So You Want To Open A Brick & Mortar Gift Shop

So there I was 6 months ago thinking, It’s time

Its time that I take the leap and finally open a brick & mortar location. In my mind, this was going to be a fun process. Shopping all day for inventory, designing the lay out of the shop & marketing campaigns. And actually all of that is alot of fun but it’s also only about 25% of what I really needed to do.

The day we signed the lease

I realized quickly how I underestimated my level of knowledge with opening a brick & mortar location. For the past 4 years I’ve worked out of our basement, spare bedroom, dining room, living room, wherever there was space I would quickly fill it with gift boxes. When our son was born last March and I officially lost the use of the spare bedroom, I knew it was either time to let the business fade away or dive in with everything I had. The thought of letting my business close wasn’t something I was ready to do. I love what I do! I finally found something that excited me. That I’m good at. That I want to scale and grow and really see where this business can go. That was empowering to me, it was something I needed to explore. With that said, I knew I needed to move the business out of our home. And so the search for a location started. Within a matter of weeks, on one of our nightly walks, we came across the cutest free standing cottage that was used for commercial space. It was quaint and had character, kinda exactly what I was looking for. The only thing we could find wrong was the location. It wasn’t in the greatest spot but it did have potential. My husband and I talked it over and over and over. After multiple pro & con lists we decided together this was a great starting point for That’s Darlin

opening a gift shop

I need to spend how much?

Excited to hit the ground running I started applying for wholesale accounts with all those popular and adorable companies that carry all those adorable and popular items. Well… in order to carry those cute products, you need to meet the companies minimums. While some companies have very reasonable start-up minimums, others do not. Some expected me to spend $500 on my opening order. And while that may not seem drastic, when you’re trying to buy from 30-40 different companies, it adds up VERY QUICKLY. I remember unpacking my very first shipment (where I spent the $500 minimum) and was in total shock to see that my box of $500 worth of inventory wasn’t even enough to fill up half a display shelf. Thinking to myself, oh my gosh, I’m going to need to spend thousands x 10 to fill this space up. So back to the budget I went and crossed out all my very unrealistic figures and got real.

opening a gift shop

When the fear sets in, remember why you started

As I was sitting in my empty store with half a shelf of product and realizing this adventure was going to take a lot more money than my husband and myself budgeted for, the panic set in. What was I doing? I knew nothing about opening a retail business. What if I spent $20,000 on items that people didn’t want to buy? What if the location really did work against me? What if, what if, what if??? This went on all day, as I sat there considering ways to get out of the lease. Then my phone rang with the sound of an incoming email. It was from a former client, whom I designed some of the most gorgeous wedding welcome gifts for in the beginning of the summer. She was writing to thank me and within the text of that very email, she reminded me why I doing this. That email contained just the right words to reassure me, I can absolutely do this. (Thank You Karen)

Advice for starting a retail business

  • Location, location, location - Do not underestimate this. In my next blog I will share the reason why I relocated my business after only being open 6 weeks.

  • Research the companies you are interested in buying from. Ask questions - What are their lead times on product delivery. I mistakenly placed an order from a company and after paying was told their lead times were 4-6 weeks! What are their opening minimums and reorder minimums.

  • Design the layout for the space before ordering your inventory. I realized AFTER placing a large order for what was going to make up my really cool gallery wall that I actually did not have enough wall space to even hang the pictures. (Thankfully they allowed me to cancel the order!)

  • What is it that will set you apart from your competitors? What will you do differently? Why will someone buy from you instead of the business down the street? Be clear on this and make sure everyone knows it.

  • Offer an experience to your customers. What is it that you can do to keep bringing them back. Customers want to feel valued and that they are spending their hard earned money in a place that truly appreciates their business and loyalty.

  • Negotiate the terms in your lease. Make sure your lease doesn’t hurt you. Some landlords may be open to not charging rent while you’re preparing to open. If you choose a space that needs updating and remodeling, see if the landlord will work with you on any future rent discounts. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

  • Lastly, don’t let fear stop you from pursuing your dreams. And when it does, try to focus on your WHY’s. For me, my main WHY is my 6 month old son, Maverick. Whenever I get nervous or doubt myself, I focus on the good I want to teach him that comes out of owning a business & following your heart.

    If you have any questions regarding opening a gift shop or another type of brick and mortar business, please feel free to send an email to hello@thatsdarlin.com