A Retail Store is a business enterprise whose primary source of selling comes from retailing, usually owned and operated by a retailer but sometimes owned and operated by a manufacturer or by someone other than a retailer in which merchandise is sold primarily to ultimate consumers.

Retailing includes all the activities involved in the selling of goods or services directly to the final consumer for personal, non-business use – Philip Kotler.

Retailers may be classified into three categories namely:

1. Store retailers

2. Non-store retailers

3. Retail organizations

Generate An Idea And Business Plan: 

The first step to opening a retail store is coming up with your idea and developing a business plan. Take your time to study by figuring out what type of store you want to open. You’ll go through the following questionnaire to answer:

  • What will your business sell?
  • Who is your target customer?
  • What type of prices will your business set?
  • Who are the competitors in your industry and local area?
  • Who will be on your team?

Opening a retail store is like opening any other business, you must determine what you want to sell and who is your target audience. It’s important to create a retail store that satisfies a need of your customers.

“No ideas today are fully original”. Understand what options your customers get from you and your offering to them. 

Retail is competitive, and you need to be clear on your plan to find success. Identifying how your business helps your target market is the most important aspect of opening any business.

Other basic factors to consider include business funding and marketing ideas. 

· Will, you need to use business loans? 

· Will, you take on investors? 

· What types of marketing channels will you use? 

· Does your team need people specifically for social media marketing? 

· What online channels do your customers use?

Marketing and business funding are both important considerations that should be addressed in your business plan. For funding, it’s a good idea to research business loans and how to attract investors. For marketing, you should be familiar with online marketing channels.

Consider all of your costs as well. Create a list of the fixed and variable costs that may affect your business. It’s easy to brainstorm a potentially successful idea only to forget about hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs. You may find in your research that the cost of starting a brick-and-mortar store is too much for you to handle, and, instead, you should start an online business before eventually saving up and opening a small physical location.

You may also generate new ideas upon learning about the costs of inventory and other business items. Thinking through how to create your retail business in detail will help you find success when it’s time to open your store. At the same point, you’ll need a point-of-sale system and a way to process credit card transactions. And you’ll want to invest in the right accounting software for your business.

Choose A Name For Your Retail Store:

In addition to the other basics that go with creating a business plan, take time to find a good business name. When contemplating how to create a good business name, you should consider a few factors.

  • Meaning – There should be some meaning to the name from the customer’s perspective. That meaning may be developed over time, but you’ll want a brand name that is recognizable to customers.
  • Simplicity – Look for names that are relatively short and easy to say. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Nike are all major brands that are easy to say. If your brand is a mouthful, it’s probably not the best name for branding purposes.
  • Uniqueness – Don’t opt for a name that’s close to that of your competitors. Look for something original and authentic that encapsulates your business. Try to draw your inspirations for names without looking at other brands.

It’s also important to check that the name isn’t already trademarked or taken. You can start with a quick Google search for the name before taking a deeper look at state databases of unavailable business names. The name doesn’t determine the success of your business, so it shouldn’t be the focus when opening a retail store, but you do want to at least put some thought into naming your business entity.

Cover Your Legal Basics:

Covering your legal basics includes choosing a business structure, following any regulations, and obtaining the right licenses and permits.

A few of the basics include:

  • A basic business operation license, which allows you to operate your business in the city, county, or state you do business out of.
  • An employer identification number (EIN), which is a federal tax ID that allows you to hire employees to work at your storefront and ensures your business collects payroll tax.
  • A seller’s license. This depends on what kinds of items your retail storefront sells. It’s recommended you check in with your state’s government office to determine whether or not you need it.”

When it comes to selecting a legal structure, you follow the same process as most businesses. For retailers, however, becoming a sole proprietor can be risky. Taking on a business structure that doesn’t place liability solely on the individual owner is a good way to mitigate your risk, should the business fail.

It’s common for retailers to become limited liability corporations (LLCs) or corporations. Both of those options help limit personal liability.

Find The Right Location:

If you’re opening a brick-and-mortar retail business, you need to focus on finding the best retail space for your business.

Picking out a prime retail space for your business needs to be a focal point. While it can be tempting to try to pick a cheap location and hope your business generates a steady flow of customers through its marketing efforts, sometimes, there’s no substitute for being in a busy part of town. Picking a location downtown might be pricier than an option a few miles away from town, but the pricier option might bring in thousands of more customers per year.

When determining a location, find where your customers spend their time. If your customers live primarily outside of town, opening a downtown location might be more expensive and bring in fewer customers. Try to place your retail location in an area where your target audience spends its time. While that tip may seem simple, businesses often focus on finding a location they think is fantastic, rather than trying to narrow down where their target market resides.

