Written by Business Expert Wale Ameen
The desire of every business owner and entrepreneur is to see his or her business blossom from just a tiny seed to become an oak in the forest. As a business continues to do well, one of the things you want to do as a business person and which is also an indication of growth is to maximize the sales potential of different locations by setting up multiple retail stores at different locations in town.
The question that subsequently arises is how to manage these multiple retail points in such a way that they all continue to do just as well with little or minimal effort. You also want to ensure that expenses in terms of staffing or the cost of running such locations do not shoot up more than the profits they are bringing in.
So, how do you maximize your retail business with multiple locations to bring in optimum returns? In this review, we shall explore this topic in detail and attempt to proffer valuable solutions to issues that you are bound to encounter in setting up multiple locations for your store. Along with this, we shall be highlighting all the points you need to take note of before setting off to open additional locations for your store.
In drawing up this review, we have done a thorough analysis of the requirements experienced retailers sourced both in-house and externally who have gone through the route have noted. We have asked questions, examined their experiences, and conducted an online survey of such businesses to come up with this review. As such, you are getting a compilation of practical insights from experienced hands.
Our objective is that by the time you are done reading this review, you will have had a comprehensive overview of all that is needed to run a multi-location store as well as all that you, as the owner, need to know.
Without much delay, let’s jump into this topic first. Let’s examine the gains you can derive from running a multiple-location retail business.
What are the Benefits of Running a Multi-Location Retail Business?
Potentially Reach More Leads
First, running multiple retail locations will afford you the opportunity to reach more potential leads as well as increase sales. This will also be enhanced with the right sales management system or use of the best retail point of sale (POS) system.
Increased sales and reach is the ultimate goal of any business. Whether you have a retail outlet or are online, it’s important to ensure your customers can get their hands on your products. Here are a few ways to help you reach more potential customers, and keep them coming back for more.
Market Research - Before you open up a second location, do a little research to see what’s going on in the area and determine if it is an appropriate market for your store. Take into account demographics, the competition, median income and the potential customer base to decide if it’s right for your brand.
Prioritization - Once you have chosen the right markets, it’s time to prioritize your marketing and sales efforts. Spending your time and money on top accounts - those that have the highest likelihood of purchasing in large amounts and/or repeat purchases - is a great way to get more out of your marketing efforts and increase sales.
Invest in Your Staff – When you hire the right people, you can increase your bottom line. Recruiting passionate, knowledgeable employees is crucial to success.
Promote Time-Sensitive Promotions – If you can offer a free gift with purchase or flash sales, you’ll attract more high-intent shoppers to your store. When they’re ready to buy, your team can leverage upselling and cross-selling to increase their overall purchases.
Maintaining a Strong Relationship with Your Customers – Always focus on keeping your current customers happy so that they continue to shop at your store. This will give you a continuous stream of sales.
You Enjoy Economies of Scale
With your store running multiple locations, you get to enjoy economies of scale, which essentially means that goods can be ordered or produced on a large scale. As such, the cost per product is greatly reduced.
Products are Evenly Distributed Across Stores
With demand levels known across all stores, goods are easily distributed in accordance with demand levels. This ensures that inventory at the head office is consistently kept at a minimum.
Lower Selling Points
One of the advantages that large stores with multiple locations are able to offer, is competitive pricing on all products. Since these products are sourced directly from manufacturers in bulk, they are purchased at huge pricing discounts than what smaller stores will get, as such, they are able to offer these products at a more competitive price which are usually lesser than smaller stores. So, with a multi-location store, you are able to offer good price differentiation to your customers.
Economy in Advertising
Since all stores offer the same line of products, advertising is done centrally and initiated from the main store/head office. This helps to facilitate visibility for all the stores and, as such, a good amount of money is saved in terms of expenses in executing advertisements.
Increased Risk Spread
With multiple retail stores, you are able to better spread your risks as well as opportunities. This is a critical advantage when compared to a single-store retail business. With multiple retail locations, you are rest-assured that should sales reduce at one location, other locations will make up for it. Where sales are continually low in one particular location, products can be moved to others where demand is steady or even on the increase. With this, the possibility of all stores performing badly is very low. You are thus able to spread your business risk.
Engaging Customer Needs
Since multiple-location retail stores are based in different localities and are in direct contact with customers in those specific areas, they are well suited to meet the demands of those particular areas. As such, they are in direct touch with the changes in the needs and demands of those areas and will be in a position to benefit from these dynamics.
With the demands being maximally engaged by your retail stores, this ultimately leads to an increase in turnover and profit.
