Start a small retail store in California to sell items such as clothing, shoes, office supplies, sports equipment and household gadgets. Selling items you are already familiar with may help you stay focused and engaged during each stage of business development. Prior experience in sales, marketing and business management is helpful, but not required to be successful. Retail sales is a competitive business that can take years to build.

Things You Will Need
  • Business license

  • Seller's permit

Step 1.

Create a business plan to help guide you through each stage of business development when opening a retail store. Describe the type of retail store you want to open in the first section. List start up costs such as rent, utilities, labor, insurance, marketing and inventory in the second section. List ways to market your store in the third section. Describe managerial and employee roles and responsibilities in the fourth section.

Step 2.

Apply for a business license to open a small retail business in California. Contact the county clerk's office or small business administration office that oversees the town or city in which you want to open your business for licensing information. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to use on state and federal business tax forms. Contact the California Board of Equalization to apply for a seller's permit. This permit is required for retailers and allows you to collect sales tax from customers. Contact the California Secretary of State's Office to register your business as a corporation, partnership or limited liability company (LLC).

Step 3.

Contact a commercial real estate agent to find a suitable location for your retail business. Choose a location in a busy shopping center, downtown location or business district if possible, to attract customers. Consider leasing a kiosk in a mall or outdoor location if you do not have enough capital to lease a large space.

Step 4.

Contact wholesale vendors or clothing manufacturers to stock your retail store or kiosk. Purchase display equipment such as shelves, wall hangers, mannequins, clothing racks and clothing hangers. Purchase retail software to track sales, earnings, inventory and bookkeeping software to manage monthly expenses and to maintain accurate tax records. Purchase business insurance to protect your business in the event of a lawsuit or settlement.

Step 5.

Market your retail store. Create fliers and business cards to hand out to customers. Design business signage that highlights your store name and logo. Advertise in local newspapers and magazines. Join the local chamber of commerce; participate in local fashion shows and charity events to become more recognizable in your community. Use social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter to announce sales.


Display trendy or colorful items in retail store windows or at the front of your kiosk to entice customers to browse.


It may take a few years to sustain steady profits in retail sales. Build up your savings before opening your store so you can maintain monthly expenses as your business grows.