Opening a new shop

How not to go about your venture: Go to a Commercial Estate Agent – get a list of a few shops to look at, go back, pay the deposit and the first quarter’s rent. Buy your goods, open the shop, and sit on your arse and wait for customers.

The right approach – this presupposes you are not relying on mail order: Go to a Commercial Estate Agent – get a list of a few shops to look at. Ask yourself the following. People who are going to work and coming home again, will they pass my shop on the way to the station (bus stop)? When people shop on a Saturday, do the majority walk on the same side as my shop or the other side? You may have to spend a morning and evening during commuter times to verify this. And, of course a Saturday morning for at least a couple of hours – is there a café nearby where you can observe in comfort. In most local communities, people tend to walk on certain sides of the road. Don’t ask me why – it is a mystery to me!

You may not be open during the commuter traffic but you will want them to be aware of your window displays.

Once the shop passes this test, and it is big enough for displaying your goods, you can go back to the Estate Agent happy in the knowledge that this is the “right” shop for you. Negotiate a reduced price for the first quarter, most landlords will allow this. And, only after you have done this, negotiate then for a better price if you paid the first year up front. Landlords know how risky a new shop is and should be prepared to lower their first year rent for this security. And you will know that you will have time to build up your business before this major outgoing crops up again. If you can’t afford to do this, then your shop has less of a chance of succeeding. Much less of a chance indeed.

Negotiate and purchase your initial stock. Because you have paid a year in advance for your rent, you can afford to ignore quantity discounts and avoid overstocking. Your profit will be less but you will be able to see which of your items interests your customers more, thus avoiding wastage.

Keep records daily of what is sold. I had a friend who owned a coffee bar in Park Lane a decade or two ago and he could tell you how many ham sandwiches he sold on that day ten years previously, and exactly what he was going to sell tomorrow. He never wasted food.

Before you open, do a lot of marketing. If your product warrants it, have 20,000 cards delivered locally offering a really sizeable discount for all purchases in the first 30 days. Forget about profit. The fact you are full all the time will impress everyone and get your shop off to a golden start.

Have a party in the shop the evening before you open. Coincide it to be in full swing as the commuters pass by. When you buy the champagne, ask, well in advance, for lots of empty champagne cases and pile them in the window to give the illusion that no expense has been spared.

People will be curious and come into your shop over the coming days to ask what the party was for. Invite friends, local dignitaries, a councillor or two and the local press.

Things I have learned in the army. “Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted.” And “Logistics is all”. So do your research thoroughly, and in your early days look for your customers as near to the shop as possible.

In addition, remember always that when you make a decision you have a 50% chance of it being a bad decision. However, the quality of your decision will improve according to the number of quality questions you ask and your reaction to the answers that come back. Ask questions.

When your shop is empty, don’t sit around. You will give an aura of not doing well. Look busy, keep on changing the displays, move furniture around, have your business computer in the corner and look busy on it, even if you are playing chess! (No games that rely on sound of course!) Naturally you won’t let the customers see the screen.

If you are going to have your computer there, have your hard disk in an ICE container so you can unlock it and slide it out in its covered container and take it home with you. I have another friend who has an ICE slot in his shop computer and his home computer so he can slide the office one in and work on his books in the evening if necessary.

Good luck, you will need it, but not nearly as much as people in the first paragraph of this article

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