How to Open a Retail Store

How to Open a Retail Store Checklist

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Things look good for retailers this holiday season. Nearly 190 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year. That reflects an increase of 14 percent over last year’s sales numbers according to the National Retail Federation. And most retailers are small businesses. So the future looks good to get your share of the retail pie — if you do it right. Of course, 20 percent of business startups don’t survive past the first year in business. So take the proper steps and you will make the difference between success and failure.

How to Open a Retail Store Checklist

How to Open a Retail Store

Have you always imagined owning your own store? Check out our how to open a retail store checklist.

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Step 1. Do Your Homework

Got a great business idea? You can have the best idea on earth but if you don’t have a market to sell to, you’re definitely starting off on the wrong foot. Find out as much as you can about your target customers including age, location, shopping behavior patterns and more. The government is a great source of information. Explore the Census Bureau data page for key numbers and research websites like Pew Research for surveys and trends. Have a retail idea for specific city, check with the city’s business and economic development office for local demographics.

Step 2. Create a Business Plan

You’ve, of course, heard stories about successful entrepreneurs whose business plans were merely scribbles on a napkin, but those tales don’t really work for most entrepreneurs hoping to make a new retail idea take off. That’s why a business plan should be the next step on your how to open a retail store checklist. A business plan not only gives you clarity about understanding about how your business will be organized, it can help you make smarter financial and management decisions.

Plus, if you need investors or bank loans, the business plan will be the first thing they ask for. A business plan is a dynamic document that should be adapted and modified throughout your business life. It basically consists of an executive summary, market analysis, financial projections, employee needs and a thorough description of the products sold in your retail store.

How to Open a Retail Store

Step 3. The Nuts & Bolts

It might not be as exciting as planning your grand opening, but having a solid foundation is what is going to make your retail business stick around when others are closing due to poor planning. It’s important to register your business name in the state you plan to do business, file papers for incorporation (if that’s the business entity you choose), get all the necessary licenses and permits for doing business in your city and get an Employer Identification Number (EIN, or Federal Tax Identification Number) from the IRS.

A resale license allows you to buy products for resale without having to pay sales tax. Next, it’s crucial to buy business insurance for your retail store. Shoplifting and employee theft are common issues retailers face, but there is also the risk of customers getting hurt in your store. Bottom line: Make sure you’re protected. Once you’ve crossed all the practicalities off your how to open a retail store checklist, you’re prepared to meet loan officers or investors to help secure your startup financing.

Step 4. Set Up a Location

Before we get too far into location options, you need to know owning any kind of business today requires also having a website. A website will help market your brand, build your reputation and enable customers to find you. As for a physical location, look for spaces near your target market — a commercial realtor can assist you to find something within your budget and that meets your needs. To make your retail store professional and functional, you’ll need an array of equipment and fixtures, such as signage, display cases, a point-of-sale system, security and more. If you’re unsure, work with a commercial interior designer experienced in retail layout to get the right feel — and flow in your retail store.

How to Open a Retail Store

Step 5. Sales and Marketing

Luckily, today’s numerous sales and marketing tools make getting the word out about your new retail business easier than ever. Not that your work ends there. Actually getting shoppers to visit your store takes building a buzz before you even have a grand opening. Your marketing strategy should include a hefty emphasis on social media including Yelp, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Also, reach out to your city’s business development office. Find out about any local events you can attend to talk about your business. And get involved in your community by sponsoring a charity drive or volunteering at a city event. Plan a grand opening and give away free items or a portion of sales to a local cause. As a result, you make yourself known in your community. And more local consumers will want to do business with you and become loyal customers.

Ensuring Retail Success: Customer Service and Adaptability

How to Open a Retail Store

While the holiday season and the retail industry present exciting opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs, ensuring the success of your retail store requires more than just following the checklist. Two crucial factors that can make a significant difference in your business’s performance are exceptional customer service and adaptability to changing market trends.

