From neighborhood to layout to street selection, Abhishek Sareen, experienced as a Retail Consultant and Retail Head, lays out the 10-step guide on how to select your retail store location.
Retail business owners in metro cities in India often face a significant challenge in choosing the right location for their stores. In retail, location matters a lot, and can really make or break the business. With so many factors to consider, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. In this article, we’ll provide 10 points to help guide you through the process of choosing a retail store location in metro cities in India.
How to Select the Right Location for Retail Stores
Most Indian cities are not well-planned and structured. Often it’s difficult to identify a city’s center in these fast-growing metro cities as they have expanded so rapidly and inconsistently. Many times, the rentals are so exorbitant that it doesn’t make sense to even consider a location.
With the popularity of e-commerce and delivery apps, brick-and-mortar retail faces even more challenges. Indian consumers are extremely price-sensitive and thus, the retail business model needs to be looked at differently, as compared to the conventional retail wisdom of “location, location, and location.”
So let’s look at the 10 steps that’ll help you select the right location:
1. Identify your Target Audience
The first step in choosing a retail store location is to identify your target audience. Consider factors such as age, income level, and lifestyle habits. For example, if your store is catering to a lower-income group, you need to be in a place where public transport services are close to your retail catchment.
Your intention might be to cater to all segments and classifications of the Indian diaspora, however, it’s extremely important to prioritize which would be your focus customer group, and thus all your retail store planning & marketing should be done keeping that in mind. It’s very easy to lose focus as you can easily be swayed by false perceptions and advice.
Your understanding of the Indian retail customer’s needs to be really thorough. The best way to learn is to learn from successful retail stores, and what’s the reason behind their success. It’s easy to dismiss them, saying they have been in the business for a long time, but there’s always some important insights or learning behind their success. The simplest and the most important being their understanding of their core customer base.
2. Evaluate Foot Traffic
Observe the number of people who visit the area at different times of the day. A busy street may not always translate to high foot traffic for your store. For instance, a mall with higher foot traffic may not necessarily mean more customers for a small boutique store in it.
3. Analyze Your Competition
Today the biggest competition that retail faces are from online retail stores. More and more people are getting comfortable ordering online and receiving goods, foods, and services on their doorstep. However offline retail isn’t dead, and people still need to shop from retail stores. For example, kirana stores (or the Indian version of the 7-11 Stores) are still thriving in their neighborhoods, as their convenience still cannot be matched by e-tail stores.
Depending upon your product category, look for areas with fewer or higher competitors. If your retail product category is a commodity like a hairdressing salon or general grocery, you should find a catchment where such stores are very few or non-existent.
On the other hand, if you are operating a brand store, it would be wise to open your store near your competition, as their (competition) footfall will drive traffic to your store too. Usually, over a period of time, you would notice similar types of brand stores of various categories like sports, electronics, fashion, etc. would always be located close to each other, as very often seen in malls.
When you are in the retail business, competition is everywhere. If you are not faced with the competition today, you sure will face it tomorrow from other online or offline retail stores or technology.
4. Consider the Store Layout
People love to move out of their homes, thus people love to walk into a store with a good ambiance if they feel welcome and not intimidated. Thus a store’s layout is very important.
One should try for a retail store that has maximum frontage, so as to openly showcase their merchandise and attract the customers inside. A store’s layout should be free-flowing, that is it should be free from obstructions like pillars, walls, etc. A store’s layout and interiors should be inviting and should not intimidate customers from entering a store.
How to make sure your store doesn’t look intimidating? A large frontage that shows an empty store is intimidating, as nobody wants all eyes on them when they enter. So if you have less footfall, cover the frontage with mannequins or display. Warm lighting and interiors look inviting, and that’s why many retail stores choose wood finishes. Also, stores with less merchandise on display often look more intimidating, as you’ll notice in most of the high-end designer fashion stores.
With the evolution of e-commerce and quick delivery, you also need to keep those things in the picture too. The objective of retail is not always to make money but to act as a medium of advertising and ground presence. For example, the famous pizza restaurant Domino’s is more focused towards delivery and less on serving their customers in their stores. With a clear focus, they have thus maximized the output of their retail layout accordingly.
In today’s times, retailers need to think differently to maximize their profitability, rather than depending on walk-ins for their business. They need to figure a way out from just being a product delivery service area to a place of experience to justify the value of their retail presence.
5. Research Your Neighborhood and Catchment
It’s very important to understand the catchment of a store, especially if your store is selling products or services for daily or weekly needs. Usually, customers prefer to travel not more than 10 minutes to a store or a shopping area. The best way to go about this is to use Google Maps and take prints out of your localities near your potential store location, and then start mapping out the number of residential families and office buildings.
You should also spend time driving around the catchment area and making notes. One of the best ways is to talk to pedestrians and ask them if there is a particular store or market nearby where they would shop.
Adequate parking space is extremely important for the success of a store. If the parking slots are occupied all the time, it would discourage a lot of customers, especially if your store is a destination format type of store like Ikea or Decathlon. You would have noticed that these kinds of stores have a lot of parking space. Even if your store is located within the city, having two or three dedicated parking spaces makes a lot of difference. Inadequate parking spaces can at times be a big reason for the failure of a retail store.
7. Consider Accessibility to Public Transportation
Since metro cities are getting more and more overcrowded, customers nowadays prefer to use public transportation systems like metros, buses, etc. If your store is easily accessible via walking distance from such a place, you can be guaranteed high footfall if you advertise your store at these public transportation nodes like metro stations and bus stops.
8. Factor in Security
A secure area would instill confidence in the customers to visit the store. Security might at times be taken for granted, but thefts and violence do occur. Always make sure that the security of the store and customers is never at risk, as one untoward incident may deter potential customers from visiting your store.
9. Check for Zoning Laws & Consult with a Professional
Ensure that the area is appropriately zoned for retail purposes. Some areas may have restrictions on the types of businesses allowed.
Seeking professional help can go a long way in helping you choose the right retail store location. Consult with a real estate agent, a property management company, or a business consultant for advice on the best locations and negotiation of leases.
Choosing a retail store location in a metro city in India requires careful analysis and assessment of these factors. With proper research and planning, you can find a location that meets your business goals and objectives. Remember to consider the demographics, competition, foot traffic, accessibility, rental costs, infrastructure, security, and zoning laws, and finally, don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance.
Abhishek Sareen is a sales & marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant at Kurt Salmon Associates and has worked in marketing & brand management, international business in sectors like precision steel tubes for automotive industry, consumer goods and retail.
He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.