Market Research and Intelligence
With data from multiple retail stores, market data can be easily collated by a business, with trends spotted and be maximized in predicting customers’ shifting preferences and desires. Thus, data gathered from these multiple locations serves as a good basis to carry out research and secure business intelligence. It also provides business owners with the insight to develop new models as required.
It Offers Closer Proximity to Customers
Running multi-store retail locations will afford you, as the business owner, the opportunity to be in closer proximity to your customers in different locations. With this, you are able to provide a more customized and targeted product line-up to buyers in these different locations.
With all the listed benefits, however, running multiple retail sales locations is easier said than done. If care is not taken, it could become a channel through which losses are incurred and could lead to business instability. As such, great care must be taken not to take a false step but to adopt a time-tested route and strategies to ensure that this leads to profit and entrepreneurial success.
Let’s take a look at the challenges of running a multiple location business.
What are the Challenges to Running a Multi-Location Retail Business?
As mentioned earlier, managing a multi location retail business is not as easy as it sounds, especially for a first time entrepreneur and business owner. And as much as there are benefits, which we have just highlighted above, there are also challenges to it. We will highlight some of it below.
Need For Huge Capital
Running a multi-location retail store will demand a huge financial commitment to set up and manage. As such, unless you have a huge financial war-chest of resources, it may be a difficult one to pull through and consistently manage.
High Operational Costs
Operating a multi-location retail business considerably increases operational costs. You should weigh this heavily in line with your projected revenue per store if launching out in another location is really what your business needs.
Increased Need for Supervision
With a multi-store retail business, you will need to do more in terms of managing costs across retail stores, supervision, control, and coordination.
Balancing Brand Consistency with Local Culture and Preference
In the process of setting up retail stores in other locations, one of the challenges you will need to manage tactfully is how to manage your brand’s tone and style of service or product offering with prevailing local culture, preferences, and ways of doing things.
Truth is, the way of life differs from one location to another and as such, as much as you want to maintain brand style consistency across all your business locations, you must be careful not to come across as not being in tune with the cultural nuances of a particular group of people. How well you manage these two will tell you, to a large extent, how well the brand will be received among locals and your business success thereof.
How to Manage Communication with Employees
One of the challenges you will encounter is communication with your employees. Since they are scattered in different locations and there is no possibility of you being physically present always, it can make coordination a bit difficult. And this can be rather tricky.
One thing you don’t want to assume is that because everything is quiet, it is OK. While trust is key, you, however, want to maintain a strong, regular communication line with clear thoughts on deliverables and what results are expected.
You should have regular face-to-face meetings with team members. This is vital to consistently building up the entire team so that there is no lag within your managerial line. To achieve this, you could use video conferencing apps like Zoom or Google Meet, or teleconference and tele-presence tools, which are often more practical over long distances.
Essentially, the trick here is to identify, and adopt one major mode of digital communication that will allow you to share important information seamlessly, so that everyone is in the loop. Then, you can organize events as often as possible and practicable so employees can meet each other in person.
Truth be told, many problems can be avoided when attention is paid to communication. Learning how to manage a distributed workforce is an important item that businesses should invest in, irrespective of whether they are expanding.
Things to Consider Before Opening Multiple Locations of Your Retail Business
Knowing Exactly When to Expand (Or if You Should Expand at All.)
As much as expanding and opening new retail stores at different locations around town is a seemingly laudable thing to do, sometimes the question of when is the best and most appropriate time to launch may be a real stumbling block and might be the decider on whether the step becomes a success or failure in the end. It is important to look at all the indicators to make the right decision in this regard.
Sometimes, as much as opening a new retail store may sound inviting and a sort of ego booster for the entrepreneur and business owner, it may not be the best of decisions to take. The option of having a more robust online presence might even be more advisable considering the cost of setup and the likely profit to be generated. If you have decided to open more retail stores, you must come to the reality that success will not drop on your lap and that it does instantly mean that you will record more profits. In fact, if not done right, it might just be the other way round.
You, as the business owner, must look at the issue critically and weigh the pros and cons objectively to make a good business decision.
Can Your First Store Run Smoothly Without You?
To answer the question of knowing if you are really ready and capable of running multiple locations of your retail store, one question you should ask yourself is whether your first store can run smoothly and effectively without you being physically present or overseeing it.
This is basically the litmus test to gauge your preparedness to run additional stores along with your first. It’s a no-brainer to embark on opening additional outlets when your main store cannot run without you consistently overseeing every decision that needs to be taken. It might be tantamount to business suicide. You must make sure your first location is totally self-sufficient and can operate without your daily input before proceeding with a second location.
