Recent studies have reported a trending growth of retail businesses, with 2.7 more stores opening for every one that closes. So with this in mind, we’ve reached out to entrepreneurial experts to give us their take on the best retail business ideas and tips that would work well in the current market. In this article, we list a combination of specific ideas as well as thought-starter suggestions on choosing the business idea that’s right for you.
Here are the top 21 retail business ideas from the pros.
1. Combine Two Retail Business Ideas
Sophie Miles Cayman, CEO, QuotesAdvisor.com
An interesting option to combine two retail business ideas is what in our circle of entrepreneurs we call “Barbeard.” We used to have an interesting retail idea in our business incubator, which turned out to be very successful in the tests we carried out. The idea comes from the fusion of a bar (with over 18 varieties of craft beer) and an original London barbershop style. It is much more than selling out two products to the same customer at the same time—it is a whole experience you can buy only if you have two or three hours free. It is what we call a weekend plan! Nowadays buying products is easy—just do two clicks and the products arrive at your home.
Examples of this are Amazon and AliExpress, among others. But living experiences—that is a different story. Retail businesses have to focus on offering experiences to their customers, not just the best price or the best product.
2. Learn What Your Customers Want and Give it to Them
Marc Prosser, Fit Small Business
The biggest mistake you can make as a retailer is letting a customer walk out the door without learning something about them. Lightspeed is a retail point-of-sale (POS) system that lets you create customer profiles with purchase histories so you can offer products and services tailored to their needs. You can also build a custom, rewards-based loyalty program to drive repeat business and build long-term relationships. Start a free 14-day trial.
3. Sell What Interests You
Garrett Smith, CEO, Pitch + Pivot
When searching for a retail business idea, you want to look into products, services you enjoy yourself. Finding a small niche may not make you a billionaire overnight, but it will be an enjoyable and rewarding career. For example, I’m a bigger guy and sometimes have difficulty finding sneakers in my size. I could open a storefront tailored to the big shoes sizes for athletic men and women!
4. Fill a Niche Need
Alex Andrade-Walz, Customer Success Manager, Spatially
I always recommend starting with due diligence on your local competitors: Is there an unmet need in my area? If I do have direct competitors, what can I do that’s different or better? Today, your local competitors also include ecommerce, so I’d also explore any retail ideas that have taken off online that may be worth replicating in the physical world. Running your business ideas through this gauntlet of questions will help you establish early on whether or not there’s (a) demand for your business, and (b) room to grow or differentiate in the competitive landscape.
Having recently been married, for example, I had to make a lot of very important decisions online, even though I’d be more comfortable talking to a real person. I kept thinking: If only there was a one-stop-shop for those beginning this stressful and costly journey. Some place I could visit to shop all the essentials and then talk to an expert face-to-face to get recommendations for the other vendors based on my parameters. I believe this is a unique problem that can best be solved by a brick-and-mortar shop.
5. Take Your Business Online
Maggie Aland, Fit Small Business
One easy way to increase is your retail sales is to also sell your products online. Shopify is a great ecommerce platform for new sellers because it delivers a complete multichannel sales management solution in one easy-to-use system. You get an online store with an integrated marketplace, social and in-person sales tools, plus built-in shipping labels, inventory tracking, email marketing, and more. Try it free for 14 days.
6. Take Online Businesses Offline
Fabian Geyrhalter, Principal, FINIEN
One only needs to look at how Amazon opened unbelievably engaging retail bookstores while Barnes & Noble had a hard time to first go online, and now to mimic that online experience within their aging stores. You would think that Amazon is too easy of an example, a low-hanging fruit, as they have plenty of spending power and usability knowledge, but it’s simply not that easy as Amazon had zero retail experience when they opened their first retail stores. They were just smart enough to translate all the things that made their online experience superior into a superior offline experience, from translating their data into meaningful shopping decisions to translating their online community (GoodReads) into an in-store book club list experience, showing online customer reviews associated with physical books on a shelf and making it feel more honest and personal.
I could go on and on. It’s a powerful experiment in taking online offline. So ask yourself: what are some online businesses that you have not seen offline yet? Ecommerce businesses that sell to consumers that have been fully derived in solely an online setting and no one thought of reverse engineering them into powerful offline experiences allowing customers to walk in, touch and feel, and experience those products in a more human environment? I believe there is big success in removing the www and replacing it with an Instagram-friendly, human, community-building, in-store experience. Who knows, you may take it online later.
7. Introduce a Coworking Space with Resources Available for Purchase
Jim Herst, CEO, Perceptive Selling Initiative, Inc.
