Location, location, location. It’s the old adage that still rings true today. When opening a new business, the hardest, and perhaps most important step, is finding a good location. But what constitutes a good location? It’s great to know you need to find one. How do you do that? You can’t just wander around your town hoping to see a giant arrow pointing at a building and flashing “GREAT SPOT!” I mean if you find that, go with it. I’m guessing it’s rare.
I speak with tons of customers every year who are looking to get into business. The first thing I ask them before anything is, “what is your vision?”
Location Search Step #1: Knowing your concept
Imagine you are looking for a new home. Square footage – somewhere between 1 and 10,000. You have no idea how many bedrooms you need. You may or
may not want a basement. You really don’t know if you want a backyard. Should it have a garage? Not really sure. Bathrooms – you want them, but how many are up for grabs? And the price – something slightly less than what you can’t afford and not too much more than what you currently have to spend. Imagine giving that portfolio to a realtor with a note that says, “now find me my dream home!”
Before you can go look for a spot, you have to know what type of business you want to put into it. Those details have a tremendous bearing on the parameters of the location you should be searching for. What are you selling? If your concept is homemade ice cream or gelato, you may want a walk-in store to show off the flavors and colors of your crafted product. Perhaps you want a smaller shop with a walk-up window. Are you adamant that a drive-thru must be included in your store? Do you need enough square footage to hold birthday parties and events as they are a key element to your vision? Before you go searching for a spot, you have to understand the foundation of what you want your brand to be. Then you can look for a location that helps your concept. Otherwise, it is way too broad of a search. There are times when a dream spot just falls into your lap and you have to massage your vision to fit. But more times than not, compromising a strong concept will compromise your success.
So, you have your vision. You know what you want your brand to be. How do you find a location that fits?
Location Search Step #2: Get help
The internet is a wonderful place if you know how to navigate it. Otherwise, it is a dangerous minefield of misinformation. Far too often, I have customers buy machines online and get completely ripped off. Don’t do the same thing with your location. Get involved with the connectors in your community to help find the right home for your business. Realtor, broker, etc. These people know what may not even be on the market yet. They can put you in the right places. They can help you negotiate to save time and money. It may cost you a little bit, but with the right team behind you, it is worth it!
Okay. You’re doing well. Got a concept. Got an agent looking for you. What’s next???
Location Search Step #3: Know the Key Elements
Before you put pen to paper on space, there are some key elements to consider to help mitigate the risk attached to your new venture.
- You want to make sure your store can be seen. You want to visit at night to make sure it is bright and vibrant. Go during different times to ensure there are no surprises. A while back I had a customer looking for a location. During the week the visibility was great. However, every Saturday a local car dealer put up giant inflatables that blocked their sign and some store frontage. Eventually, it was handled but it took a long time and a lot of lost revenue.
- You need to have at least 10-15 spots. If your location is one with heavy foot traffic or walk-up, you still want to have street parking. You can’t generate dollars without people and people need somewhere to park.
- What is the density of the population? Are there enough people to support your required revenue? You want to ensure the income in the area can support your vision and pricing. Is your neighborhood safe and secure? Desserts have mass appeal but targeted demographics can help you best ascertain where your spot can flourish.
- What if your spot is visible as anything but nobody can get to it? Not good. If customers have to take a jug handle, sit at a never-ending stop sign, then cross a busy intersection just to get to your store……well you may not see them very often. Easy in. Easy out. Not too dangerous. Not too trafficky. All these little details can have a BIG impact.
- Ever notice that where there is one fast food spot, there are another three right there? Or every Lowe’s has a Home Depot close by. Competition is not a bad thing. A good market is good for a reason and can support multiple shops. Every area has a saturation point, but don’t be deterred just because there are existing shops where you may want to be. Ask yourself, do these shops encourage competition or discourage competition with their current operation? I’m not opposed to going into uncharted territory but you have to consider why it is uncharted first.
- Think long-term. Understand whether your prospective area is ascending or descending in some of the key demographics. Getting on the ground floor of an ascending market can pay dividends for years to come. Conversely, buying high in a descending market can sink your shop.
- What is your proximity to the store? Any business requires hours and as an owner, you will be putting them in if you have any chance at success. Too long of a commute can have a negative impact on your chances.
Of course, there are many more layers to this location onion but this information is a good start. Plus, someone once told me that after 1,000 words, you start to lose your audience. As with anything in this industry, if you need help with your location search, the team at Sentry is always here! Happy hunting.