How to Start a Retail Business - Accion Opportunity Fund
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How to Start a Retail Business

While selling goods is common, running a successful business is rare. Here's how to successfully start a retail business.


From the dawn of civilization, many entrepreneurs have wanted to start a retail business. While selling goods is common, running a successful business is rare. Here’s what you need to know to get your retail business started on the right path.


1. Be Fleet-Footed and Flexible

You can do a lot of research when first starting your retail business, but you’ll only really and truly learn what your customers want by trying out different approaches. It’s best not to lock yourself financially into one course without the ability to test concepts and then change gears according to what works and what flops. For example, try out different product lines before signing overly-binding contracts with wholesalers.

Retail startups that stay light on their toes are better able to shift and pivot with the trends and the desires of their customers. Keep to a short-term lease, for example, until you’re sure that a location is going to work for your business. Don’t be afraid to try new things; always pay attention to the results of your experiments so that you can learn and grow along with your business.


2. Have Fun

Retail is indisputably hard work, physically and mentally. From lifting and carrying heavy crates of stock around, to being nice to difficult customers, the retail business can fray the nerves of a saint. That’s why it’s important to find ways to enjoy your business.

Decorate your store in a way that makes you smile. Play upbeat music over the sound system. Hire employees you enjoy talking to. Find a way to make every day a celebration so that you enjoy coming to work and working hard.


3. Hire People Who Complement Your Weaknesses

It’s the pitfall of many entrepreneurs to try and wear too many hats without giving over responsibility to those who would be better suited to specific tasks. You will create a stronger team if you assess your weaknesses and hire out the tasks that would best be left to a pro. When you interview potential teammates, let them know what you aren’t good at and find out what areas they are the most talented in. That way, team-building will be like fitting the correct pieces of a puzzle together.

Focus on your strengths and dedicate your time to those tasks that you’re good at and you enjoy the most, and both your business and mood will reap the benefits.


4. Learn About Your Customers and Your Market

Depending on your location, your merchandise is probably going to change. For example, fashion that goes over well in New York City isn’t going to play as well in a Florida retirement community. This is a glaringly obvious example, and it’s highly likely that the product preferences you’ll need to suss out will be far more subtle.

Ask loads of questions and spend a lot of time observing your clientele to figure out how you can best serve them and ultimately what will make them pull out their wallets.


5. Get Comfy With Failure

Predicting what your customers will like can sometimes feel like a roller coaster of success and failure. It’s very common for people to fold at the first sign of failure and to assume they are completely on the wrong track, but don’t abandon your dream too quickly.

To reiterate our first point, be flexible. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and if it becomes clear that an idea isn’t working out, then don’t chalk up the whole business as a failure; instead, learn from that mistake, make adjustments, and keep going.

The most important thing to remember when starting out with your dream of opening a retail business is to have fun, and to make sure you enjoy your team. Their strengths will carry your weaknesses, and your team should be able to help you research your customer and your market so that you can keep making adjustments, learning together, and growing the business as a united front.

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