will be applicable to your business. If it’s a restaurant, health codes are vital.
- Nothing is perfect, so do your own inspections. The space might require repairs or renovations; updating hardware, electrical, lights as well as fixtures and displays (shelves, counters, etc.).
- Structurally speaking, the property needs to handle the weight of your ambition! And the products you’re selling, of course. Floors must be strong enough. Walls must be sound. The space must carry its weight.
- The mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEPs) needs to be sound, up-to-date, appropriate for your business needs and must meet all applicable standards in your city.
7. Don’t break the bank.
When searching for the best space for your new store, affordability is always the bottom line. A detailed budget can be your best friend and more often than not, unexpected expenses arise. Over-estimating or buffering your numbers can provide some breathing room. Stay calm; you’ve got this.
Begin by ensuring that both your building and desired layout accommodates any equipment you’re planning for. A building permit will be necessary (although codes vary by province/state depending on location), but any decent contractor can help with securing proper paperwork.
And speaking of contractors, budget-friendly is great, but be sure to ask if the firm is licensed. Consider if that work was. It’s your wallet and there’s no room for mistakes.
And if your wallet can expand to hire a good architect (even at higher cost), it’s worth considering. Rather than scrimping on essentials such contractors, designer partners… even a qualified architect, quality, and consistency frequently save money in the long-run.
8. Stick to the plan.
Details matter. Overlooked aspects can cost you, so keep your eye on additional costs for electrical, plumbing, landscaping, etc. Avoiding last minute changes wherever possible is critical, but should they occur, make sure they don’t create delays or budget overruns.
The takeaways. Starting with “nothing” doesn’t always mean nothing.
Often, retailers turn to us unsure how to proceed. They may have their lease in hand – unaware how to design and build their space. Others have detailed plans and need the ability to make the plans work across different location requirements. And others still, come to us with almost nothing on paper.
The simple truth is that the earlier we can be brought into the process, the more help and guidance we can provide.
Take this real client story for example. A leading subscription-based service in the retail entertainment space wanted to move their business into a brick and mortar location, their first. They came to us asking for a concept, and at the same time, unbeknownst to us they also signed a lease for a brand new space – not knowing that brand new space was only a blank box. Their space didn’t include electrical, flooring, and any finishings.
This, of course, was a bit of a problem, as their budget and plan didn’t account for the time and materials needed to build out the space. Luckily we were able to step in and coach the client through the process of renegotiating with their landlord to get out of the lease agreement without penalties and instead move into a previously built out space that needed only cosmetic work, as opposed to structural work.
In closing, remember that it’s your vision, your purpose, and your business. You know it best. But along the way, things can build up and feel overwhelming and that’s why you don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to help with feasibility studies, space walkthroughs, and we can provide direction on location potential.
Give us a shout; let’s talk.