Hanging out your shingle for business is always fraught with challenges of some kind. Doing so in a quaint little arts village has indeed been that, just possibly on a smaller scale. I’ve done service oriented business over the years, primarily web development or hosting, but that didn’t hardly prepare me for running a specialty retail shop.
First and foremost, when you’re providing a service, it’s mostly just you and your time to do what ever it is you offer your clients. In the past I could perform my services at any hour of the day or night I found convenient, as long as the deadline was met. With a small retail shop, you really need regular hours. Kind of like a real job. But then you need inventory. This isn’t about what you can do, that’s a simple matter. It’s about what you have to sell. After you’ve found your suppliers, which believe me is not a simple matter depending on what it is you’re selling, then you need to order stock. And lots of it. Which means either cash in hand or good credit at your disposal. And with that stock also comes freight charges, which aren’t cheap. Add in your other expenses for licensing, rent, bags to put your products in, and so much more; none of which adds any value what so ever to your product. Yet you must consider all things when you set your prices. And most importantly, will people be willing to pay what you need your prices to be? Then you need to work the shop, which means not having time to work a real job for real pay. Forget paying yourself. Oh sure the first rule of business is to pay yourself right? Not in a small retail shop. The first order of business, after your have your shop stocked, is selling all that stuff so when the bills come due they can be paid. Then you might consider paying yourself a little something, but it’s not going to be minimum wage. At least not for quite some time. Maybe not for years.
Now if that hasn’t scared you away from it, let’s talk about your potential customers. You need signs to get them in. And then are they going to like what you have? And for those that do (many won’t give a rip), are your prices good enough to make them commit to that purchase you really need them to make at this point. What if a shop a block away has it for $1 less? Sale lost? Maybe. Unless you can pour on the charm and convince them you’re a whole lot more worthy of their business than that shop a block away.
Shoppers are, well, weird. This has been a real eye-opening lesson in human psychology and behavior. There are areas in your shop, no matter how enticing they seem to you, no one will look at. And this is some sort of bizarre universal thing. As if there’s a huge sign that says “don’t look here”. And what’s even bizarre is 94% of all people will follow the same exact route through your shop without any signs or arrows or directions telling them how to proceed through. It is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Oh and those shoppers are fickle too. Yeah, everyone says they’ll come back later to get something and maybe 2% really do. Some days you sell $20 worth of goods, and other days maybe you sell $500. There’s a lot more $20 days though I’m so sorry to say. And there seems to be no way of knowing what a day will bring. You just have to be here and flip the sign to “open” to find out.
One of the biggest surprises has been learning that between trying to find suppliers, getting stock ordered and sorted and priced, keeping track of the bookkeeping, and so many other things you never thought about before, I am working more hours now than I have in the last 25 years and getting paid almost nothing to do it.
Yes, it’s probably time to get the old noggin’ checked. Insanity must be setting in.
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