Opening a new store is exciting, but there’s a lot of work to do before your grand opening.
This new store opening checklist will help you manage the multitude of details, tasks, projects and strategies that go into opening a successful new store.
Conduct Research to Prepare Your Store for Opening
Before you start choosing colors for your walls, you need to research the conditions your store will be operating in.
Factors like location and local demand for products you sell will be the difference between success and failure in your first year, and the more research you do, the better prepared you will be for running your store.
Be sure to thoroughly research the following topics:
- Locations - You want a location that makes sense for your store and your target customers. For example, a gas station will have much different location requirements than a boutique clothing store.
- Vendors - Researching vendors is critical. You need strong, beneficial vendor relationships to secure the margins your store needs to survive. Be sure not to enter into any contracts that will force you to sell products your customers won’t be interested in.
- Local product demand - Never open a store without concrete data that people will be buying what you’re selling. Identify your target market in your area and assess how your store is going to satisfy demand in your store’s category.
- Competition - Your store needs to stand out from the competition. Accomplishing this requires that you know your competitors from top to bottom, from their products and offerings, to the general feeling that walking into their store gives you.
- Permits required for operations - The permitting process can add weeks or months to your startup time, so always find out which permits you need for occupancy and operations in advance.
- Regulations specific to your store - To more easily comply with the federal, state and local regulations your store must operate under, research these regulatory requirements before opening. For example, gas stations in California are required to have fume capture features on their pumps while other states do not.
- Projected startup and operating budget - Always research the costs that will be required to open your store and the ongoing operational costs to create an accurate budget. Anyone who invests in your store will want to know that you’ve done these calculations.
- Projected overhead vs projected returns - Before you open your store, you need to calculate your projected overhead vs returns and find out when you will be getting into the black. This will be important for calculating the rates at which you will be able to repay any loans you use to finance startup.
Find the Perfect Location for Your Convenience Store
What is the biggest factor in how much business your store receives? Location, location, location.
Be sure that you thoroughly evaluate several potential locations before you decide on the premises of your store.
- Evaluate workable locations - You’ve researched workable locations for your store, now it’s time to pay a visit. Pay attention to your surroundings as you approach potential storefronts: the people passing by on foot and in cars, the other businesses immediately surrounding you, the kind of environment the property is located in, etc. Ask yourself, does this location make sense for the kind of products I’m selling and the people I want in my store?
- Secure your storefront property - Always be sure to negotiate for favorable lease terms for your storefront property with the assistance of an experienced broker. Once you’ve reached an agreement with the landlord or leasing agency, get your startup plans in motion to minimize pre-opening rent expenditures.
- Get your certificate of occupancy - Your city or county may require a Certificate of Change in Occupancy for your store before you start using your storefront premises. You will need to present detailed operational plans so the planning/building department can determine if your storefront is up to code for your intended use of the property.
- Make tenant improvements - Many improvements such as the surface level remodel of a bathroom can be done without a construction permit, but you should contact your local building department to be sure you aren’t making improvements that require a permit.
Register Your Store and Obtain all Required Permits and Licenses
Before you open your doors, you should have received all certifications, licenses and permits required for operating your store in your state.
- Obtain your Federal Employment Identification Number (FEIN) - Every company needs an FEIN for a variety of business reporting requirements, such as taxes and reporting new hires. You can apply for your FEIN here.
- Apply for a business license for your state - Search “apply for (your state) business license” and you should be able to apply online.
- Apply for a business license for your city (if required) - Many cities require a local business license in addition to your state’s business license, so find out if this is required. Search “apply for (your city) business license” to get started.
- Apply for a seller’s permit - Seller’s permits are required for all retailers. Search for “apply for (your state) seller’s permit online” to get started on your application.
- Get a resale certificate - A resale certificate will allow you to purchase goods from wholesalers without paying sales tax. Search “Apply for (your state) resale certificate” and you should be able to apply online.
- Register/trademark your store’s name - Register your store’s name with your secretary of state’s office, including any DBA name you will be operating under if your company’s legal name won’t be a great draw to customers. Registering a domain for your store name and creating a “coming soon” website page are great ways to trademark your store name inexpensively.