You may also have a location with additional space to store inventory. If you expect to have a lot of inventory, because you sell a lot of items at affordable prices, you may want additional space. Other stores may sell a few high-end items and don’t need a large space to keep inventory. Keep inventory in mind when selecting a location.

Create A Personalized Experience:

Finding success in retail often comes from adding value that competitors are not. This frequently comes in the form of personalization. Many retail stores find success by allowing customers to try the products. Whether it’s free samples at a food shop or dressing rooms at a clothing store, brick-and-mortar retailers can offer personalized experiences like that, while online retailers struggle to find the same level of personalization. 

Your focus when selecting a location and the size of your shop should always be your customer. Find a place where you can create a unique experience that fits the model of your business and your customers. In-store decision-making should place an emphasis on creating an experience for your customers.

Build Vendor Relationships:

Developing relationships with vendors becomes critical when opening a retail location. Small business owners face challenges, and it’s important to consistently please customers despite those challenges. Building strong relationships with vendors is a good way for business owners, especially retail shop owners, to prevent potential issues.

If you’re able to quickly develop relationships with vendors, it will set your business up for success. This can prove difficult if you’re using overseas vendors.

Explore Marketing Opportunities:

Marketing is an important part of building a successful retail store. If you already own an online retail business and you’re looking to expand to a physical store, you may want to first experiment with pop-up shops. These shops open in temporary locations for a short amount of time. For example, your clothing store may open a pop-up shop at a downtown event just for the duration of the one-day event.

Pop-up shops give your business a chance to move around or offer a physical location to attract new customers.

Opening pop-up shops can be a good way to test if your online retail shop will translate to a brick-and-mortar location.

Even if you don’t already own an online retailer, pop-up shops can still be a good idea. If you open your brick-and-mortar location, you may open a pop-up shop once every few months to expand your customer base to new locations.

Opening a shop every few months in a town 20 to 30 minutes from yours may pique the interest of customers in that new town. If they love your products, they may start driving 20 to 30 minutes to visit you, or they may decide to buy from you online. Creating a pop-up shop is a good way to generate buzz around your business for a few days or weeks.

Other marketing opportunities may come from social media or in-store discounts. Sales can be a good way to draw customers into your store. For example, offering 30% off select items during a holiday weekend may increase foot traffic in your store. You can get creative with the different marketing opportunities as well.

On the flip side, you could sell holiday items at a discount from Dec. 26 to early January to cash in on customers looking to purchase items well in advance of the next holiday season.

Regardless of the marketing and sales tactics you employ, it’s important to be creative. Find ways to reach your customers through creative marketing ideas. Running a retail business is a year-long endeavor, and finding success requires quality marketing campaigns. 

Plan For A Grand Opening:

If you’re opening a retail store, go big for the grand opening. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend excessively on your grand opening, but you do want to make it an event. Reach out to local media outlets and share when your store is opening, as media coverage is a good way to get the word out about your business for free. Share a pitch with journalists as to why your store matters and how it fits into the local community. Be sure to follow the proper etiquette when pitching journalists.

In addition to securing media coverage, plug your business’s grand opening through social media and other marketing channels weeks in advance. Don’t wait until a few days before your business opens to get people excited. You want to start strong and have a good first few days to get your business into people’s minds. That requires a successful grand opening event.

It doesn’t need to be over the top, but your grand opening should be an event you take seriously when trying to win over the local community. Consider timing as well. Opening a store on a Tuesday at 2 p.m. probably doesn’t make much sense, but opening on a Saturday morning of a busy retail day could be a perfect plan.

The grand opening doesn’t make or break your business, but you want your business opening to excite customers.

The Bottom Line:

To open a retail store, you should first narrow down your target audience. Once you decide who you’re selling to and what you’re selling to them, start looking for a location and checking off legal requirements. Upon finding a location and fulfilling legal and financial obligations, look at different marketing channels that might work best for your business. Plan a grand opening, and your retail operation will be open for business.

 Doing so requires developing a point-of-shopping storyboard — just like a television commercial storyboard. Step-by-step, frame-by-frame, the marketer must collaborate with the retailer to engage and then direct the shopper’s journey through the store.

When the storyboard is for the store, the shopper is the hero and the star. From the moment the shopper sets foot in the store, nothing should be left to chance. A combination of signage and other visual cues should lead the shopper from the first two seconds to the final four — down the aisle, at the shelf, in the decision corridor.

The storyboard should entice the shopper to a specific category, aisle, and brand. It should provide cues to other categories, aisles, and shelves where shoppers can assemble solutions to their needs. Relying on a random, unorchestrated assortment of in-store signage and end-aisle displays falls far short of what’s required to leverage strategically the retail store as a collaborative marketing medium.

