By: Robert Caperton, President and Managing Partner, Barrett Properties
Whether you’re looking for your first home as a business, or seeking larger accommodations after outgrowing a previous space, looking for a retail location is a momentous occasion. It’s a signifier of success, and it holds high expectations as the space that will house your biggest goals and achievements. So, needless to say, it is a loaded decision.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of factors to keep in mind as you explore your options — some more obvious than others. Whether this location lasts you only a few years, or becomes a longstanding institution, we hope these ideas help you make an informed and thoughtful decision on where your business will live next.
Style of Operation
First and foremost, what sort of business are you, and can you find a space to match? With more options than ever before on where and how to house a business, traditional storefronts are sometimes challenged by kiosks, pop-up shops and even trucks. As you weigh the options on where your business will live, this question may come up.
What are the costs associated with opening a traditional storefront? If your product is popular during a certain time of year, does it make sense to seek a location that could serve as a “pop-up” shop for a limited time? Is your business at a point where a nontraditional option could supplement a traditional storefront? Give some consideration to the type of business you own, the demographics of your customer and which options make sense. There has never been a time with more varied options; take advantage of it!
The environment that surrounds a storefront impacts the location greatly. Traffic patterns near a prospective retail location are essential to predicting the level of success a building will have. While we cite parking (which we’ll address shortly) as the primary concern when getting customers to a store, there are other factors that contribute to this decision: What side of the street is the business on? How busy is the traffic on the surrounding streets? Is your business on a one-way street or near construction?
All of these questions should be asked as you determine how your customers will come to you and how easy (or challenging) that might be.
Depending on the nature of the business you’re hoping to run, you may need to run a significant amount of electricity, HVAC or telecommunications equipment in order to stay in business. Older buildings may be cheaper in terms of rent and standard utility rates, but present a tradeoff when called upon to house businesses that will test their capacity to operate well.
Can the converted colonial home handle the high burden you plan to place on its outdated electrical systems? Can your electronic repair business operate effectively with existing telecommunications equipment? Be prepared to dig beyond standard details that an agent may have to share with you; come knowing the specs you’ll need to be successful, and work from there to ensure your space can truly house your dreams.
There are few things worse than getting to your favorite store, perhaps hoping to make a quick trip inside, only to find there’s nowhere to park. If at all possible, ample, easy and safe parking should be part and parcel of the retail location decision. Weigh the area’s parking options against the type of business you own and how long customers are likely to need it, also factoring in metered or garage options nearby.
Consider, also, customers that may get to you in manners other than by car. Are there bus stops nearby? How about bicycle racks? If there aren’t any, are you willing to install them? And, in all cases, think about the safety of the customers that will be coming to you. Are parking lots, bike racks, or bus stops well lit? Some of these factors you may have more control over than others, but noting them in your decision-making will make a difference to your clientele when you eventually get it right.
Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act over twenty-five years ago, there has been a general awareness of the need to make spaces accessible for those with visible and individual challenges. For a retail location, some of these challenges will likely present themselves in choices like:
- Ingress and egress (can customers easily get in and out of your store, even with crutches or a wheelchair?)
- Aisle clearances (are spaces between aisles, racks, or counters easily navigable?)
- Signage (are signs able to be placed and written in a manner that makes it easy for all to read and move around?)
While there are certain mandates the government requires you to comply with, it goes a long way to make these considerations naturally when building your space. Customers appreciate when these regulations are not just followed, but appear to be natural rather than the result of afterthoughts.
An area’s merchant association can make a significant difference in the success of your business, particularly if you are a first-time business owner. Bradley University (IL)’s Turner Center goes into more detail about the benefits of a strong merchant’s association:
“A strong merchant’s association can accomplish through group strength what an individual store owner couldn't even dream of. Some associations have induced city planners to add highway exits near their shopping center. Others have lobbied for and received funds from cities to remodel their shopping centers, including extension of parking lots, re-facing of buildings, and installation of better lighting.”
Inquire about the presence of a merchant’s association in the areas you’re seeking to rent. If the agent is unsure, ask other merchants in the area about those opportunities. The promise of added exposure could make a difference ― perhaps the difference between a prosperous first year in your new location and a struggle to stay afloat.
With so much to consider when selecting a storefront, we hope this list gives you a solid foundation upon which to start your search. The process may be a long and arduous one, but with the right mindset and through the right questions, successful selection won’t be too far off.
— Bob Caperton
For more than 20 years, Robert Barrett has been recognized as a leader in the real estate industry. Under the tutelage of his father, Roy Barrett, he learned to specialize in finding undervalued assets, and his negotiating skills have led to many successful real estate acquisitions and developments. Barrett Properties currently owns over 100 properties including shopping centers, warehouses, apartments, condominiums, and storage facilities.