Small Business Saturday Blog

How to open a corner shop

Wednesday, October 03 at 22:07

The humble corner shop — haven of sweet treats, un-judging provider of late night booze pickups and vendor of early morning milk and eggs. Every neighbourhood has its handful of corner shops that enhance the community and service its needs from dawn until dusk.
With over 50,000 operating in the UK, these retailers have a unique place in customers’ hearts. From the quaint village grocery to the 24-hour city newsagent, they’re a British institution that we’ve all come to rely on in one form or another.
If it’s your dream to work at the heart of your local community, here’s Square's guide to get you started. Before you put any of it into practice, we highly recommend you consult with legal and financial professionals to ensure this is the right venture for you.
Create a Business Plan
Before you begin the practical setup of your corner shop, you need to create a business plan. This acts as a vital roadmap outlining where your business is headed. It’s also a helpful reality check — the first year or two of your corner shop business will come with challenges but your business plan helps you prepare. Here’s what it should include:
  • Executive summary
  • Market analysis
  • Stock and services summary
  • Marketing & sales strategy
  • Management plan
  • Financial considerations
See here for more in depth guidance to building your plan.
Legal Obligations
Due to the diverse range of stock and produce corner shops sell — including age-restricted items like alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets and sharps — there are many legal requirements to consider. To keep your customers, staff and premises covered with the correct insurance, look into:
  • Public and product liability insurance
  • Stock cover
  • Employer’s liability insurance
  • Personal accident insurance
  • Business interruption insurance
  • Business legal protection insurance
  • Business buildings and contents insurance
  • Personal accident insurance
Some insurance policies will neatly cover all of the above as part of a shop insurance package which you can compare online.
Beyond insurance, there are a range of business licences which you should investigate to ensure you’re operating lawfully. These include:
You should also make sure you’re fully equipped to offer a workplace pension to any staff, as it is now a legal requirement.
How much does it cost to open a corner shop?
There are a number of costs involved in opening your own corner shop. If this seems prohibitive, don’t give up — budgets can be scaled to make it happen. Here are five cost factors to consider when you open a corner shop:
  • Physical space
  • Interior design
  • Stock
  • Marketing
  • Labour
In particular on this last one, due to the size and nature of corner shops, it’s unlikely you’ll need a big team. However, it is wise to have some form of backup for those days that you’re ill or simply need a break. As well as paying employees the National Minimum Wage, factor in the cost of training, pension contributions and any benefits.
Finding a location
The location you choose should tie in with the type of business you want to run. If your dream is a no-frills corner shop serving emergency supplies, a residential area without nearby supermarkets (and other corner shops of course) is a great shout. If you’re considering a more specialist approach, for example by offering whole foods and zero-waste packaging, your location should be based in a community where there is real demand (and disposable income) for this niche. Or if you’re planning to set up shop in a densely populated urban area, consider the direction of footfall so that you can capture potential customers from competitor businesses.
Here are some key factors to think about before you set your heart on a location:
  • Does it need/have parking space?
  • Is there easy road access for drivers?
  • How busy is the local area (down to postcode level)?
  • Are there any obstructions that will make it hard for people to find you?
  • What’s the ambience and demographic of the area?
  • How is the area going to change in the coming months and years?
  • How visible is the building itself within its surroundings?
  • How vulnerable is the location to competitors?
  • What opportunity is there to attract custom from other local businesses?
  • Are there any local businesses (such as pubs, schools or gyms) that could increase your footfall?
  • What’s the local crime rate like?
Keep your prices competitive
The corner shop is an icon of convenience, but that isn’t always enough to build customer loyalty if you’re charging them far more than the local supermarket. With supermarkets creating smaller branches, the affordability of your products and services is more important than ever. Here are three ways to keep your costs down without impacting your business.
1. Choose an affordable payment provider.
2. Collaborate with local suppliers.
3. Offer loyalty discounts.
Reach your customer base
Resist the temptation to rely solely on your convenient location for thriving business – even small, local businesses can benefit from proactive marketing. When you find a moment between serving customers, stocking shelves and tracking your business performance put together a marketing strategy. Keep it simple and true to the nature of your business.
  • Flyering
  • Social media
  • Launch party
Everyone likes a party. They represent something particularly communal that works for a local business like a corner shop. To get the most from the time and money you put in, here are some launch party tips:
  • Have clear goals. A launch party gets your business’ name out and about, but you need to consider specific metrics if you want to measure the success its success and use that insight for future events. For example, do you want a certain number of people to sign up to your email list or join your Facebook Page on the night?
  • Keep it DIY. After just setting up shop, it’s unlikely you’ll be feeling flush. Skip the private hires and ask your friends and family to help out with the preparations.
  • Invite the old-school way. If you’re still in the process of building a following on social media, use word-of-mouth and direct mail to invite people. In a neighbourhood setting, this grassroots approach can work wonders.
  • Give people a reason to come. Whether it’s a BBQ, face painting or freebies from your store, people are more likely to come if there’s a specific pull. This is a real opportunity to show your generosity and fun side, and prove yourself as a core part of the community.
For more detailed information on starting your own corner shop, read the full article from Square here.

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