- Obtain all required licenses and permits for your operations - You’ve researched the relevant regulations that your store will be required to meet, so now is the time to put in applications for licenses and permits relevant to these regulations. For example, if your convenience store will serve hot food, you may need a food handler’s license and your employees may need food handler certifications from your state.
Choosing and Securing Inventory
The inventory you select should be chosen strategically to appeal to your target customers and obtained through favorable vendor relationships.
- Select inventory that will be in high demand in your area - The inventory your store carries needs to be exactly what your target customers are looking for. To accomplish this, visit your competitors to see what they carry, the kinds of customers they serve and what seems to be missing from their store shelves. You can also use Google Trends to research what product types and specific products/brands people are searching for online in your city or greater metro area.
- Evaluate various vendors/distributors - Before you agree to a long term contract or place a large order, always shop around with various vendors and distributors. You want a vendor with the right prices, but you also need someone who has your best interests at heart. The last thing you need is a contract with a distributor who is always trying to unload unpopular items into your store.
- Research competitor pricing and set your prices - You need to at least match your competitors on price, if not beat them. Though this may mean lower margins, sticker shock can cause customers to choose your competitor for good. That being said, if you are selling higher quality products than competitors, your customers will expect higher prices.
- Stock up for your grand opening - Your store should be fully stocked for your grand opening. The last thing you want are customers who leave dissatisfied and empty handed.
Design Your Convenience Store’s Interior
Your store’s interior creates the shopping experience of your customers and you want this experience to be top-notch and in-line with your business model.
- Design your interior and decide on decorations - Your store’s interior sets the tone for the shopping experience of your customers, and it should be designed with your business model in mind. For example, a music store should be inviting and warm, so that customers feel comfortable spending more time evaluating instruments and become attached to an instrument that appeals to them. Convenience stores, on the other hand, should be clean and clinical, so that customers get in, get what they’re looking for and get out without lingering and taking up the limited space in the aisles of the store.
- Design your store’s layout - Just like the overall “feel” of your store’s environment, your layout should be designed with your business model and customers in mind. For example, do your customers want to spend 15 minutes comparing different options, or do they want to get what they’re looking for, buy and leave in under a minute?
- Prioritize top selling items - Your top sellers should always be front and center. That being said, any item in your store needs to be visible to customers and top selling items should never obscure other items from view.
- Get POS and other retail displays - POS displays and other retail displays are great for grabbing the attention of customers and moving specific inventory items. Just be sure that your retail displays match the interior of your store and don’t stick out like a cheesy sore thumb.
Store System Set-Up and General Checklist
To ensure your store runs like a well oiled machine, you need to ensure that you store’s systems are properly set up and general requirements for your store are met.
- Open a bank account for your Store - Be sure that your daily maximum for number of transactions and total purchases will be acceptable before choosing a bank.
- Create branded paper/plastic bags - Branded bags are a great way to advertise your store through your customers.
- Decide which stockroom equipment you will need - Consider which stock room equipment will be most useful for the setup of your store. Common items include step ladders, storage shelves, storage totes, stockroom carts and dollies.
- Get barcode labels - Order barcode labels appropriate for the products you sell ( most likely UPC or EAN).
- Check fire protection features - Ensure that your fire extinguishers and fire protection systems are working, especially before your building is inspected by your local fire marshal.
- Get your store’s website live - Add webpages to the “coming soon” site you used to trademark your store’s name. Apart from listing your address and hours of operation, this site can be a great place to post reviews from satisfied customers, display popular inventory items and provide a way for customers to contact you (your company’s email).
- Find the best POS system for your store - Find a POS system that meets the needs of your store and that will provide a seamless checkout experience for your customers. You should also ensure that your POS system will easily integrate with the inventory management system you choose.
- Find the best inventory management system for your store - Continuous inventory management is essential, especially in high-volume retail environments. You should always evaluate your needs and options before deciding. CStorePro offers a free 30 day trial, so you can see our solution in action before you make a commitment.
- Invest in office supplies and a computer for your store - Get the office technology and supplies you need for operations like a laptop, a scanner, a printer, printer paper, pens, staplers, etc.
