While there are a lot of different types of retail, there are certain things that will be the same in running all of them. We spoke with two shop owners to discuss the challenges and rewards in the day to day running of a retail business. Sallie Stevens, Owner of Burghesh Court, which is the oldest shop in Britain, and Bruce Nethersole, owner of a convenience store in Stoke-on-Trent.
One of the aspects of running a shop that is the same for any retail venture is the location of your shop. Being in an area with a high footfall will be an advantage in getting customers.
A shop that is accessible and convenient is also a bonus as people will be more likely to visit you if you’re easy to get to.
According to Nethersole, “Our location is residential. In terms of through traffic, it's good, as we are next to a busy shortcut which cuts from the A50 to the city centre. If the A50 is blocked up people use this way to get through to the city.”
Before investing in a business, Nethersole did as much research as he could so that he understood the foot traffic that went past the shop, “I sat outside monitoring traffic, so I could get an idea of whether there was decent potential in this. I sat out watching the traffic from 5 am to 10 pm - one, to see how much traffic goes past, and two, to see what trade goes through the door. But mainly to see the potential.”
One of the worries that people have about retail is whether or not it will be sustainable in the future as online shopping becomes more popular. Stevens doesn’t find that to be the case, “We haven't found that we've gotten quieter. If anything, I think that more people are tending to use local shops. Most of the time everybody's happy anyway and we rarely get complaints.”
One of the biggest challenges of retail is pricing items. Stevens comments on how rising prices mean that you have to stay on top of your pricing, “We found that the price of chocolate had risen quite a lot. I have found changes with items that I'm buying from a Cash- &- Carry for the shop - whereas before it would have the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) which would give me a certain percentage profit, gradually the RRP has stayed the same, but the profit has gone down, so what you need to do is add the price onto the RRP."
Small retail businesses not only have to compete with online stores but also with supermarket chains that can use their size to keep their prices low. Nethersole notes, “It is difficult to compete on price, but people do use us more for convenience if they forget one item in their main shop.”
“A sizeable part of the shop's revenues come from newspapers and magazines, and particularly the delivery of newspapers, a service which Tesco - touch wood - doesn't yet provide,” says Bruce.
The trick with retail is being able to think of new ways to get customers into your shop. Nethersole is able to keep looking at new prospects, “I see a potential in doing food to get passing traffic. You get about 300 cars an hour going past during the day. The trick is to try and stop some of that traffic, and one way to do that is to offer food on a larger scale.”
He also notes, “There's talk of a new development coming up around here, which would also mean a lot of tradesmen stopping here for drinks and food.”
Once that is done, however, constant hard work is needed to make sure that your business remains profitable.