Seven Characteristics of Successful Retail Stores

4 min


The dream of owning your own retail store can be a highly attractive proposition. Who wouldn’t want to be their own boss while interacting with and serving their community? And while it is a pleasant dream for unlucky retailers, it won’t always be a dream that lasts long. However, successful retail stores typically will share a few similar characteristics. What characteristics are these?

Successful retail stores will maintain a flexible budget, have a clear vision, develop a winning culture, adapt to changes, commit to excellence, and take care of customers. But, of course, none of this will matter if a store is unable to execute on its plans.

But implementing the above ideas can be easier said than done. So, if you’re interested in ensuring your store is a success, please read on for all the details you need to know about the seven key characteristics of highly successful retail stores.

Know Your Vision

Retail is a cutthroat industry. If you don’t have a clear vision, your store isn’t likely to succeed in the long run. When developing your vision, it can be helpful to keep the following in mind:

  • What is your target demographic?
  • What will your store’s main competitors be? (Don’t forget about online options!)
  • What makes your space unique? Why would customers visit your store versus a competitor?
  • What indicators will you use to measure your business’s success?

And there is much more to consider, especially when it comes to budgeting. As we will see in the following successful characteristic, budget flexibility is key to ensuring a retailer’s survival.

Maintain Flexibility in Your Budget

When it comes to ensuring your retail business is a success, maintaining budget flexibility is paramount. The ability to handle unexpected costs or increases in the budget will help any new outfit find its feet. One way to maintain flexibility is to keep cyclical expenses such as insurance coverage, rent, and other items as low as possible.

Luckily, one of the easiest ways to save money is to compare retail insurance options regularly. What coverage you need will depend on factors such as the work your store does, the number of employees, past claims history, coverage limits, and the type of coverage required. (In almost all cases, a certificate of insurance will be required by landlords for physical retail locations. And those working with eCommerce platforms such as Amazon will also need proof of insurance.) Businesses that are organized as sole proprietorships will have additional considerations to discuss with a qualified insurance agent.

Quality retail insurance coverage will include:

  • Policies that are related to general liability coverage.
  • Worker’s compensation.
  • Commercial auto and property coverage.
  • Professional liability (or errors and omissions) insurance.

Execution is Key

An essential characteristic of having a clear vision is being able to execute that vision. Just think about it. If you cannot execute, it doesn’t matter how amazing or well thought out your plan for the business is. Simplicity and preparation are the keys to keeping a business performing at a high level.

Executing well is where finding the right people to help standardize operating procedures can make all the difference. This is especially true if you don’t have the most extensive retail experience yourself. Having a trusted lieutenant to whom you can delegate responsibility to is key to keeping any business functioning. You may think you can do it all yourself, yet many have tried to run a retail location alone and failed.

Develop a Culture

This tip can be hard to stick to if you ever find yourself in a hiring crunch. If you don’t have enough bodies, you may be desperate to add anyone with a pulse to stem the tide. Guard against this impulse. Still, you don’t want to take just anyone when it comes to adding people to the team.

Attracting the right people can be challenging, especially when starting out. If you’re struggling to attract the right caliber of employees, it may be time to reconsider what benefits you’re offering. Not all benefits have to come in the form of monetary compensation. Perks such as allowing for flexible scheduling and paths for advancement can be significant inducements in attracting the type of worker that you’re looking for.

Care for Customers

You’ve likely heard the old maxim that the customer is king. And while good customers may not be actual royalty, they are the lifeblood of any prosperous retail store.

And when it comes to caring for customers, there are plenty of ways to do so that can make your clientele feel special without breaking the bank. The key is to reward your best customers for their loyalty. One popular option to implement is a points system that tracks customers’ purchases and rewards them.

Adapt to Survive

Just because you have standardized your procedures and attained a certain amount of success, this is no time to take your foot off the gas. Successful businesses are continually driving forward. However, doing so doesn’t mean you abandon your core competencies and eliminate what’s working.

Still, this is also no excuse not to constantly try to improve. Adapting can be as easy as studying industry trends and what your competitors are doing. After all, in the cutthroat retail world, if you’re not first, you’re not likely to last. Just ask the numerous big box stores that have gone belly up in recent years.

Commit to Excellence

Finally, this last characteristic unites many successful retail stores: a commitment to excellence. This may sound like marketing buzzwords thrown together, but in reality, a desire to be the best often separates retailers that make it from those that don’t. A commitment to excellence means that your business is dedicated to continuous improvement. This is more than just building the right culture between associates, management, and consumers. It means taking the time to nurture these relationships and maintain consistency and passion for the business.

Wanting to be a top-rated business is a noble goal to have. A commitment to this ideal is one of the most critical characteristics that successful retail stores share. And any retailer can use the above characteristics to make achieving success a reality. Of course, it won’t be easy. There will be a lot of stress and sleepless nights. But still, by committing to excellence and working hard, your retail store will be well on its way to attaining success.

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