What is a front store?
A front store is the retail area at the front of a store where customers can directly access and purchase products. This is in contrast to a backstore or stockroom where inventory is stored and not directly accessible to customers. The front store contains the main showroom floor, checkout counters, service desks, and other customer-facing areas. For many retail stores, the front store makes up the majority of the physical retail footprint and is the primary space where customers shop.
Why open a front store?
There are several key reasons a business may choose to operate a front store retail location:
- Direct sales – A front store allows for direct in-person selling to customers. This provides more opportunities to demonstrate products, interact with shoppers, and make immediate sales.
- Brand awareness – A physical retail presence helps build brand visibility, recognition, and loyalty within a local market. Customers can directly experience the brand.
- Convenience – Many consumers still prefer being able to see and touch products in person before purchasing. A front store makes this easy and convenient.
- Impulse purchases – Displaying products in-store makes it easier to capture impulse and add-on purchases compared to online-only shops.
- Flexibility – Front store locations allow retailers to rotate stock, create seasonal displays, offer promotions, and adapt merchandising strategies quickly.
For many types of retail from clothing stores to electronics shops, locating in a high-traffic area and operating a well-designed front store is critical for reaching customers. Even as online shopping grows, front stores remain important for branding, sales, and convenience.
Key elements in opening a successful front store
Opening and operating a successful retail front store involves careful planning, preparation, and execution across many facets including:
Selecting a profitable, high-traffic location
One of the most important decisions is choosing an optimal location for a front store. Key factors to evaluate include:
- Foot traffic – The number of people that will walk/drive by the store daily. High foot traffic allows for more spontaneous walk-in customers.
- Surrounding tenants – Nearby tenants can complement (e.g. food places attract hungry shoppers) or detract from a store’s location value.
- Accessibility – Easy access for both vehicles and pedestrians is ideal. Being near parking and public transit helps.
- Rent/cost – Lease rates and operating costs vary greatly by location. Balance visibility with affordable rent based on expected sales and expenses.
- Zoning – The location must be zoned for retail use with any required permits or licenses.
Thoroughly researching demographics, traffic patterns, and competitive factors around various location options helps optimize the store site selection.
Designing the retail layout
The front store’s internal layout significantly impacts the customer experience. Key elements of designing a retail floor plan include:
- Storefront/entrance – This is a customer’s first impression so having an attractive, visible storefront is critical.
- Floor space allocation – Arrange aisles, displays, and departments conveniently while encouraging customers to browse throughout the store.
- Lighting – Proper lighting showcases merchandise while creating a comfortable atmosphere.
- Signage – Informative interior signage and directions help customers self-navigate.
- Point of sale – Cash register placement impacts queues and accessibility.
- Inventory space – Backstock areas should be clean and organized even if customers cannot access them.
- Atmospherics – Music, scent, color schemes contribute to environment.
The store layout provides the skeleton for executing merchandising and operational strategies.
Merchandising for target customers
Merchandising involves selecting and showcasing products to appeal to target customer demographics. Key merchandising tactics include:
- Product assortment – Carry an assortment tailored demographics like age, income level, gender, and psychographics.
- Category adjacencies – Place complementary products together to spur bundling. Group items shoppers expect near each other.
- Display fixtures – Quality fixtures effectively showcase products at attractive sight lines.
- Signage – Descriptive shelf tags, pricing signs, and promotional signs communicate and sell.
- Store windows – Window displays attract outside attention and communicate brand image.
- End caps – End of aisle displays grab attention for promotional items.
The right mix of products carried and creative merchandising helps maximize sales. Testing alternative assortments, signage, and displays provides data to refine approaches.
Hiring and training skilled staff
Knowledgeable and personable staff help create a positive customer experience. Hiring and training considerations include:
- Salesmanship – Staff should understand sales psychology and persuasion while avoiding overly pushy tactics.
- Product expertise – Employees need extensive knowledge about products to answer customer questions and overcome objections.