One way of achieving this is by hiring the right people and having them in the right place. With the right hands managing your business, you shouldn’t need to be physically available or even have to make an input into every little decision that needs to be made.
Will the Business Be Able to Offer a Personalized Brand Experience Across All Locations?
This is another question to consider before opening multiple retail stores in different locations. This is because you must be able to offer the same kind of personalized brand experience across all locations. The absence or inability to do this could potentially translate to a loss for your business because customers want to experience the same quality of service across board. If this is absent, customers may not be making repeat visits, and this, in-turn, will lead to low sales and may be the death knell of your business.
Setting Up Your Next Store – Tips and Tricks
So you have done your due diligence and have certified yourself ready to launch out and open additional retail stores. What should you look out for? Lets walk you through a step-by-step guideline on tips and tricks you can deploy to make this a smooth sail.
Use the Knowledge Gathered From Your First Store (But Don’t Depend Totally On it.)
Yes, starting off a new store shouldn’t be a big deal. After all, you have gone through the ropes with your first store. Although this is not cast in stone, a large number of the experiences you will encounter with your next store will be much like the first. The experience will still hold its own peculiarities and possibly a varying range of challenges, especially if the location here is another state or region. However, you can rest assured that it’s nothing you won’t have the capacity to handle.
Here are some things you will need to consider thoroughly as you start the new store:
You will need to get your finances right. How is this expansion going to be funded? Have you saved up separately for it? Do you plan to take a loan or make an investment? How will this financing be taken care of and how is it going to impact the operations of your existing location. You do not want the funding to affect the operations of your existing location.
Who are Your Competitors?
Before you launch, you should conduct a thorough market research on your new location. Get to know the demography and psychographic details of people living there. By doing this, you will arm yourself with vital data that will help in your marketing plan, product offering and citing of stores.
What are the prevailing laws and regulations prevailing in the proposed location?
This is important as you don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the law. It is also important when you are setting up shop in another state, city, or region.
You might want to get a legal adviser or attorney to walk you through the requirements of the new location.
Hire the Right People
You want to get your staffing and hiring right from day one since this is critical to your business’s success. As such, you should handle this process yourself as opposed to hiring a professional outfit to sort it out for you. Your staffing needs to be done right in order to lay a good foundation on which your business or retail store will be built.
Develop a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
As a multi-store retail business, you need to put in place some standard operating procedures to ensure that processes are carried out in a uniform fashion across all your stores. The areas that should have a standard operating procedure include:
Monetary transactions: This details how monetary transactions should be processed. What are the types of payments you accept? The procedures for processing refunds and returns. How often should the register be closed?
Customer service: This details how customers should be attended to. How matters are escalated and at what point they should be escalated to higher authority. It should also cover the chain of command.
Safety and Security: The safety and security procedures should include all basic issues such as who is responsible for opening and closing the store, who is in charge of holding the keys to the store, as well as other serious matters such as how to handle emergency situations like fire outbreaks, etc.
Merchandising: This should detail how merchandise should be displayed in the store. How should products be displayed? What fixtures should be used? How often should layouts and displays be updated, etc.?
These standard operating procedures should be well documented and clearly discussed and shared in writing with all employees in order for everyone to be aware and manage operations accordingly.
Digitize your Operations
In this day and age, a vital component of your store’s being setup for success has to do with how many of your processes are digitized. Here are some areas you want to implement:
Use a combination of physical and digital retail integrations: As a multi-store retail business or even any business, for that matter, you must be able to sell across multiple channels and stores, both physically and online.
Maintain a Well-Managed Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System
You should keep this very close to your heart, as it is the secret behind ensuring repeat customers and loyalty from them. Your customer relationship management tool must be top notch and capable of helping you save customers information and track their purchase histories and interactions with your brand.
This will enable you to personalize how you communicate and interact with them, such that you are able to strengthen your relationship with them. Having customer information handy allows you to re-engage them during slow periods or when they haven’t been to your store in a while.
Upgrade Your Point of Sale System
By adopting and upgrading your point of sale system to a cloud-based option, you will be setting yourself up for success. A major advantage of this is that you will save yourself a lot of time and headache.
Having your data stored in the cloud essentially enables you to run your business from anywhere as long as you are connected to the internet.
Recommended cloud-based point of sale solutions here include:
The best cloud-based POS systems in 2022 are:
- Square: Square POS is arguably the best overall cloud based point of sale system. Read our full review of Square POS.
