The world of retail is changing in recent years. From huge beautiful stores with hundreds of products on display, the trend for retail is a much bigger offering with a tiny physical footprint. This is because the cost of running big stores – such as flagship stores in malls – is becoming ever more prohibitive. Big stores need to be rented, there are business rates to pay, utilities to keep the premises warm, well-lit, clean and secure. Salaries need to be found for the small army of employees that are needed to keep the store running at optimum levels, and there are a host of other expenses associated with running a large retail outlet: insurances, fees, legal memberships and industry subscriptions amongst others. Smaller premises can be run by fewer people, with an associated lower cost all round, while even the biggest store front could not possibly offer the huge range of products available online.
The Way It Is
Big retail outlets have been inexorably losing their customer base to either very small independent outlets, local traders who help to bring diversity and uniqueness to the high street, or to the very large online only traders, such as Amazon. Customers like to support local, family-owned businesses as a way of keeping their communities vibrant and alive, or they opt for the comfort, ease and, relative cheapness of the big online retail sites. What consumers increasingly do not do is spend hours walking around a mall, covering many miles of floorspace as they look for that perfect dress, the must-have toys, or the latest bestselling book, not when they can achieve the same effect in the comfort of their own home, with half an hour of internet browsing.
The problem has got so bad that some of the more canny big retailers are already reducing the customer-facing areas in their premises, renting out sections to pop-up businesses, activity coordinators and other service providers. This helps them to immediately reduce their overheads, bringing in a small income stream that can help them to improve their remaining retail offering even more.
Live Your Retail Dream
So if you have been hankering to market a particular product, or just get into the general retail industry, your dream might not be as far away as you think it is. It is quite possible that the next big business will be one that has been started and operated from a home: either a home office, an unused garage, or even a storage unit, and it is quite possible to set up and run a very successful international company without fancy offices or standalone premises or even a lot of people on the payroll.
First of all, decide what you are going to sell. Pick your products carefully, choosing them for your market: discerning buyers looking for quality items will not be impressed with poorly made, mass-produced items, while students will not be able to afford very good quality items, even if they long to be able to buy them. Having chosen your target market – which should be people that you are comfortable dealing with – tailor your products to meet their standards and their needs. Ideally, whatever product you sell should have a consumable element to keep your customers coming back for refills. This will ensure that you have repeat business to bulk out your income, even as you continue to offer your products and services to brand new customers.
Next, make sure that your local by-laws permit you to work from your home. For most types of home-based work you will be alright, but some strict neighbourhoods prohibit heavy goods vans between certain hours, or frown upon obvious signs of non-residential occupation. Once you are sure that you are legally compliant, set aside a space in your home that will serve as your office, and organise it in such a way that you will be able to put your hand to everything as it is needed.
Often, as a small trader buying to resell, you will be able to order products for delivery straight to your customer, having all the paperwork come to you while the item heads straight for the end user. This will save both time and postage costs that would otherwise be incurred having the item come to you for repackaging before you send it on to your customer. There may be other similar innovations that you can put into place to ensure you offer your customers the best possible service, while incidentally keeping your costs down.
Finally, begin to build your customer base slowly. Try out your lines of supply and delivery on a small basis, to make sure that your systems are robust and can bear expansion to your desired levels of trade.