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Starting a retail business? Questions to ask yourself before opening the doors

You’ve located the perfect store front for your entrepreneurial dreams. You want to become an independent retail shop offering the finest and latest clothing trends to fashion-minded young adults.

Before signing the business lease and placing the key into the door of your new storefront, ask yourself if this is really the business path you want to take? Remember that before you came along, another retail business had that very storefront with the same grand ideas of becoming a success. Yet they may have struggled to bring in sales that would allow them to survive in their market segment and eventually had to close the business doors. To avoid making the same mistakes and to successfully navigate the pitfalls on the business route ahead, here are several questions to ask yourself to figure out if this is the right career path for you.

1. What Type of Retail Business Will You Run?

There are as many types of retail businesses as there are customers in your community. You have an abundant amount of options regarding the products that you could sell. You may decide to sell directly to the public or strictly to warehouses and other businesses. You may want to operate a designer high-end shop, consignment store, thrift store, variety shop, or specialty store that caters to a certain demographic of people.

Understanding the type of retail business you will operate will allow you to successfully market your brand and develop a theme that is recognisable to customers. There is more involved than just opening the store doors. You have to market and promote the business.

2. Are You Willing to Learn Everything About the Product, and Offer This Knowledge to Customers?

You have to learn about the ins-and-outs about every product you sell as it allows you to cross-sell and up-sell additional products to customers. You can also provide advice on the proper uses of the product and additional information to customers to increase the quality of their shopping experience. For example, you may have a customer who has a severe skin allergy to certain fabrics as you can help steer them to the right clothing choices.

Keep in mind that your personality is also important in the retail business. You have to be customer-centric and offer top customer service for every person who walks in through the store doors. If you get impatient with customers who ask questions about your products, or are not willing to handle customer concerns in a professional manner, you may want to rethink the independent retail shop route.

3. How will Customers Obtain Your Products?

When it comes to opening an independent retail shop, the saying is still true that location matters. You wouldn’t want to open up an office supplies shop near a retirement community or in the center of a residential neighborhood if you sell products strictly to businesses. Understanding your customer demographic and buying habits will allow you to select the best means to reach customers, whether it is with a physical store location, through mail order catalogs, or over the Internet.

A critical consideration for your retail business is the POS system. AIB Merchant Services launched Clover, a fully integrated Point of Sale and payment management system which helps give you more control over your retail business. This system can also be integrated with Big Red Cloud to dramatically cut down on paper work and enables you to record all credit sales and immediately raise and email invoices.

Like any mega corporation, small and micro retail shops need to have a clear understanding of their market, the types of customers who want the particular products, and the best way to reach those customers. Then you can set up your business to have the most success.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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