If you’ve ever dreamed of being your own boss and love interacting with the public on a face-to-face basis, owning your own retail store may be the perfect job for you. Make no mistake — it’s a tough job, with long, demanding hours, but with planning and dedication you can create a successful business.

Market Research – Before you ever spend a dollar on rent, utilities, or stock, you should spend a lot of time on market research. This involves some online searching, yes, but most of it is on-the-ground investigating. Check out the town you want to sell in — What are people buying, and where are the stores that serve them? Is there a product people are driving to the next town over to acquire? How much is that store charging? Can you get the same or similar products at a price that would allow you to turn a profit? Alternatively, do you know of a new and innovative product or market you can tap into that will sell well in your town?

Location is Everything – Once you have an idea of what profitable item you might like to sell, take the time to get to know where the people are in your town.  Where is the car traffic? The foot traffic? Try to be aware of the area’s traffic at all times of the day and night, so you can get an idea of what business hours might be most profitable.

 If you find a location where you can afford rent that you think might work for your shop, talk to the other business owners in the area; most won’t mind chatting, especially if your store won’t be selling competing merchandise to theirs. Find out how their businesses are doing, and ask about past businesses that inhabited the storefront you’re considering. If a similar concept was housed there previously and failed, what are you going to do differently to make yours succeed?

Legalities and Insurance – Where you decide to open your store will play a large role in the licenses and permits you will have to obtain. Also influencing this will be what you’re selling — food products will generally require a different permit than non-food products, though that is not always the case if the food is pre-packaged. Look up your local chapter of the Small Business Association and contact someone at your town’s Chamber of Commerce to get started obtaining the legal permissions you will need to open up.

Another legal consideration to keep in mind is insurance. Being properly insured can save not only your business but also your personal finances in the event that you have a break-in, natural disaster, or a customer has an accident in your store. Speak with a qualified insurance agent to ensure your business is covered for both property loss and potential litigation. If you will be hiring employees, you will also need to have worker’s compensation insurance in case one of your employees is injured on the job.

Don’t miss part 2 of our two part post series, “Opening a Retail Store.”