  • Prioritize Customer Service: Customer service can make or break a retail business. Providing exceptional customer experiences will not only keep shoppers coming back but also attract new customers through positive word-of-mouth. Train your staff to be friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive to customers’ needs. Personalized interactions and going the extra mile to address customer inquiries and concerns can leave a lasting impression and foster loyalty. Consider implementing customer loyalty programs or reward systems to incentivize repeat business. Encourage customers to leave reviews and feedback, and use the insights gained to continually improve your service and offerings.
  • Embrace Adaptability: The retail landscape is ever-evolving, and successful retailers must stay ahead of the curve. Embracing adaptability and being open to change will be critical to your retail store’s long-term success. Monitor industry trends, keep an eye on your competitors, and be willing to make strategic adjustments to your product mix, marketing strategies, or even store layout based on customer feedback and market demands. Additionally, the rise of e-commerce and digital shopping has transformed consumer behavior, and having a strong online presence is essential. Continuously assess your online marketing efforts and ensure that your website is user-friendly and optimized for mobile devices. Explore e-commerce options to complement your brick-and-mortar store and reach a broader audience.
  • Stay Agile in Inventory Management: Effective inventory management is key to maintaining a profitable retail business. Invest in inventory management systems that track sales trends, identify popular items, and help you optimize your stock levels. Avoid overstocking products that may not sell well and capitalize on high-demand items to maximize revenue.
  • Regularly review and update your product offerings to align with seasonal trends and customer preferences. Consider running promotions or clearance sales to move slow-moving inventory and make room for new merchandise.
Prioritize Customer ServiceExceptional customer service is crucial for retail success. Train staff to be friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive to customers' needs. Implement customer loyalty programs and encourage feedback to improve service and foster loyalty.
Embrace AdaptabilityStay ahead of the curve by embracing adaptability. Monitor industry trends, competitors, and be open to making strategic adjustments based on customer feedback and market demands. Establish a strong online presence and explore e-commerce options to reach a broader audience.
Stay Agile in Inventory ManagementEffective inventory management is key to maintaining profitability. Invest in inventory management systems to optimize stock levels and avoid overstocking. Regularly review and update product offerings to align with seasonal trends and customer preferences.

By prioritizing customer service, embracing adaptability, and staying agile in inventory management, your retail store can thrive even in a competitive market. With the right approach and a commitment to delivering value to your customers, your retail business can become a beloved and enduring presence in the industry.


As the holiday season approaches, the outlook for retailers is promising, with a significant increase in consumer shopping compared to the previous year. This presents a golden opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to enter the retail industry and claim their share of the retail pie. However, the key to success lies in doing it right. While 20 percent of business startups do not survive past the first year, following a well-structured checklist can make a crucial difference between success and failure.

The “How to Open a Retail Store Checklist” provides a comprehensive guide for those who have always dreamed of owning their own store. From conducting market research and creating a robust business plan to handling the nuts and bolts of registration, licenses, and insurance, this checklist serves as a valuable resource to ensure a solid foundation for the business.

In addition to the checklist, the importance of exceptional customer service and adaptability to changing market trends is emphasized. Prioritizing customer service creates a loyal customer base and fosters positive word-of-mouth, leading to sustained success. Embracing adaptability, staying ahead of industry trends, and maintaining a strong online presence are crucial steps for retailers to thrive in today’s ever-evolving market.

Effective inventory management is another vital aspect that contributes to the profitability of a retail business. Continuously assessing product offerings, capitalizing on high-demand items, and efficiently managing inventory levels ensure a successful retail venture.

By combining these factors, aspiring entrepreneurs can position their retail stores for success, even in a competitive market. With dedication to customer satisfaction, agility in adapting to industry changes, and smart inventory management, retail businesses have the potential to become beloved and enduring establishments within their communities. The future holds promise for retailers, and by following the right steps and strategies, entrepreneurs can make their mark in the retail industry and achieve long-term prosperity.

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

3 Reactions
  1. The earlier that a retail business can master the 5 Step Profit Formula, the better chance they will have at having a long term profitable business. Retail owners need to understand Lead Generation, Lead Conversion, Increasing Transactions, Increasing Pricing (yes, you read that correctly), and Maximizing Profits. Most business owners have never been taught these 5 steps and the strategies and tactics to implement them into their operation.

    Teri R. Moten

  2. Doing your homework and having a solid business plan is critical. Especially before you’re on the hook for a 12-month lease (or longer), insurance, etc.

  3. A yearn of interest has overshadowed me to become a store owner run my own store with a great location outlook of course ideas and a finalcial stamp that puts my new idea on the map. Yaj

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