Business Plan Center

How to choose your retail business location

As you search for the right place for your retail business, consider multiple factors.

Many retail businesses begin in a smaller space, but you may need to move eventually for a larger space and a more professional image. If and when that time comes, choosing your location is a major decision — and a major investment. Accessibility for customers, employees, and vendors can figure into the viability of a space, as can mortgage or rent costs, useable space, regulations, and the neighborhood’s atmosphere. Here are six tips that can help you choose a location for your retail business.

1. Investigate different areas.

Research several different neighborhoods to gauge the options available to you. Explore the areas where competitors are based by looking them up online. If proximity to those companies is an issue, then you'll be familiar with retail locations to avoid, and you’ll also get a sense of neighborhood characteristics that might work for you. Also, tap city resources for specific data and demographics on each potential area.

2. Walk the neighborhood.

Potential neighborhoods may look great online, but every block has its own peculiarities. Hit the streets to check out location candidates up close:

  • Consider traffic flow, nearby public transportation, and available parking.

  • Note the density of residential, office, or industrial spaces nearby.

  • Gauge the safety of the surroundings.

  • Talk to current business owners about their experiences.

3. Learn about local laws.

Almost all municipalities have laws that govern local retail businesses. Once you've identified two or three ideal neighborhoods, contact each one about regulations concerning zoning, licensing, and business taxes.

4. Know what kind of space you need.

As you consider the frontrunners, ask yourself:

  • Is this location right for my current operations?

  • Will this location accommodate the anticipated growth of my retail business?

  • Does this space have the right layout and facilities for my employees and customers?

  • Does this location reinforce the image, brand, and company culture I want to create?

5. Examine the logistics.

Once you've identified potential properties, dig into the details:

  • Would you buy or lease the property?

  • What types of terms are available?

  • Can you afford it?

  • Would you need to renovate or decorate the space, and what will that work cost?

Also, ask current tenants about the relationship with the building owner or manager, and assess the available space relative to your eventual growth plans.

6. Invite the community to visit.

Plan to have a business-warming event that introduces your staff and products or services to the community after moving in. This can help you celebrate your new space and alert your new neighbors to what you're adding to the local landscape.

Once you've found your dream retail space, consider whether buying or leasing the property is the best choice for you and your business.