General stores are a great concept because they cater to the needs of the general public. While they don’t offer everything you might need, they do stock a great many common items to meet most people's immediate needs. Owning and operating a general store doesn’t require any special education or formal training, but it’s beneficial to the success of the business to learn how to get started.
Develop a business plan. Conduct an analysis of the competition based on the city or region where your store will be located. Determine how much it will cost to start the store as well as how much product you need to sell each month to make a profit. Visit the website of the Small Business Development Center at Duquesne University to see sample business plans and review a guide that explains how to write your own.
Obtain a loan. Apply for a small business loan from a local financial institution by completing a loan application and submitting a copy of your business plan. Find out if you qualify for guaranteed loans available through the U.S. Small Business Administration which are designed specifically for people who want to open their own business. Take money out of your savings or retirement only if you’re confident you can return the money in six months to one year.
Find a location. Seek out a commercial space in an area where competition from other general stores or big-box retailers is minimal. Sign a lease or purchase the building. Ensure there’s enough space to display and sell your products, as well as storage space, too.
Seek out products. Find manufacturers and wholesale suppliers. Search for products that are likely to be in demand by customers, but are not offered by your competition. Based on the financial aspects in your business plan, determine the markup price for each product to ensure you make a profit. Regularly review the products in your store to ensure they are selling and not just sitting on the shelf. If necessary, replace the non-selling items with new products and track their performance.
Market your store. Advertise to your local neighborhood via the neighborhood newsletter. Expand advertising to different sections of the city through community newspapers. Use radio, television and newspaper to run city-wide ads. Consider special discounts and promotions to bring new customers into the store and set yourself apart from the competition.
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