“Storyboard is the visualization of entire process in advance”

Visual merchandising is the art and science of displaying products in a way it appeals both strategically and aesthetically. It needs an artistic eye for presentation to create a shopping experience that’s pleasant for customers, while also increasing conversion rates with a combination of analytical knowledge.

While purchasing online, it’s all visuals on the screen and, difficult to find unique merchandise. In the store, the customers get influenced by the store layout and clear required signage. The signage helps the customers to reach out to specific sections, feel the products, try on them and, get clear with all queries related to product from the nearest sales associate. 

Visual merchandising doesn’t only help a store attract customers, it also helps increase sales and gives customers a good reason to come back again. The easiest way to have exciting displays that help to sell the products is to hire a professional visual merchandiser to come in and change your window and showcase displays once every month.

Not every practice can afford the luxury of professional help in the areas of visual merchandising. You may be lucky enough to have someone from your staff with an artistic view who has a natural way of putting up displays. Even if you don’t, that doesn’t mean you can’t have good-looking displays. 

Visual merchandising, especially displays are one of the most creative and responsible areas of Sales & Promotion. At times it can be very frustrating, most difficult, and laborious work. It’s rewarding for the visual merchandiser to see all of the product in a display sell out completely or to observe the consumer enjoying the presentation.

You must know your customers and products inside and out. What are your customer’s likes and dislikes? What’s their general age? Are you targeting families/ Young professionals/ Teens? When are they most likely to buy? You also need to understand the most appealing aspects of a certain product and how best to highlight them. Visual merchandising doesn’t only help a store attract customers, it also helps increase sales and gives customers a good reason to come back again.

There are some basics we have been following for ages in Retail:

  1. Select Color First: Although reaction to color is a personal, individual, private experience that is influenced by culture, regional and global locations, and environmental background, the consumer is instinctively impacted by colors with which they are confronted every day in their environment. 

For example: Blue reminds the adult consumer of the ocean or water and the sky. It is a universal color that is calming and restful. 

2. Select Merchandise Thoughtfully: When building the actual display, the first step the visual merchandiser takes is that of analyzing and selecting the merchandise to be displayed. It is most important that visual merchandiser recognize that the merchandise to be displayed is the focus of the artistic and that all other elements needed to build the display play a supporting role to the merchandise itself.

3. Less is More: Keeping your displays simple & uncluttered helps customers to browse. Leaving space between two merchandise gives a customer a sense of connectivity. The most common mistake we usually do is trying to show too much at the same time. 

4. Customize Display Windows: The first thing that attracts people is your store’s display window and it can be a determining factor for the customer whether to go inside the store or not. Retail store windows that are powerfully designed and well-executed becomes one of the most important visuals that will represent your store. It’s the display windows that will capture the attention and invite the passersby inside the Store. Try to create an outstanding visual representation of colors, outfits, styling as well as individual items of clothing which will stop people in their tracks and make them admire the view. Once you get the display windows right, you can focus on the interior.

5. Store Layout: The most important aspect of visual merchandising is your store layout and the way customers can navigate through it. We must always try to use most of the space to display the merchandise while leaving enough room for customers to breathe and walk around the store. Moreover, try to display the most valuable goods at the entrance focus area and in the sorted categories to encourage impulse purchases. Use color combos to lure attention, as well as pyramid technique and balance to display the items neatly and in an organized manner. Think of adding props related to displays with some innovative and unique ideas. Showcase some discounted offers, promotional displays and, on-going trends at the entrance to invite more customers inside the store. It’s important to remember that customers need to see amazing combinations of merchandise and colors, styling and, good offers running while browsing through your store.

6. Odd rather than Even: An odd number of elements is always more attractive to the eye than an even number because an asymmetrical arrangement is slightly off balance and keeps the eye moving around to look at each frame which provides a built-in visual dynamic. On the other hand, an asymmetrical perfectly balanced arrangement stops the eye in its tracks, which turns out to be dull.

7. Maintain Good Composition: If you place one frame at the top of the display and let all the other elements “step down” from that point, you’ll have a very effective design as it gets into the composition of “Pyramid Form”. It’s that top focal point that attracts attention and makes the display look interesting at this principle always works. This Pyramid formation also helps in styling the most exclusive merchandise on the center mannequin to get more attention, trendy and, turn into a fast-selling product. When creating the design of each display, the composition or the use of the art elements (i.e., color, texture, proportion, line, and shape) and design principles (i.e., composition, balance, rhythm, repetition, and dominance) along with the theme, props, attention, attraction and, signage should be planned in detail to get Best compositions and sales. 

