Anyone thinking about opening a retail store has invariably heard the age old real estate mantra "location, location, location."

And for good reason. It's true that the location of your retail store is one of the most important factors governing success or failure. After all, a great product and great customer service won't mean anything if your store is so out of the way that no one even sees it.

Study Demographics

So where do you begin? There are a number of factors to consider, but we'll start with demographics. Who are your target customers? Is your appeal strongly mainstream, or are you going more of a specialty route?

The broader your target market, the more competition you'll face. Meaning, you'll have to be located right alongside your competitors. As a specialty store, you can concern yourself more with locating closer to your target customers and less with competitive position.

With your target customer narrowed down, the next task is to determine where that customer resides within your market. The ideal location has a dense population of your customer within driving distance, along with easy access and high visibility.

For some new retailers, answering questions about demographics can be simple. For others, it can be hopelessly complex. Anyone making a serious inquiry into retail locating will come across sophisticated, and expensive, analysis tools that understand traffic patterns, demographics, lifestyle data and competitors. If you're willing to pay, there's plenty of data to be had.

Follow The Competition

There is a simpler way to hone in on your perfect location, though. Just get as close to your biggest competitor as you can. Easy enough. But, while it's long been held as a viable strategy, some entrepreneurs can't accept such a straightforward solution.

Being close to your competitors allows you to benefit from their marketing. In most cases, they've already devoted resources toward driving traffic to their location. Why spend money when they've already spent it for you?

And, believe it or not, competition is good for you. It makes your business stronger. Competition breeds more business and more traffic.

But do keep in mind that you've still got to do your diligence on any property that you consider, even if your competitors are already thriving in the area.

Get The Right Lease

Just finding the right location is only half the battle. Equally important is negotiating a lease that works for you.

In this domain, you're likely to need professional legal assistance. An attorney can help you ask your prospective landlord the right questions.

In Summary

Finding the right retail location can be stressful and time consuming. To keep it as simple as possible, start with who your customers are and where they live. Look to your competition to see where they already shop. And when it comes time to negotiate a lease, make sure you've got professionals on your side.

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