- Lightspeed: Lightspeed is a top-rated cloud based point of sale system. It is about the best cloud POS for store management. Read a review of Lightspeed here.
- Shopify: The Shopify POS system is about the best option for omnichannel sales.
- Toast: Toast POS is the best cloud POS for restaurants.
- Vend by Lightspeed: Vend is an ideal cloud POS for building customer loyalty.
You can also check out our comprehensive list of the 25 best POS systems for small businesses here.
Automate Your Inventory Management
With multi-store retail business management, you will need to automate your inventory management across all your store locations in order to centrally manage it. Just like your sales data, it is important to have this managed through a single system. This will help you keep track of your inventory levels across all locations without the need to use different tools.
By centralizing your inventory, you can better control availability. If a product is being demanded in one store, you can easily provide it from what you have in another store. By doing this, you increase customer satisfaction and reduce product redundancy across your stores.
Some of the best inventory management solutions with multi-location support include:
- inFlow Inventory (Read a full inFlow Inventory Review here)
- RockSolid MAX
- Jolt Fulfillment System
- Acctivate Inventory Management
Get Actionable Data (Reporting, Analytics)
As a multi-outlet retailer, you must ensure you keep tabs on each store’s performance and contrast this with your own goals and objectives. To be able to do this successfully, you must have a great data gathering and reporting tool that can afford you insight into actionable data.
As a multi store owner you need proper documentation, this will help provide you with strong reports and analytics. It will also show your sales performance, so that you can make informed business decisions.
Reporting and Analytics
A reporting solution changes incoherent data into easy-to-understand summaries, so marketers can analyze it at a few quick glances. This helps them answer their key questions instantly, and they don’t have to spend hours squinting at spreadsheets to understand what they mean.
In the same way, an analytics tool automatically transforms complex data from marketing channels (or spreadsheets like Excel) into colorful graphs and charts on dashboards. It provides actionable insights to optimize performance--whether it's making better forecasts, reducing expenses, or improving any business decision.
Reporting and analytics are equally important for your business, but they differ in their purpose and approach.
While reporting pushes information to users, analysis pulls insights from those reports and data for the team. This approach makes it possible to deliver reports in many different ways: through an analytics tool, Excel spreadsheet, widget, or by having them scheduled for delivery to mailboxes, mobile devices, FTP sites, etc.
The best reporting and analytics solutions work across multiple cloud environments, extracting data from a range of cloud and on-prem systems in real time to create reports that are tailored to specific requirements. This helps businesses meet their reporting and data analytics needs in a single tool that can be easily used by their teams, without relying on IT for help.
Many of the point-of-sale systems and solutions outlined here provide some level of reporting or other. Along with this, however, you can integrate third-party reporting and analytic tools that will work along with your sales and customer relationship reports to provide you with rich analytics that will help with your decision-making process.
Running a successful multi-store retail business will take a lot from you. But by having the right system in place, which includes the right people, processes, and technology, you can jump in knowing you’ve got all ends covered. The tips given above, if diligently followed, will help you stay on track and hit the ground running.
Wale Ameen is a business journalist and editor with over six years of experience in business and technology reporting. He is the author of the book, Future Focus: Tapping into the Wealth in Digital, available on Amazon.
Q: What is the optimal location for a retail business?
A: Three things you should consider when citing a retail business include: Accessibility, Visibility, and Traffic. However, don’t confuse a lot of traffic with a lot of customers. Retailers want to be located where there are many shoppers, but only if those shoppers meet the definition of their target market. Small retail stores may benefit from the traffic generated by nearby larger stores.
Q: What are the location strategies in retail?
A: Here are a number of location strategies retailers are using to engage modern consumers:
Use customer data to power your retail location strategy.
Design your stores around the needs of local customers.
Consider the halo effect when positioning your stores.
Determine the purpose of the store.
Q: How do you manage a retail store successfully?
A: Here are tips to keep your store running smoothly and excel in retail management:
Hire for attitude, train for skill.
Lead by example.
Set up and document repeatable processes.
Get to know your employees.
Set and execute challenging but attainable goals.
Q: What is a location strategy?
A: Location strategy refers to the process companies use to determine where their offices and employees should be located. While business and economic incentives certainly play a role in site selection (Amazon HQ2, anyone?), a successful location strategy incorporates far more than that.
Q: What are the factors affecting retail locations?
A: Some factors that affect retail location decisions include:
Index of Retail Saturation