How to start a retail business

Dream of running your own shop? Read our business guide before you get started

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What is a retail business?

The retail industry is vast. Retail covers everything from the tiny village shop where the owner knows every customer by name, to the giant department stores on London’s Oxford Street. The industry ranges from shops you can walk into, to ecommerce shops you can browse with a mouse and keyboard, with every market stall and mail order catalogue in between.

We live in a consumer-driven society, where shopping often constitutes more of a hobby than a genuine need to purchase products. However, despite the healthy contribution to the economy that the UK retail sector provides, consumers are becoming more and more convenience driven, with the internet and superstores often providing an easier alternative to hunting out bargains on the local high street.

According to official statistics the number of VAT registered retail enterprises has fallen dramatically the last 10 years. Not the best picture to paint for someone thinking of opening their own shop. It would be hard to argue that large supermarkets stocking everything from a pint of milk to your new television haven’t had an effect on the smaller independent retailer.

However, in many areas the small specialised shop offers shoppers the advice and expertise that a big superstore just cannot provide. If you can find the right product to sell, in the right location, the Tesco down the road doesn’t have to be the death of your business. The important thing is finding a niche.

Of course online retailing has exploded onto the market in the last few years, providing much speculation about the future of the high street. But for the moment, people still like to ‘try before they buy’ and being able to showcase your product and allow customers to pick it up, try it on and by offering a personalised service can work in favour of the retailer who sells out of a shop.