8. Evaluate the Effectiveness of Presentations: Maintaining good composition in an artistic way of creating unity and harmony in the display. To communicate a well-planned message and direct the consumer’s eye to all the elements of the display. The visual merchandiser must carefully plan the type of balance and the dominant item or focal point of the display, along with the mechanisms for creating rhythm. Does the type of balance support the theme and merchandise classifications in the display? Is the focal point evident? Are there items, such as props and attention-getting devices, which direct the viewer’s eye from the dominant area to all other areas of the presentation? Are there odd numbers of items utilized to create interest and provide rhythm in the composition? Are all components in proportion to the whole as well as to each other component in the display? 

Considering the responsibility that comes with running stores and keeping your customers happy, it’s not surprising. It’s easy to overlook a few merchandising basics. 

However, overlooking common merchandising basics poses a problem you need to address and if you don’t face up to them, you’ll soon find them costing your retail business a small or large fortune.

  • Your product spacing on the shelf is incorrect: 

When a customer walks into your store, they come in with an expectation that they’ll find what they’re looking for on their shopping list. More than that, your customers will arrive wanting a shopping experience that is effortless, pleasant, and as quick as possible. That means the last thing they’d want is to show up and your shelves are so overcrowded with products that they struggle to find what they are looking for. 

You should space your products evenly across the width and depth of your shelves with enough space in between the products for your customers to shop with ease. There should be a two-finger spacing between the top of a product and the shelf above.      

  • Your products aren’t correctly positioned in their allotted space: 

One of the reasons it happens is because of poor planogram implementation. After all, you can sign off a planogram and send it to a store with specific instructions on how to implement it. If not executed correctly, you can’t expect the products to get the right space.

Another reason it happens is that you don’t use retail data to make any of your decisions. Let’s take a simple example such as accidentally giving the wrong product an extra facing. As a result, you inadvertently take away a facing for a product that happens to contribute 20% of overall sales in that category.

  • The merchandising technique doesn’t suit your products or category: 

Every inch of your store costs you money. That’s why you can’t afford to settle for unappealing or ineffective in-store displays. More importantly, you shouldn’t think that you can pick any merchandising technique to display a product and believe it’ll work as it won’t.

Let’s take the vertical merchandising technique as an example. In most cases, it’s good to use this technique to market off multiple items at eye-level. For a category such as coffee, where your tins are usually the same size, it would work well. 

  • Your best-selling products are either hard to find or can’t be reached: 

Into a retail context, it takes a customer 20 minutes to find their preferred brand which also happens to be a firm customer favorite. Many of your customers may not even bother searching for these products. If they haven’t found them after a certain time, they’ll either walk out or, they’ll choose a different product in its place.

Choosing an alternative product isn’t necessarily a good thing. That’s especially true if the product they choose costs less so you’ll lose money. From another angle, you could argue that it’s better than losing a sale altogether. That said, to avoid this frustration, your best-selling products should be easy to reach and find. That includes displaying them front and center and positioning them correctly on your shelf, which means placing them either at eye-level or lower.

  • You haven’t created hotspots: 

An in-store hotspot plays an important role in inviting your customers to buy your products. More specifically, you can use them to promote and bring attention to a specific category in your store.

For example – if it’s summer and you sell swimming pool accessories, you could look at creating a highly visible area in your store to market these products. By highlighting these products, you’re bringing attention to the products and encouraging your customers to buy them.

An ideal area for a hotspot includes near the entrance of your store, on your gondola ends and, alongside till points. As for how many hotspots you should have in your store, it depends on the size of your stores. For a larger store, you could have a hotspot at the end of every gondola end. On the other hand, for a small store, you might be better off placing it at the entrance or you are till points.

  • You don’t cut your sales & profit lines: 

Your Sales & Profit lines are space wasters because they consume space in your department without returning any value, by value, we mean sales and profit. As a result, you’ll sit with a few hundred, if not thousands, of units of unwanted stock that takes up valuable shelf space. More importantly, it prevents you from stocking your shelves with new or faster-selling products.

When analyzing your current range, and deciding which products to delist, you need to also look at your retail data. In doing so, you determine the correct assortment to list and ensure your stores don’t end up with dead stock soon.

“Good visual merchandising is a mix of art, inspiration, and science. While great visuals can sell lousy products, poor visuals can do nothing for great merchandise.”

– Paco Underhill, Why We Buy – Book.

Looking at today’s situation – Covid19, a global pandemic. There is a need to know the future of visual merchandiser & Retail.

