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Ultimate Guide to the Retail Industry

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Ultimate Guide to the Retail Industry

Published: December 1, 2010 Updated: June 13, 2011

Thinking of diving into retail? To ensure a smooth entry, take advantage of the articles highlighted in this post. They provide guidance and will help you find answers to the many questions and decisions you're bound to face.

1. Understand Your Industry

It is important to understand the retail industry before starting your business. In a previous Business.gov article, How to Start a Retail Business: A Step-by-Step Guide, you can find information about:

  • Determining the type of business model
  • Finding the right Location
  • Finance your venture
  • Determine the business structure - do you want to do it alone or form a partnership?
  • And taking care of the regulatory requirements involved in starting and operating a business

You can also check out the article 'Doing Business in Your Town: Navigating the State and Local Government Maze'.

2. Decide What Type of Retail Interests You

Deciding what type of retail you'd like to focus on is obviously important in getting started. There are two basic types of retailers:  specialty and wholesale.

  • Specialty retailers offer a limited variety of products in an effort to serve a smaller customer base more effectively, think consumer electronics or an office supplies store.
  • Wholesale retailers sell goods or merchandise to industrial, commercial, institutional, and professional business retailers.

If you are interested in the wholesale retail industry, consider reading Score's Guide to Buying Wholesale for some tips on how to make your buying experience as successful as possible.

3. Select a Business Name

There's more to naming your business than just coming up with something that sounds good and you happen to like. Careful thought should be given to state and local requirements for using 'assumed' trade names and making sure you don't infringe upon the rights of someone else's business name. Take a look at the following information to help you select and register a business name:

  • Incorporate Your Business: If your business is a corporation, LLC, or limited partnership you may need to register your business name when you are filing your incorporation paperwork.
  • Register a Domain Name: If you are planning to have a web presence with your business, you should consider registering a domain name.

4. Develop a Plan

Though you are not required to write a business plan, organized and detailed planning essential to starting and operating a business. Often times you will even find it's necessary when applying for a loan or attracting an investor. The following information will help you develop a sound business plan, establish mission and goals, and suggest resources as you move forward.

  • Writing a Business Plan: Read about the basics of writing your own business plan, listen to expert advice on podcasts, or watch videos of successful entrepreneurs sharing the lessons they've learned about the business plan writing process.
  • Small Business Planning: Careful planning is fundamental to success - take a look at the information and resources provided here for help at any stage of the business lifecycle and common-sense advice on starting a new business.
  • Business Planning Tutorials: These resources and discussions can help with mapping out your businesses plan, including forecasting sales and daily management.

5. Obtain Required Licenses or Permits

Every business needs one or more federal, state or local licenses or permits to operate. The information in the Business Licenses and Permits section will help you understand your license and permit obligations. Licenses can range from a basic operating license to very specific permits and regulations vary by industry, state and locality, so it's very important to understand the licensing rules where your business is located.

If your business is involved in activities that are supervised and regulated by a federal agency be sure to check out the Federal Licenses for Regulated Businesses section. This information will help you understand the types of business activities licensed by the federal government.

Not complying with licensing and permitting regulations can lead to expensive fines and put your business at risk.

6. Marketing:

Check out the 'Ultimate' Small Business Marketing Guide for some universal marketing principles and surprisingly creative approaches that can help any small business owner find and grow new markets, while nurturing their existing customer base. The article offers some tips, tactics and approaches that you might want to consider as you build out your small business marketing toolkit.

Read SCORE's article 12 Sure-Fire Steps to Improve Your Retail Sales for ideas and suggestions on increasing the flow of customers and increasing store revenue. The purpose of any business is to attract customers, so if your cash registers aren't getting a lot of activity, something is wrong and you had better fix it fast. Follow the steps outlined in this article to improve your retail sales, simplify your efforts, multiply profits, and increase the odds of success.

7. Hiring Employees:

The Ultimate Guide to Hiring, Managing, and Nurturing your Small Business Team will help get you started with the hiring process. Hiring and managing employees is one of the most demanding and challenging aspects of business ownership. From the recruitment process, to on-boarding a new employee, and all the while ensuring you are compliant with a whole range of employment law - the responsibilities can seem overwhelming. This guide consolidates many aspects of finding, hiring and managing employees, and offers suggestions for keeping your team motivated and collectively focused on the success of your business.

8. Taxes:

Whatever your business structure and reporting requirements there are several steps you can take now to get your small business tax obligations 'ducks in a row' to help you maximize your deductions and sail through tax season. Read the article Small Business Tax Preparation Tips - Stay a Step Ahead of Tax Season Today to help you better understand your tax obligations for your retail business.

9. Insurance:

Protecting your business investment with insurance is a critical part of small business ownership. It minimizes the risks associated with unexpected events, liabilities, and losses. However, as with all insurance markets, knowing and finding the best insurance for your needs is not an easy task. Whether you are starting a business, taking on employees for the first time, or evolving your business structure, there are many variables that determine the right insurance for your small business.

Read the following articles to get you started on the path to finding the right insurance for your business:

Additional Resources:

Retail Industry Portal: Is a website dedicated to retailers and provides one-stop access to a vast amount of the EPA's compliance, sustainability and pollution prevention resources that are specifically applicable to the retail sector. Two types of resources are available:

  • Compliance Resources: Help you meet current environmental obligations. In addition to Federal regulations, state regulations may also apply to your business activities. Not complying with regulations can result in enforcement actions.
  • Sustainability Resources: Help you voluntarily go beyond regulatory obligations to protect the environment.

International Online Sales: Selling your products online allows for immediate entry into the global marketplace. However, shipping your product overseas presents a few challenges if have little experience with taxes, duties, customs laws, and consumer protection issues involved with international commerce. If you are just getting started in the process, this information will help you understand legal and regulatory requirements when shipping overseas.

About the Author:

Sarah Millican
I'm a digital strategy consultant with ENC Strategy (www.encstrategy.com) and work full-time to support the Small Business Administration in growing and developing this online community to the best that it can be.

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