How to start
Experience and expertise are a natural bonus, particularly in a niche business, plus customers will almost always come back if the advice and service they are offered is of a high standard - this is often the unique selling point for many specialist shops. But in business you will need to know how to organise accounts, pay wages and how to price your goods, so if you need to, do some basic courses on areas such as these. Contact your local Business Link for more information on essential business skills.
Before anything carefully consider the following areas:
Decide what you are going to sell - are you going to go general or specialise in a particular area of sport
Then make sure you know where you want to locate and why you're locating in that area - make this choice a priority. If you're a smaller, niche outlet then a cheaper, out of town location may be more suitable but if you're proposing to stock general sports goods, then a location nearer the city centre or main shopping precinct may be better
Decide whether you're going to rent, lease or buy your premises outright
Who you are going to sell to? In order to do this carry out a market research campaign of your own by deciding whether there is going to be a demand for another sports shop in your chosen area
Do this by checking out the competition, counting the number of stores selling sports goods and the ranges they stock and make sure you include other non-sports related shops that may sell clothing or bicycles, for example
Then do a more detailed analysis of your competitors by checking the range of products and services they offer, the prices they charge on those goods, their opening hours, what image they are presenting and whether it will clash with your intentions, what type of customer they are attracting and appealing to, whether they offer expert advice as well as what selling techniques they use
Drawing up a record sheet can often help your cause and lay out all market research criteria on one sheet on paper. Draw five columns including the name and type of the outlet (a chain or an independent retailer), the goods and services they offer such as repairs and ticket sales, for example, their opening hours and other notes such as the appearance of the shop, customer service, type of customers and the general impression you have from the experience
A checklist is vital when carefully plotting every single detail of your future business. Once you have carried out this market research exercise, go over it thoroughly and make a decision on whether your original business idea can still stand up on two feet. If it can, put all your findings into action and start building the business up with a solid database of clients, contacts and a reliable list of suppliers, a shop that presents the correct image and the assurance that each item is priced correctly and focused on your target market.
Sardi explains that after a year of trading he has got to grips with many of the above criteria. "You learn a lot of things in your first year. How to control stock; that cash flow is king and sometimes you are concerned about how you are going to get paid; that advertising in the right (trade and consumer) magazines and on the internet is vital and that you have to keep turning over the right products at the right amount."
When fitting the shop or creating a web presence it is important to try and cut corners wherever possible. Sardi was initially told he wouldn't be able to set up a sports business for less than £20,000 but he managed to spend a mere £12,000. He explains why. "I have quite a few self-employed friends that helped me out. One is a web designer and helped me set up the website in order to trade online, one is a carpet fitter, one is a carpenter while another helped me design seats made to look like tennis balls."