In this year, since Lockdown many helpless situations were arising in Retail & many other economic sectors like salary cut-offs, recession, loss of jobs, family expenses & major health issues. These sectors got affected drastically and still suffering to get back to normal. 

The global pandemic – COVID-19, has an impact on consumer’s lives. As stay-at-home orders and country-wide lockdowns started, consumer behavior continues to be driven by new personal circumstances, such as changes in not so much as income, leisure time, and priorities. They are relying only on e-commerce websites and brand websites for their purchases.

As countries have come under quarantine orders and consumers around the world have started to avoid human contact, retailers are finding it difficult to adapt. They have recognized that the global response to the COVID-19 virus will have a major impact on their business. They are coming across the day to day changes as they have to get in the race of being responsive towards business.

COVID 19 has transformed our lives. By pushing us indoors, the health crisis has negatively impacted businesses with a global economic slowdown. With shops being closed until we get through the pandemic, sales and manufacturing have a drop-down to an all-time low. In the first two months of lockdown, the organized retail sector has borne losses up to ₹90,000 crores. While revenues have been nil and expenses like EMI, rent, staff salaries, etc. are add-ons.

Health concerns have forced people to live differently, think differently, and in many ways buy differently. Consumers are looking at products and brands through a new lens. The factors that influence brand decisions are also changing as “Buy Local” or we can also say “Vocal for Local”.

In the fashion category, retail companies and brand stores will see moderate customer footfall. There will be more focus on online sales which is already evident from the current situation. Online purchase adaptation will continue the flow beyond the pandemic as well.

These are challenging time and retailers need to take immediate actions to get through this unpredicted situation:

· Plan and execute flexible model to follow

· Shift towards Crisis Management

· Manage the supply chains

· Deal with consumer confidence 

· Cope up with staff shortages

· Fluctuations & drop in demand

· Protecting people

· Plan for the long term.

As the malls and stores got permission to re-open. It was very difficult for managers to make strategies or get the VM done to convert each customer entering the store into a day target amount. 

Many changes came into action to help us to get stability back in the market. One majorly required change is in VM displays & creativity. There was a thought given to “Future of Visual Merchandising” in this New Normal Era, where many brands found back a track to success.

Fundamentally, the Retail environment has changed a lot rather than VM aspects. The VM is an on-going process where it is always going to be a major aspect in Retail, to convert a customer & close to selling.

There are some points we can consider to focus on Visual Merchandising of the Store:

VM needs a Boost:

  • Over the years, every VM display has been changed. 
  • There was a pressure to deliver the top and bottom performing product details from all the working people in the store. 
  • A push is required to get away with the fast-selling and slow-selling products ending up perform well. 
  • The challenge here is to find a new purpose and dignity that defines VM Excellence.

Know who your Customer are: 

  • Today’s marketplace highly suggests that the majority of retailers and VMs are not marketing to the right consumer. 
  • What we think will not appeal to them is exactly what they are looking for.
  • This applies to VM. Your new customers do not necessarily appreciate a well-styled mannequin or promotional signage. 
  • They would be keener to know what their friends will think of them wearing that outfit, right there, right now.

Upgrade in Technical terms: 

  • Technology has got to be the biggest game-changer for retail as well as VM is a new possibility nowadays. 
  • Window displays, mannequins, bust forms, entrance WOW zones, color coordination are just a few VM tools.
  • Take Zara for example. Key Zara stores around the world have ditched their traditional window displays in spring this year in favor of a digital fashion show. What seemed like a blank window space with the words ‘Shop The Look’ was indeed a “live” fashion presentation when viewed over a smartphone. Hot spots within these stores also give the chance for international well-known models to parade literally in front of you, on your smartphone of course.
  • Technology is ruthlessly altering the way VMs work and how stores are laid out. 
  • Retailers must look forward and be ready for more such inventions and innovations to stay ahead and more critically, stay relevant.

Elevate the Experience:

Let’s use Gucci as an example again, The Italian fashion powerhouse opened a one-of-kind show store at Wooster Street in Soho, New York earlier this year. The primary intention is not to transact, but to deliver the Gucci Experience. It’s no doubt that a lot of visual merchandising has gone into it.

Further to support vocal for local – we should get engaged with local suppliers and manufacturers. We should partner with the local vendors to fulfill our business requirements along with educating and developing them to achieve fast, cost-effective and best quality output.

We retailers should deal with the pandemic over pan India by taking good care of customer health concerns while following all desired safety measures which are boosting customer’s confidence and it will also help in getting footfall back from their loyal consumers.

Our objective should be to resume business operation in full swing while maintaining the safety of the staff and customers at top priority. Also, adhere to the government norms and policy in the future.

                                           “Looking Future into Reality”