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Setting up shop: how to start and run your own retail business

That's the dream. Have your own business and live life without a boss. Life in retail can be extremely rewarding. Get it right and you'll be living the dream. But get it wrong and that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare. Follow this guide and learn from the experts.

What makes us think we know best?

Men's Society products are stocked in shops around the world. We work with retailers large and small - from enormous department stores to tiny boutiques. Our business grew the hard way. Starting with three people in a pokey room and growing to the size we are now - stocking 4,000 shops around the world and making hundreds of thousands of our products each year.

Interested in seeing how we can work together? Click here for a catalogue and we'll be happy to talk.

1: Money talks

It's the inconvenient truth: you've got to spend money to make money. That doesn't mean you've got to spend enormous amounts. Starting in a smaller shop than you might like is a great way to save money and learn the importance of a well laid out store. You can also save money on your store decoration whilst making it look amazing. Why spend hundreds of pounds per shelving unit when you can pick up some scaffolding and wooden boards for next to nothing and use them to create rustic display tables and shelves?

2: Get your stock right

Your products are the most crucial part of your business. Stock the right things for your target customer and they'll sell ike hotcakes. Get it wrong and you'll have the same stock on your shelves for years. Before you go on an ordering spree, you need to know exactly who your target customer is. You can't just say "I want to sell to women" - that's far too broad. Your daughter in her twenties and your mother in her eighties are both women, but they like very different things. Supermarkets aside, they don't shop in any of the same places.

Don't forget the power of the afterthought!

This is why supermarkets leave chocolate near the till. Once someone is in a purchasing mood, their barriers are down. They're far more likely to add something to their purchase than they were before they found their main item. We supply stock to shops around the world. Almost all of our products are targetted at men but around 80% of the stores that stock them are primarily targetted at women. Here's why: once she finds something she wants to buy for herself, your customer is subconsciously open to purchasing things for other people. If there's a man in her life (father, son, husband or bofriend) and she sees something they'd like, she's very likely to buy it.

If you're looking for a range of men's gifts, click here to download a catalogue (don't worry, there's no obligation to order).

It also pays to get to know your suppliers. Often, if you strike up a rapport with the people you order from, they'll let you in on little secrets about their products. All companies have items in their range that sell better than others. If you get on well, they're far more likely to tell you which ones to order and which to avoid. Remember: it's in your suppliers' interest that you make money! Chances are, your first order won't make them any money. The cost of marketing and finding new customers (like you) will far outweight the profit they make on your first few orders. They need you to order several times - so it's in their interest to help you pick products that your customers will love.

3: Spread the word

You don't need to be a world class marketer to make a success of your business. You'd be amazed at how quickly you can become well known in your area on Facebook. Particularly with competitions ("Like and share this post to win" etc). Sometimes, your suppliers might even get involved. Particularly if you're a brand new client. It can't do any harm to ask if they'll send you something for free as a competition prize.

Also, don't forget local newspapers and radio stations. They're always desperate for something to write/talk about. Don't forget, these types of businesses have two halves - the sales half and the content half. Avoid the sales hald (unless you want to pay for advertising) and find someone in the content side. You can always spin your launch as news: a new business creating jobs/filling an empty unit. It's great for the area. Lead with that angle and you're likely to get some coverage.

Finally, once you've got customers - focus on keeping them. Traditionally, when shops run a sale or discount promotion, they're available to everyone. Instead, why not offer existing customers 10% off their next order? Or hold a sale event that's only for people who have bought from you before? That will help to build loyalty and keep you profitable into the future.

If you stock Men's Society products, we offer free sales and marketing support. Click here to download a catalogue.