Image via Merry and Bright Gifts
1. A shop is like a theatre.
People come to you to feel something. If you get the feeling right, they might also buy something.
At some point.
Just don’t bet on that point being right now, or any time in the immediate future.
2. Decide what you want your customers to feel, then work backwards.
What kind of products would make them feel that way? What kind of displays? What kind of shelf labels? What kind of music? How should you word your returns policy? How should you answer the phone?
Every aspect of your business has to create that feeling.
3. Get a point of view.
Shops without a point of view are either a confusing mish-mash or incredibly dull. Want to specialise in design-led crafts by local makers? Then don’t also stock mass-market products. Be clear about who you are and what you stand for.
By doing this, you’re sending up a beacon for customers who share that point of view. It’s a way of saying “Hey, I’m over here! Come see the great stuff I’ve got for you!”
4. Double how much money you need to get started.
Retail is an expensive business. Whatever capital you think you need to raise, double it. There are a ton of expenses you just won’t know about at the planning stage. Insurance, alarm servicing, licenses of different sorts, card machine costs, till rolls, paint, enough stock to fill the shelves – the list is endless.
You need cash. Lots of it.
5. Halve what you expect to make.
When you’re sitting in Starbucks, working out your profit projections over a cappuccino and a pumpkin muffin, you may think you’re being realistic.
It’s not your fault – it’s just incredibly hard to make a good guess. So base your business plan on your most pessimistic projections. If you can still make it work you’re in good shape to start trading.
6. Accept that it’s going to be hard.
A smart person once said that “entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” When you own a store, these are words to live by.
Before you sign the lease, you should know that you’re about to go through several difficult years. Sure, things could go swimmingly, but they almost certainly won’t. Or at least, not all the time.
There will be times of great happiness but there will also be many times when things suck. You will be scared. You’ll make horrible mistakes. You won’t always know what to do.
You need to make peace with this. And keep your eye on why you’re getting into this game in the first place.
6. Many of the people who enter your store will never buy anything.
What you offer, and the way you offer it, simply won’t speak to them.
That’s okay because they aren’t your customers.
7. Many of the people who enter your store will shower you with praise.
They’ll say “This place is so beautiful! What lovely things! I could practically live here!” Then they’ll leave without spending a cent.
That’s okay, because they aren’t your customers either.
8. Your customers are the people who actually give you money.
They’re the ones who save up to buy one of your dresses and who come to you every time they need a birthday card. Your store satisfies a deep need in them. They get you. Most importantly, they’re more than happy to put their hard-earned cash in your till.
These people are your customers. For goodness sake look after them.
Serving them in every way you can, and doing so a little better each time, is what your business is for.
9. Know the extent of your powers.
You’re creative, energetic and scarily smart. I can see that from here.
But even you can’t turn around the economic fortunes of a street, a neighbourhood or a town all by yourself.
Sometimes a retail location is too far gone. It may look good but there’s no foot traffic, the parking’s terrible or it’s surrounded by empty shops. You can’t single-handedly fix that. There are forces at work which are bigger than you.
So choose your location wisely. Give yourself the best possible conditions for your super-powers to work their magic.
I’m wishing you every success.
Clare Yuille — Indie Retail Academy
Clare Yuille is a shopkeeper, writer and retail coach for creative types who want their wholesale business to go whoooosh. Want to sell your work to indie retailers but feel overwhelmed, out of your depth or, erm…completely paralyzed by fear, doubt and self-criticism?
Clare’s blend of insider knowledge and expertise will help you simmer-the-heck-down, plot your course and experience so many biz-related epiphanies you’ll actually enjoy pitching your work to retailers. She takes away the eeeek! and replaces it with aaah.
Ready to get moving? Download her free Indie Retail Starter Kit