How to Start a Gift Shop

by Sylvia Cochran; Updated September 26, 2017
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Gift shops are lifesavers and anyone who has ever shopped for a last minute present under an enormous time crunch knows that a well stocked gift shop is a Godsend. Small business entrepreneurs like the idea of starting a gift shop simply because the inventory is uncomplicated, the services are limited, and the shop can yield a good profit margin that lends itself to expanding in the future, adding personnel, and even opening secondary and tertiary locations. Starting a gift shop does not have to be hard if you follow a few crucial steps.

Items you will need

  • Market research results
  • Notepad and pen
  • Store location
  • Business plan
  • Funding
  • Business licenses and articles of incorporation
  • Merchandise
  • Internet access
  • Marketing plan
Step 1

Check out other gift shops in the area. Visit them in person and jot down their hours, locations, merchandise, services rendered, and the general impression with respect to clientele. Jot down if there is one gift shop that appears remarkably empty and keep track of the merchandise and location. Strike up a friendly conversation with the sales clerk and find out when the shop’s busiest time is. This is standard market research and, while you could pay a third party for this service, it saves a lot of money doing it yourself.

Step 2

Find a premier location for your gift shop and be prepared to think outside the box. For example, the rent at an established store front at the airport may be sky high, but the rent charged for operating a cart that can carry much of the same merchandise but is stored out of sight overnight is considerably less and thus more affordable. In the beginning, a cart may be a great option if you are thinking of selling smaller objects. Such carts are found in train stations, airports, shopping centers, malls, in front of movie theaters and also pedestrian walkways. They have the added benefit of being move-able and thus give you the opportunity for making a one day appearance at local fairs and festivals.

Step 3

Calculate your start-up costs and devise a financial plan. Will you rely on a bank loan to start your gift shop or will you seek out private investors? You will need to have a business plan and also a financial plan before asking anyone for funds to finance the gift shop. While it may seem tedious to put all these facts and figures in writing, failure to do so will hinder your success.

Step 4

Complete a general company description and decide on a business name. This name sets you apart from the rest of the competition and you are wise to spend a bit of time on this process. Research the name you are choosing on the Internet to ensure that no one else is using it.

Step 5

Apply for incorporation of your business and also any and all business licenses you need to run a gift shop in the area you have indicated. Remember that running a business out of your home is a lot different from running one at a commercial location, and the licenses will vary. If you are selling food and drink items, additional licenses may be required.

Step 6

Select gift products and store services by analyzing your customer base. Consumers at the airport are more likely to seek out country, state or city specific merchandise than those at a busy mall. Consider if your clientele is predominantly female or male, well to do or more money conscious, extravagant or down-to-earth, interested in functional gadgetry or decorative items, and any other specific attributes which will determine what they're interested in buying.

Step 7

Create a marketing plan and begin advertising your business. Promoting a gift shop requires appealing to consumers’ love for those whom they are visiting or to whom there are returning and since you are in the business of selling a “want” rather than a “need,” it is crucial that you keep this in mind as you prepare to launch your first ad campaign.

Step 8

Decide on the hours your gift shop will be open with the help of the market research that you did in Step 1. Throw open the doors to what is hopefully the start of a thriving gift shop business.

Tips

  • Purchase your merchandise from gift shops that are going out of business or other merchants that are doing big closeout sales. Avoid the mass market cheap inventory wholesalers since their merchandise is often badly made. Furnishing a store can be done very cost effectively by purchasing shelves and other items from stores that are going out of business or via retailers that specialize in this kind of previously used commercial merchandise.

About the Author

Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.

Photo Credits

  • Morguefile.com/Clara Natoli