- Customer service – Patience, enthusiasm, and problem resolution skills are essential.
- Technology usage – Comfort learning and utilizing POS systems, inventory software etc.
- Scheduling – Match staff coverage to customer traffic patterns. Offer flexible shifts.
- Ongoing training – Regular training sharpens skills and keeps staff updated.
Investing in identifying and developing talented front store staff improves customer satisfaction, sales performance, and brand reputation.
Implementing effective operations
Efficient operations in areas like inventory control, security, and cleanliness also contribute to retail success:
- Inventory management – Use a POS system to track stock levels accurately, identify fast/slow movers, minimize shrinkage, and guide orders.
- Loss prevention – Apply security tags, surveillance cameras, and bag checks to deter shoplifting.
- Cleanliness – Keep floors free of clutter and spills. Establish daily/weekly cleaning duties.
- Displays maintenance – Continuously maintain and refresh displays as needed.
- Process efficiency – Streamline tasks like shelf stocking and cash procedures to maximize productivity.
Smooth operations reduce costs while improving the customer journey.
Leveraging customer data and technology
Modern retail also relies heavily on utilizing data and technology:
- POS data – Transaction data from POS and inventory systems provide insights on purchasing patterns.
- CRM tools – CRM software centralizes customer contact information and purchasing history for personalized marketing.
- Online interfaces – An online store, social media, and email collection build omni-channel presence.
- Mobility – Tablet POS systems allow checking out anywhere in store.
- Automation – Automated inventory scanning, reordering, and task prompts improve efficiency.
Getting the most out of retail technology tools requires focused initiatives around data collection, integration, analysis, and application.
Legal and financial considerations
Beyond location, merchandising, and operations, opening a front store also requires navigating key legal and financial hurdles:
Choosing a business structure
Key considerations for establishing a business structure include:
- Company type – Common structures include sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation.
- Liability – Owners’ personal assets are more exposed under structures like sole proprietorships.
- Taxes – Structure impacts taxes like income and self-employment taxes.
- Administration – More complex structures have administrative requirements like filing annual reports.
The optimal structure balances ownership flexibility, liability protection, tax implications, costs of administration.
Business licensing and registration
Key government requirements to comply with include:
- Federal tax ID – Registering for an EIN needed for federal taxes, banking, and employment paperwork.
- State/local business license – Most states and localities require general business licenses/permits to operate.
- Industry-specific – Additional requirements like food handling permits if selling food products.
- Sales tax – Obtaining a seller’s permit, collecting, reporting state/local sales tax.
- Zoning – Confirming proper zoning like “retail business district” for the location.
Proper licensing helps avoid fines down the road and builds government compliance into operations from the start.
Financing and capital
Funding inventory, equipment, development costs requires sufficient capital which could come from:
- Personal funds – Owners’ personal savings invested into their business.
- Loans – Bank loans or SBA small business loans. Good credit will help secure better loan rates.
- Investors – Gaining investment capital by exchanging equity for funding.
- Business credit cards – Rewards cards tailored for startup expenses improve early cash flow.
Forecasting financial needs and mixing financing sources helps cover startup costs.
Key insurance policies commonly used by retail stores include:
- General liability – Protects against customers’ injury claims.
- Product liability – Covers injuries caused by defective products sold.
- Professional liability – Protects against claims of errors or negligence.
- Commercial property – Covers damage to store equipment and merchandise.
- Workers’ comp – Required policy covering employee injuries at work.
Insurance provides protection against the many liabilities faced by stores. Shopping specialized brokers identifies optimal custom policies.
Opening a successful retail front store requires thorough planning and solid execution across real estate, store operations, merchandising, staffing, data utilization, legal compliance, and financing. Careful market research provides insights to optimize each area for the target location and customer demographics. While challenging, businesses can gain an edge over online stores by delivering convenience, experiences, expertise, and community. A thoughtfully designed and operated front store serves as the public face and selling floor for reaching revenue goals.