View Full Version : Things that worked for you Retail Shop

Clark Pace
05-22-2014, 2:12 AM

I lucked out. A local retail store closed their business and the owner only wanted $150 a month rent. It's a retail store, and right on main street. It's small, but perfect for me. Those of you who have retail shops. Have you found anything, trinkets and or products that have done well. Of course I'm going to be offering the standard plaques and such. I was worried about having a laser in a retail environment, but the city changed the laws last year in my area and now allow en-closed laser engraving systems. I finally got my business license and safety all done. So I'm now open for business.

Robert Walters
05-22-2014, 2:22 AM
Congrats and good luck!

David John Evans
05-22-2014, 5:51 AM
Well done and all the best.

Mike Troncalli
05-22-2014, 9:44 AM
I think a lot is going to depend on your location. Are you in a business district, tourist town ? If in a business district then I would go in heavy on door and desk signs, corporate awards and plaques.. Of course if in a tourist location always go with the little trinkets, ie. key chains, pens, things like that...

David Somers
05-22-2014, 10:55 AM
$150 a month rent? Wow! At that price, so long as your core engraving business is going well you can afford to experiment and see what works.

First thing I might do is look around that area in foot traffic range and see what type of shops you are among. Who is walking by during your open hours. What are they buying down there? Do you have window space to display things? If yes, what could you offer that might compliment, without duplicating what other stores are doing? For example, if you are surrounded by clothing shops can you offer lasered items as clothing accessories? Pins, brooches and other jewelry, leather goods, personalized or laser decorated purses and bags, etc. Or if the surrounds are more business oriented can you offer personalization of stuff folks might be buying elsewhere. Next to a stationer? Offer to personalize their fine notebook covers and display paper cut work on stationary and cards. Got a used record store as a neighbor? Arrange to get some of their discard albums and do laser cut designs on them to make clocks and other decorations. Compliment the surrounding stores. Or, is there some set of items that would contrast against the surrounding shops? Something that folks walking by would stop and look at and say "ooh! This is different!" having just walked by a half dozen cutsie clothing boutiques.

With the laser you can respond quickly to seasons with small runs of seasonal items. Christmas time you can do a bunch of Christmas themed lasered items for example. Check Pinterest for ideas and you will see lots of stuff that might work well.

Having said that I have to follow with my usual disclaimer about my not being a real doctor, just playing one on TV, or however that saying goes. My only experience in retail was when I was living on a boat for years here in Seattle and had rented some shop space for my wood lathe in a garage bay right along a very popular bike route. There was no retail anywhere near me. Mostly industry. But, tons of bikers and runners and walkers tooted by on the trail within feet of my bay door. I used to work with the bay door open pretty much the entire year so folks got used to seeing me there in the evenings and weekends. Many got curious and would stop in to see what I was doing. In the winter I always had a pot of hot water or coffee on, it was cold after all and I was working in an open garage, and if folks stopped I would offer a hot beverage as we talked and it became a fairly regular thing. I finally set up display shelves to hold stuff I was making simply because so many asked to see things and wondered if I was selling anything. My intent wasnt to sell from the shop, but if I was going to stop and chat anyway, what the heck!

I always figured that small items were best to display because people were out for an exercise walk or a bike ride/commute and wouldnt want to carry large items. What folks would ask for and what they took away though seemed to have no bearing on my guesses though. I had people in running gear on rainy winter day go plodding off through the puddles with a plastic bag and a $500 piece. ?? Bikers would tuck some little christmas ornament with a delicate finial into their panniers and toot on to the house. It wasnt very frequent, but often enough to be interesting.

To make it more confusing, the local community of Fremont, just a short way up the road, had an art walk every month. The building my bay was in usually joined up. We were essentially a facility that rented space to folks who wanted a room to study, or craft, or have a shop and who didnt have space at home for that. So there were a fair number of artists and crafts people in the building. We joined in with the artwalk and made sure we were well signed and open to folks on those nights. We got almost no traffic. (not surprising where we were) And I never sold a thing although I had lots of folks stop by since I was the only one that was actually visible to people. Anything I sold ALWAYS went to the bikers and runners and walkers during weekday evenings and weekends while I was actually running the lathe, not during the artwalks when I would have cleaned stuff up and rearranged to display things better. Go figure. They were fun nights though so I didnt mind. I always figured my being open and so visible was helping pull people into our building and hopefully drew some business to the artists inside.

All that is a reallllllly long way of saying I have no clue what might go well in a retail shop and you should take anything I say with a huge grain of salt. Other than maybe to enjoy the story that inevitably comes with it. The best to you in the new space! And like I said at the start, at $150 a month rent....play and see what works! You could have a lot of fun with that part of it!


Bill Stearns
05-22-2014, 12:17 PM
Clark -
Incredible this day 'n age that you found a retail space for only $150 'month! As to what types of merchandise to offer, and engraving services to provide, well ... I imagine you are fast figuring this out, uh? No reason you can't be the "go-to" place for awards 'n plaques, at the same time you offer "personalized gift items" for walk-in trade. Depending upon the economy in your area, be sure not to underprice yourself. (as I too often do.) Imagine, you've already gotten business insurance coverage, uh? 'Couple more quick thoughts this morning: A bright 'n quality "OPEN" sign is worth it's weight in gold! Consistent 'n reliable "hours of operation", clearly posted - so as not to disgruntle customers. All of your displayed items clearly marked and priced for browsers. More costly items, especially glass, displayed where children, shopping with parents, can't get at 'em. (I learned this the hard way.) Ask 'round 'fore spending your hard-earned money joining the Chamber; you may be surprised how many retailers feel 'bout the value of this. I am sure you'll do just fine in your new location!


Clark Pace
05-23-2014, 11:28 AM
I've already been doing plaques , and other little signs sold on the internet. I just wanted to stretch my legs, and I really don't have a good place for a laser in my house anymore.

Here is a small list of things I plan to sell.

Engraved I phone cases, marble, tile, wood plaque. Acrylic shapes and still thinking of things.

Jim Beachler
05-23-2014, 1:06 PM
I would use the ideas above plus also do some foot work. Visit the businesses surrounding your new place and introduce yourself. Let them know what you can do and if they are interested, leave a card and follow up in a month or two or sooner.

As far as what sells, nobody will know until you find out. Talk to people and see where they have a pain and try to fill that pain.

Dee Gallo
05-24-2014, 11:53 PM
I like the idea of impulse items that serve a purpose. So you might consider making some seasonal/holiday decorations for your store window which will also show off what you can do besides utilitarian awards and tags. Large and small items such as decorative wreaths , notepads, pen cups and mobiles. The more variety you can showcase the more interest you will generate. You can also show off unusual substrates like found wood or stones, leather, cookies and fabrics. Custom cut, engraved and inlaid matboards are another great showoff item that won't break the bank.

Good luck in your new storefront!

cheers, dee

Andrew Holloway
05-25-2014, 2:15 AM
You could consider finding some designers who make laser cut jewellery and other things that suit your target customers and stocking their products.
I would suggest some, but I don't want to spam and I don't know what style you would prefer. Etsy is a great place to find designers.