You’ve done your research, put together a business plan, secured funds, and signed a commercial lease for your new store. The next logical step is to ready your business for its grand opening, but where do you begin? Opening a retail store and executing a successful grand opening requires thoughtful planning to ensure your first shoppers turn into loyal customers. Our handy retail store grand opening checklist will ensure that you have all of your bases covered on opening day and well into the future.
Checklist for a Retail Store Grand Opening
Obtain Store Licenses & Permits
Before your grand opening, you need to ensure that the store you will be operating is legal. If you don’t obtain the following licenses and permits, it can result in a criminal offense and you could be heavily fined by your state. Always do your research on exactly what you need to operate your business legally and consult a business lawyer if you need additional help obtaining certain permits or licenses.
- Apply for a Federal Tax ID/Employer Identification Number. You will need to obtain this before any vendors can begin conducting business with your store. Apply online at irs.gov.
- Obtain a business license in your state. Every state has its own laws when it comes to registering for a business license. Try heading to your state’s .gov website to find out your state’s process.
- Purchase a local business license. This may not pertain to everyone, but certain counties and municipalities also require a local license. Call your city clerk’s office to learn more.
- Obtain a resale certificate. This type of certificate will allow your store to buy products tax exempt from manufacturers or distributors. Customers will pay the tax in the form of sales tax. Head to your state’s .gov website or contact your state’s Department of Revenue for more information.
- Register your store name. Sometimes state business licenses include a business name registration, while others request that you obtain a separate registration or a doing business as (DBA) certificate. Check your state’s .gov website for more details on the requirements.
- Acquire professional licenses. Your store may not need this, but some industry-specific retailers will be required to get professional or occupational licenses. Check with your state licensing department if you’re unsure if you need this type of license.
- Obtain a certificate of occupancy. Some cities and counties require a certificate of occupancy to certify that your store’s building or space is in compliance with applicable building codes and other laws. Contact your city or county planning department to get clear whether you need this type of certificate before opening your store.
- Consider other common permits. Laws and regulations vary depending on your store’s location and industry. If you sell alcohol, you may need an alcohol sales permit. If you have an alarm system, you may need an alarm system permit. And if your store holds special events, you may need a permit for that too. Check with local officials to find out what other permits your store may need before its grand opening.
Make Your Merchandise Selection
Selecting the right merchandise for your store is another important aspect of opening up a shop that succeeds from the start.
- Select and purchase your store’s initial merchandise. Think about exactly what you want to sell. What types of products or brands are you passionate about? Who are your target shoppers? Think about what you want your store to represent, then make orders to the vendors and suppliers whose products are most in line with what your business is all about.
- Ensure merchandise is fully stocked. Controlling your inventory is pretty critical, but it is equally important to keep enough products stocked on your shelves — especially during your grand opening. Customers are much more likely to buy merchandise if your shelves are fully stocked. Staff can also much more easily recommend in-stock products to customers who want to buy items right now.
- Set merchandise prices. Correctly price your merchandise by following these three general rules: 1) Know your target market. 2) Know your competitors’ prices. 3) Set prices that suit both your market and either match or beat your competitors’ prices. This will allow your store to turn a steadier profit. Pricing too low will hurt your profitability, and pricing too high for your target customers will have them running toward your competitors’ stores instead.
Set a Store Layout
An effective store layout is crucial for opening a retail shop that speaks to your target customers. Having great merchandise at competitive prices is just the beginning of selling more products in your store. Think about how you want your customers to move about your store and the size of your space. These factors will help you determine whether you need a straight floor plan, loop floor plan, or a free-flowing floor plan.
- Straight/Grid: Great for smaller stores, grocery stores, and big box stores. The grid system allows customers to start their shopping in one corner of the store and navigate all aisles easily.
- Loop: Perfect for high end boutiques, jewelry stores, and big box stores. The racetrack or loop aisles circle around the entire store. The interior and exterior of the main aisle feature sub-layouts to allow for maximum exposure to products on perimeter walls.
- Free flow: Ideal for specialty or smaller retailers. This store layout allows for maximum creativity, which can help generate a unique shopping experience for customers. With this type of layout, there are no set aisles, so shoppers are encouraged to move freely throughout the store.
Choose the Right Retail Store Fixtures
Once you set a store layout, it will be easier to pick store fixtures that will function well in your space. Retail fixtures can either make or break a customer’s experience. Choosing the right retail store fixtures can help boost sales during your grand opening and turn your first customers into repeat shoppers. The following retail fixtures are by far the most popular amongst retailers large and small.
- End cap displays: These function to boost sales in all types of stores including grocery stores, department stores, big box stores, pharmacies, and even small boutiques. End cap displays are versatile retail fixtures that can keep your prime merchandise displayed in areas that will draw in customers and boost sales.
- Tiered nesting display tables: Retail nesting tables maximize valuable floor space while showcasing your new, seasonal, and sought-after products. These fixtures are also easy to move around and complement a variety of store layouts.
- Retail display cubes: These are to be used along the shopping path to store aisles. They are essential in elevating products and prominently displaying them in front of customers. Display cubes are also lightweight and can be easily moved about your store.
- Retail slatwall: Slatwall systems are great for freeing up floor space in small stores, specialty stores, and larger retail settings. When you showcase your merchandise on slatwall, it instantly shows customers what you sell and what your brand has to offer.
- Retail display cases: Glass retail display cases are perfect for any retailer that needs help keeping track of inventory. These fixtures are ideal for locking away pricier items to protect them from theft.
- Cash wrap counters: Practically every retail store needs a cash wrap counter. Cash wraps aren’t just a place for purchasing merchandise. They also offer a prime display area for impulse items. Cash wrap counters can also keep employees organized with behind-the-counter shelving to store everything they need to get the job done efficiently.
