Opening a Brick-and-Mortar Store


Opening a Brick-and-Mortar Store

November 12, 2019 | Education

E-commerce has had a sweeping and immeasurable impact on the shopping ecosystem. But retail stores aren’t being decamped; in fact, online sellers are increasingly opening up physical locations as a way to attract and retain customers. This trend is called, ‘clicks to bricks.’

Maybe you have a booming online business and are thinking of using a store to build a deeper connection with your patrons. Perhaps you’re in a high-stress job you hate and daydream about growing your own loose-leaf tea and selling it in a cute indie shop with a sunshine-yellow awning. Either way, we share some tips for cutting the red ribbon on a store that will work.

Is there still an appetite for brick-and-mortar stores?

Contrary to popular belief, there is still significant interest in physical stores among consumers. And similar enthusiasm among entrepreneurs to open them.

Modern consumers are looking for an omnichannel experience, where they can browse and compare prices online, but come into store for an experience, to see and try items, and for easy, lag-free returns.

They say that they’d visit physical stores more often if they had access to knowledgable staff, short queues, and a positive brand encounter.

How to open a brick and mortar store

Create a partnership or pop-up
One of Warby Parker’s first physical locations was a kiosk in the lobby of a hotel in West Hollywood. Consider limiting your risk by starting your store as a stall in an existing location, or a pop-up. This will not only save you time and upfront costs but will also gift you a lot of learnings and data as it’s the perfect time to test concepts.

Pick a great spot
If or when you decide to find a permanent residence, there are several factors to consider. Doing these four things will help you to find somewhere you fit.

  • Dig deep into the area
    Speak to other store owners, buy the local newspapers, read local social media groups, obtain location demographics, eat in local cafes, and check out local events to get a feel for the people who live there.
  • Assess the foot traffic
    Higher foot traffic doesn’t always mean more sales. If it’s a busy area but it’s the wrong demographic or has too much competition, you may still not meet your sales goals and rent will be much higher. First-time independent store owners generally find success around the edges of major retail shopping.
  • Check out the competition
    In an ideal world, your neighbors would be vying for a similar type of customer as you but selling completely different products. Compatible, but not competing.
  • Make a checklist of the details
    There are a lot of small–but often workable–details that might be important to you, like whether there are blue laws restrictions in the area or property taxes to pay, or whether you’d have customer restrooms, natural light, or an adequate loading bay. You might also like to consider signage zoning and planning depending on the exterior you have planned.

Integrate your online and offline POS system
One of the biggest challenges of having an omnichannel store is keeping track of inventory. If you keep separate inventories, an available item could sit gathering dust when it’s needed in the counterpart side of the business, but if you draw from one inventory, you might accidentally sell an item that is no longer available.

If it works with your budget and current structures, find a POS system that offers real-time inventory syncing across physical and digital channels. Then you’ll be able to adjust stock levels as needed and avoid a disappointed customer.

Build a robust start-up budget
Your online shop needs hosting, branding and development work, and eCommerce plugins, all of which can often be bootstrapped. A brick-and-mortar store is likely to require a secured loan (check out Nerdwallet’s 2019 Business Loan Guide) as there are a lot of hidden expenses that can accrue.

  • The build-out 
    Ask your leasing office for trusted contractors who know the space and get at least three quotes. It’s likely to be how many workers there are on the job x $200 x the number of days the job will take. This is on top of materials and commercial cleaning costs.
  • The launch
    If you build it, they might not come. Set aside some budget for PR support, marketing and an in-store experience that will keep people getting back in their cars to visit you.
  • Utilities
    Utilities, like phones, internet, heat, and electricity don’t cost too much at home but can become expensive in a commercial unit.
  • Office equipment
    Office equipment can add up, but if it’s back of house, buying second hand could save you money.
  • Licensing, insurance, and legal fees
    Property insurance, liability insurance, a certificate of occupancy; there will be a lot of people with leather-bound suitcases who want to get in your pockets.
  • On-site branding
    Apart from your outdoor signage, you might also like to consider whether you’ll want any window vinyls, or soft/changeable signage.

Tips for making your retail store successful

Experience is everything
Can your all-natural beauty shop host a soap-making night? Can your book store host a ‘guide for writing a cookbook’ seminar? The rise in skill and knowledge-sharing platforms means that anyone can become an expert in a niche area. Running classes or inviting speakers to your store could create a sense of community. 

Prioritize great sales staff
If you find people who embody the ethos of your company and have enthusiasm for your market, put a premium on those traits and make it easy for them to stick around. Even if they don’t have retail experience. 

Provide services that help people find what they need
As shoppers, it’s easy to become paralyzed by the tyranny of choice. If you make an effort to educate and upsell your customers and find a way to get people what they need, they’ll come to you for ease and simplicity.

Go beyond commodities
Amazon is ubiquitous. If you’re only selling the same things it’s selling, you’ll find it almost impossible to meet its low prices and also pay for a storefront. Could you add some locally-produced lines to your inventory?

Bridge the gap between online and offline services
Could you have people enter their likes, dislikes, and sizes before booking an in-store styling appointment online? Or could you collect your customer’s email address in-store and use a CMS system to send them an email reminder before they need a refill?


Sign Up For Our Newsletter