In retail, more than almost any other sector, location is everything. Whether it is a high street, a shopping centre or an office block, your location will determine your level of business activity. But it can also define your image, help bring in other business and develop contacts.So what does that actually mean? Where should you position your business? For example, should you head straight for the high street and aim to directly attract customers as they walk past? Should you locate on the edge of town or just off the main shopping avenue because there are better parking facilities? Or should you head out of town altogether and follow the larger stores into a retail park but pay more rent?
There are two main principles to bear in mind. What sort of business you are and what sort of customers you are going to be targeting (see checklist).
Then comes the most important factor – market research and the four main areas you should consider. These are population, accessibility, competition and costs. These will determine where you locate.
For example, if you run a sandwich bar or café - are the customers in the high street the ones that will buy take away snacks? Can they afford your prices? What is the footfall or number of passers by that walk in or past your shop? How visible is your store next to your competitors and how easy is it to access your store?
Jo-Anne Bayliss, joint founder of People, a fashion shop in Kings Heath, Birmingham, knows all about researching your business for the ideal location. Bayliss says that knowledge of the area is crucial:
“We had lived in the area for four years and were seconds from the location. We also knew that this area contained a lot of creative and young people and that they would buy our products. This stretch of road also contains several gift shops, there is an existing customer base and shopping here saves a trip into town even though this street is only a five minute walk into Kings Heath high street.”
When researching their location Jo-Anne and her co-founders used several methods and techniques. Bayliss explains: “The library was very useful and told us how many people lived in the area, where people were employed and what was going to be built in the near future, for example.
We also carried out a questionnaire in the street, asked friends, studied what kind of people were shopping in the area as well as counting them as they passed by. We also consulted a business advisor who gave us more information on the area such as bus routes and that Kings Heath is the second busiest area in the city.”
Where to locate
There are two main types of UK premises – prime and secondary pitches. Prime pitches, are the most sought after and therefore more scarce. They are also usually the most expensive, twice as much as the price of European retail outlets and arguably the better located. Secondary pitches on the other hand are generally less costly and located out of town or away from the main shopping area.
Chris Dawson, business studies lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University who has specialised in retail and distribution management, says: “Provided you have a service that people want and can afford the area you are located in, plus you are able to cover your costs then you will almost certainly succeed. After that it is more art than science.”