- Custom store fixtures: Custom store fixtures are ideal for any store that wants to stand out. Designing custom, unique store fixtures such as shelving units and corner racks that match your store decor will provide a truly memorable shopping experience for every customer.
- Fitting rooms: If your store sells clothing and accessories, you will need to install the proper fitting rooms. Customers are more inclined to make buying decisions when they are inside a fitting room trying on clothes.
- Metal shelving: Sturdy, metal shelving units can be ideal for your store if you need to display high-weight products or want to create a more industrial look in your space. Whether your store sells general merchandise, apparel, shoes, hardware, or home goods, installing metal shelving can be a great solution for you. Madix sells high-quality metal shelving units and other fixtures to meet your needs.
Order Store Signage
The signs in your store act as silent sales staff, so whatever you do, don’t skimp on store signage for your grand opening.
- Exterior store signs: Effective outdoor signs will do more than just showcase the name of your store. Think about creating an exterior sign that has an interchangeable element for announcements such as your store’s grand opening and other sales or specials throughout the year.
- Interior and sales floor signs: Designing and installing effective signs for your store interior will help customers find exactly what they’re looking for, highlight seasonal and new products, and alert shoppers to sales.
- Directional store signs: Using simple arrows or short descriptions on signs in larger stores can point customers to the cash register area, restrooms, and other store departments. This will help customers navigate your store freely and comfortably without getting lost.
Pick Out Retail Lighting
As you’re setting up your store for its grand opening, you should take a good look at the lighting of your space. While lighting can often be an afterthought, it shouldn’t be! Lighting can directly impact sales and the experience of your customers. Choose retail lighting from a quality commercial lighting company such as City Lighting Products Company. They will help you with lighting that shows off your product displays, points your customers in the right direction, and improves store ambiance.
Choose Business Tools & Equipment
The next logical item to check off your grand opening list are the business tools you need to actually run your business smoothly. Here are just some of the more common tools and equipment you may need for your retail store.
- Pick a POS (Point of Sale) system: Most stores are now using tablet-based POS systems as they process all major types of transactions, can help with inventory management, and even help manage employee time cards. Of course, you can still opt to use cash registers, as well. Whatever works for you and your target customers.
- Choose accounting software: Select account software that works with your POS system for accurate and smooth-running accounting.
- Install a security system: Every retailer wants their items to be protected and safe from theft. Investing in a great security alarm system for your store is well worth the expense. Many thieves strike in broad daylight, so knowing that protection is available 24 hours a day will give you peace of mind and help keep your investment safe.
- Set up online shopping/ecommerce: It’s no secret that retail is changing. Many customers want to buy items online and either pick them up in your store or have them shipped to their homes. Don’t be shortsighted on where retail is heading! Think about utilizing an easy-to-use, affordable ecommerce platform on your store’s website that also integrates with your POS system to accurately manage store inventory.
Don’t Forget General Items
There are many smaller, and more general items that may fall by the wayside as you are readying your store for its grand opening. With so many moving parts, you may forget something important! Don’t forget these general items that you will need to run a well-oiled machine during your grand opening and throughout the year.
- Open store bank accounts
- Ensure store website is live
- Purchase commercial cleaning supplies
- Design store packaging/bags
- Stock up on boxes, shopping bags and shipping materials (Check out Uline for a wide selection of quality, affordable shipping and packing supplies!)
- Ensure you have a working fire extinguisher
- Order stockroom equipment if needed (pallet jack, hand carts, forklift, ladders)
- Stock up on price guns, price tags, hangers, and other retail supplies
- Order and install credit card terminals
- Purchase office and computer supplies
- Order store furniture and decor
- Order staff uniforms and name tags
- Have employee training manuals and handbooks available for all new hires
- Ensure a staff time card/clock system is in place for hourly employees
- Ensure operating manuals have been read by management and are easily accessible to staff
Hire Your Staff
Your employees can either make or break your business. Seek to hire personable staff members who understand that amazing customer service is key to ensuring your store remains open well after your grand opening day. As you prep for your grand opening, keep in mind that staff should be fully-trained and scheduled at a higher volume in order for them to meet the needs of every customer on opening day.
- Hire store manager(s)
- Hire assistant manager(s)
- Hire hourly part-time and full-time employees
- Have a soft opening prior to the grand opening to train employees and get them used to the flow of the business
Put Together a Marketing Plan
You could have the best staff members, the perfect merchandise, and the most effective store layout, but without a proper marketing plan in place, how will the community even know about your grand opening? It’s important to decide what type of marketing and advertising your target customers will take to. While a more mature clientele will likely prefer direct mail, TV ads, radio spots, and even ads found on Google, younger and more tech-savvy customers may prefer connecting with your business on social media and through email marketing. Think about who your target customer is in order to decide which marketing tactics to use for your grand opening and beyond. Here are just some ideas:
- Grand opening sale
- Grand opening contest
- Door prizes with branded gifts
- Direct mail flyers
- Frequent buyer program
- Mailing lists
- Donate merchandise to local fundraisers
- Radio/TV ads
- Newspaper ads
- SMS promotions
- Paid ads on social media
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads on search engines
- Invite local bloggers/social media influencers to your grand opening and have them blog/post about the event
Whichever way you choose to promote your retail store grand opening is up to you, but the key to any successful grand opening is to turn every shopper into a loyal customer from the very beginning.
While our Ultimate Retail Store Grand Opening Checklist contains just some common ways to set up your new store for success, each item is essential to ensure your grand opening resonates with customers and turns them into repeat shoppers.