- Get furniture for your back office, break room and counter - Investing in some relatively comfy chairs or stools will help you and your employees to rest more effectively on their breaks and when sitting behind a counter while no customers are present.
Hire and Train Employees
Your employees keep your business running, but before they start their first day at your store, you need to ensure that they are adequately equipped and prepared for the work the will do.
- Uniforms and name tags - Uniforms and name tags should match the colors of your store’s brand, and should be made from high quality material. Cheap or ugly uniforms will be hated by your employees and will cause customers to feel uncomfortable. If it does not make sense for your employees to wear uniforms, establish dress guidelines for them to follow.
- Employee training program and employee manual - Your employee training program should be created to ensure that all employees are adequately trained and prepared for their on-the-job duties. Your employee manual should address topics such as conduct expectations, requirements for cleanliness and clothing, customer service expectations, drug testing policy and all other policies that your employees will be required to follow while working for you.
- Hours reporting system for employees - Whether employees will be entering their hours on a computer program or using physical time cards, choose a reliable system that takes minimal time for employee hours reporting and that is resistant to fraudulent reporting by employees.
- Create an example employee schedule based on your hours of operation - By creating an example employee schedule based on your hours of operation, you can determine your operational staffing needs and avoid under or over hiring.
- Set up payroll system - Find a payroll system that works for your store’s needs. To save time for managers, find a solution with employee hours reporting and automatic wage withholding/payroll tax payment.
- Hire managers and assistant managers - Managers and assistant managers need to be organized, trustworthy and effective leaders. They will be responsible for ensuring that your store’s operations are compliant with federal and state requirements and responsible for the actions of employees under their supervision.
- Hire part time and full time employees - Your employees are the face of your store and you should make hires who are hard working, honest and motivated to go the extra mile for customers. Hiring a mix of full time and part time employees will help you save on the benefits that may be required for full time employees.
- Train employees prior to your grand opening - All employees should be fully trained according to your training program before you open. Employees should also know how to use your POS and inventory management system and have a few practice interactions with you or your managers, who pretend to be customers with various requests or demands.
- Report all employees hired to your state government - Federal law requires all new hires to be reported to your state’s government within a set number of days following their hiring. You can meet these reporting requirements online by searching “report new hire online in (your state)” You are required to report the following information for each new hire:
- Employee name
- Employee address
- Employee Social Security number (SSN)
- Employee date of hire or rehire (the date a new or rehired employee first performs services for pay)
- Employer name
- Employer address
- Employer federal identification number (FEIN)
- Operating manuals - Create operating manuals for all systems and devices used in your store (POS system, Inventory Management System, soda machines, etc.) or use operating manuals provided by system vendors.
Launch with Your Grand Opening
Your grand opening sets the tone for your store’s reputation in your community and is an opportunity to make a lasting impression on customers.
Here’s how to make your grand opening a smashing success.
- Marketing your grand opening - To ensure that you have a high volume of customers for your grand opening, make sure that this event is highly visible. Other than a big “Grand Opening” banner or sign for your store, you should advertise your grand opening via fliers, posters, radio advertisements, print advertisements, online banner ads targeting your metro area and even TV ads if you have the budget.
- Grand opening deals and offerings - Great deals and offerings will make a great first impression on customers and encourage them to spend more money at your grand opening.
- Customer loyalty programs - Your grand opening is a great opportunity to enroll a large amount of customers in any reward or loyalty program you will offer. This gives you access to customer contact info, which can be used to promote special offers for these customers and secure their repeat business.
- Promotional items - Giving away promotional items like mugs, key fobs or other branded swag is a great way to make your first customers feel special. These branded items will also be free advertising for your business once they have left your store, so be sure that you invest in items that will be used by customers, not thrown out.
There are quite a few things to get done before you open your store, but this new store opening checklist will help you manage this complex process and help you ensure that your store opens and runs successfully.
CStorePro provides real-time inventory management for stores and helps them to maximize their profits and inventory control with features like live monitoring and pricebook management.
To see how your new store can benefit from our inventory management solution, you can schedule a demo or start a free 30 day trial to test CStorePro for yourself.