New is the availability of space for use by individuals for their business needs. This is big in NYC and has expanded to downtown Chicago. In suburban areas, typical of where I live, many solo/retired/active individuals, like me, work from home. What if someone could promote availability of either small, private office spaces and/or just desk space, and added resources such as “personal assistants,” access to resources such as people/firms like me who can do sales promotion, or a printer who would/could be called in to meet by appointment with a “tenant”? Keep office supplies on hand (served by arrangement with Staples or some such) on a contingent set-up.
I can go on—private mailboxes, shipping and receiving mail, etc. Such a setting is currently easy to set up in a “sick” shopping center having both lots of parking and vacant stores. Properly promoted, could this be an accepted new retail operation?
8. Make Daily Life Easier
Teana McDonald, Founder, 3E Connections
The retail industry is not for everyone. One of my previous businesses was a children’s accessories line, from hair accessories to purses. The reason it didn’t work was because I could not compete with the Walmarts and the Targets of the world. That was then and this is now. Now entrepreneurs have the unique opportunity of launching a successful product using apps like Snapchat and Instagram and platforms like eBay. The world is on a mobile device and if you make your products available and interesting, they will come. In terms of coming up with a new business idea, you have to figure out how to solve for a need, then look and see if someone has done it well. If they have, move on—if they haven’t, remix and run with it.
For example, the Snuggie—it’s a backwards bathrobe. I always say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” The stuffed animals that glow in the dark—it’s just adding a light inside of a stuffed animal. Think about your everyday life and what would make it easier, then do your research and start formulating a plan to create a new idea.
9. Think Several Steps Ahead
RaShea Drake, B2B Analyst, Verizon Business
Particularly sustainable clothing. Sustainable clothing still isn’t easily accessible, so this is a trend to jump on (like AllBirds shoes did). The market for sustainability is a loyal one as well, which is another reason to position yourself in this industry. It’s important to think steps ahead in how your retail business will grow. A trend or one product may provide short-term growth, but you’ll have to have the next product or the next trend in place to be successful in the long-term. Look to Apple in this regard. If they were still only selling laptops or iPods, they would not be as successful as they are now.
10. Make Customer Experience Your Priority
Anthony Capetola, Marketing Manager, Sales & Orders
In terms of picking a good retail business to start in this market, it really depends on several factors, such as an entrepreneur’s knowledge/interest in what they plan on selling, whether there’s enough demand for the product/service to be profitable, understanding the competition and the target audience, etc. I think one key, regardless of idea, is to ensure that you’re providing a great customer experience that can be a business differentiator, even if one decides to enter a crowded space. Customer expectations are changing and shoppers no longer want to be treated just as revenue-generators.
There’s a reason why Starbucks continues to experience steady growth both domestically and globally—they sell more than just coffee. They’ve created a friendly environment where people can sit and chat or do their work, they’ve expanded their offerings to include food, wine (at select locations), and various types of coffee, and they strive to provide great customer service by ensuring their employees are satisfied.
11. Sell Your Handmade Creation
Zondra Wilson, Founder and CEO, Blu Skin Care, LLC
You can focus more specifically on selling your own handmade creations. You can use your own ecommerce website, a platform like Etsy, Amazon or sell your products at local events. Ecommerce has grown so much that it has revolutionized how artisans and makers sell their homemade items. It has become increasingly easier for creative DIY entrepreneurs to build and grow a handmade goods business—right from scratch. Surprisingly, some artisans don’t always see the business opportunity or the opportunity to make a living or side-income from their passion. Having a handmade business can prove to be lucrative if done correctly.
12. Try the “Store-in-Store” Concept
BJ Dowlen, Founder, Bodyworks Enterprises, LLC
The newest concept in retail is the “store-inside-store” concept. Retailers are struggling on life support to keep customers coming through their doors, which is where the store-inside-store concept comes in. Rather than have our own brick-and-mortar store, we provide an “experience” for customers to enjoy. We lead our #Take2AndRenew w/ BodyworksBall inside retail spaces, supermarkets and many other “out of the box” places. A person can’t get this experience by clicking the “buy” button on Amazon—they need to travel to a store, which benefits the retailer and benefits us with sales and publicity.
13. Consider Data Recovery as a Retail Business
Glen Allsopp, Founder, Detailed.com
One retail business that I have seen springing up a lot in Asia, and think will soon follow in the Western world, is data recovery. Bear with me here. I’m sure most of us know how big cryptocurrency is becoming around the world, and how it’s “safe” because you store the public and private keys yourself. Well, there’s a big problem of people losing that data on their hard drives and needing it recovered. Often this data can be worth tens of thousands of dollars (if not more), so professional services are appreciated.
