Choose your retail location wisely as it can have an effect on your profitability. You may want to consult with your municipality to find out about laws related to signage, zoning and land use, and do other research about the demographics and environment.
Consider these factors when choosing a location:
- Zoning: Zoning by-laws define how you can use your business property, including the land, the buildings, and improvements to both. It's important to have commercial zoning for your business, even if you operate out of your home. Consider any restrictions that may limit your operations, or present barriers to customers getting to you. These things include current or planned construction in the area (buildings and roads), positioning and height of buildings, traffic, parking and signage.
- Demographics: Determine if the demographics of the local population (age, income, family size) are a good fit with your business.
- Traffic analysis: It helps to be in a high traffic area that attracts drop-ins (people walking or driving by) as well as those who have sought you out. Make sure your store is easily accessible (public transit, parking, etc.).
- Competition: Are nearby stores complementary to yours? Businesses selling similar items in one spot (like clothing or food stores in a mall) can actually help attract more potential customers for you, as long as they are not in direct competition with your business.
Consider the best scenario for your type of store:
- Convenience stores (supermarkets, hardware, bakeries, drug stores, etc.): Your business may benefit from being in a busy mall or other high traffic area that offers easy access for quick purchases. Since many people enjoy one-stop shopping, you can attract customers from co-located complementary stores.
- Specialty stores (selling unique, hard-to-find products): If you have a specialty store, your products are not found everywhere. In this case, customers may not mind travelling out of the way to purchase your products. You could take advantage of lower rent, free parking, and larger warehouse and display space.
- Shoppers' stores (clothing, major appliances, etc.): With a shoppers-type store, you may actually benefit from being near your own competition. You could sell your goods in a shopping centre or mall where consumers can easily compare quality, price, and service offered by a few competing stores.
Consider these issues before signing a long-term lease:
- Do you plan to operate your business indefinitely or for a set number of years?
- Will you be able to expand your business at this location?
- Is the lease flexible? Can you opt to renew or seek another location if need be?
- Is the rent fixed or must you pay a percentage of gross sales to the landlord?
- Make sure any promises the property owner has made to you are in writing (repairs, construction, alterations and maintenance).
Making the decision
You may wish to hire a consultant to analyze 2 or 3 potential locations for your business, or talk to people who have been through the process and are willing to offer advice. A municipal lawyer can help you navigate zoning and land-use by-laws which may help you choose a location. Take your time when making your decision; weigh the pros and cons, and make sure it’s the best decision for you, as well as the business.