Of course, this isn’t retail in the sense of traditional shopping, but if cryptocurrencies even come close to becoming a form of currency, then this kind of business will become huge. This is becoming more common in countries like Taiwan, and I can only imagine it will spread to the West as well.
14. Create a Live Tech Solutions Shop
Sandra Lauer, Technical Writer and Innovator, Sandra Lauer
How many times have you thought, “I don’t know how to use this gadget and it’s annoying but I don’t care enough to try to look it up, read the manual, or go to the store to ask”? Well a retail service business that addresses that need, like a “Tech Rx,” could help you keep up with technology by providing gadget-related tutoring and diagnostic services over the internet via remote access (i.e., Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, etc.). Get help with things like what skills you can do with Alexa, what features to look for with a new doorbell or home security, how do I increase memory on my cell phone or not go over my data usage.
A “Tech Rx” could help with consumer electronic devices such as cell phones, TV remotes, smart home IoT devices (lightbulbs, thermostats, doors, Wi-Fi routers, Bluetooth), smart car GPS and phone, etc. It’s similar to Geek Squad computer and appliance repair support or Telemedicine diagnostic services, but more specifically for gadgets and quick questions that make life easier if you knew how to do it and don’t care or know where to look to find out.
15. Explore and Try Out New Things
David Mercer, Founder, SME Pals
The best way to come up with great new business ideas is to escape your comfort zone. Get out of routines. Do different things. It can be anything you like—but preferably stuff you love. It is often those things that you are most passionate about that will reveal great new opportunities (most likely because you are simply more observant when it comes to stuff you love). The more you do this, the more likely it is that your brain will put together a new and exciting association that can be turned into a great business. Sitting at your desk, by yourself, trying to come up with an idea is much, much more difficult and a lot less fun.
16. Search for a Gap in the Market
Emily Kamburupitiya, Co-Founder, Finnops
You’ll want to research the market and identify the gap, so consider these four questions to guide you as you conceptualize your business plan:
- What is the pending issue that plagues potential customers? (problems you want to resolve)
- Are you paying more for something that can be sourced somewhere else at a cheaper cost?
- Can you identify an item that’s missing the mark on marketing?
- Is there a popular product sold only in a certain area but needed in other areas as well?
One example using the above framework is subscription box services. Most of our actions can be forecasted, and we tend to use the same items over and over and still create lists for “things to grab at the store.” Think grocery boxes (the staples people use every week) or toiletry boxes customized to a person’s favorite items, sports gear, toys for kids, etc. The problem being solved is convenience, and if you bundle the products, you might save on costs or time (which can be related to saving on cost), which achieves two of the four areas above.
Online shops easily rival brick-and-mortar shops in popularity when it comes to retail business. With the right approach, anyone can start and maintain their own ecommerce website. If you already have an idea of products to sell, find out how to sell online in this step-by-step guide to creating your online retail shop from scratch.
There is no cookie-cutter structure for retail businesses, so anyone who wants to start a venture needs to find the best idea that suits their interest and will continue to work in the long run. However, it’s not easy to choose when you have a myriad of retail business options available to you. Look into how these 30 profitable, trending retail ideas started and kept their business going to inspire you as you plan for your own retail business.
A retail shop is the best business idea for beginner entrepreneurs. With the right resources, it’s fairly easy to set up and assures the owner of regular cash inflow from the day it opens. If you’re still thinking of what to sell, you might be surprised that there are a lot more options for retail than just clothing and food. Here is a list of 50 retail business ideas that any beginner business owner can try.
The cost to invest in a retail business varies. Some retail startups can be more expensive than others, but there are also those that don’t necessarily have to break the bank. With a bit of creativity and resourcefulness, you should be able to find ways to start your venture. This article lists 50 popular retail business ideas and suggestions on how to get started while working on a budget.
It’s important to have an idea of how much your start-up retail business would cost. While there is enough room to grow in the retail space, being unprepared can end a venture as quickly as it started. It’s good if you can afford to shell out the initial capital out of your own pocket, but for those who would need to look for funding, check out this article that explains your options on how to finance your brick-and-mortar retail business.
The retail industry is going through a lot of changes, and new trends in tech offer brick-and-mortar shops the opportunity they need to keep up with online stores. And because customers are now placing more value on experience in their buying decisions, new retail business owners need to emphasize this feature into their selling strategy. Here are 20 ideas that every business owner should consider when creating their business plan.
Over to You
The key to a successful retail business is being able to adapt to ever-changing market demands. Consider these tips from the pros the next time you plan for your new venture.
Got any more retail business ideas and tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!