Industry • Best Practice
Scouting Ahead: Finding the Perfect Retail Location for a Self-Care Business
Jun.20.2023By Boulevard Staff
With the right location, self-care brands can provide high-quality client experiences and position themselves to grow
More people are willing to pay for self-care than ever. Between wellness services, personal care products, and regular beauty appointments, the total market has skyrocketed to an estimated $450 billion. Those numbers are inspiring self-care entrepreneurs to enter retail spaces, where they can build connections with new audiences and establish steady income.
Opening a physical storefront isn’t easy, especially for first-time business owners, but it does get easier with the right location. Here’s what self-care brands should consider while scouting for a new storefront.
Questions every self-care entrepreneur should ask
Before diving into the details of retail property shopping, you should know precisely what you need, want, and can afford. Asking these questions will focus your efforts and keep you from scouting locations that would never be a good fit.
Who is your target audience?
When choosing a retail location, nothing is more important than considering where your ideal clients are. For example, if your market primarily consists of college students, on-campus storefronts and surrounding neighborhoods will be valuable. On the other hand, suburban clients who drive are more likely to visit businesses on their typical commute. And given the association between self-care and exercise, locations within walking or biking distance of a client’s daily routine have immense potential.
The better you understand your clients’ habits and preferences, the easier it will be to find retail locations that are convenient for them and profitable for you.
How much space do you need?
The self-care industry covers an enormous range of businesses, including hair and nail salons, meditation centers, massage parlors, and more. Each of these businesses has unique space requirements, and those demands increase based on client volumes and employee numbers.
Consider the bare minimum layout and floor space you’ll need to make your business viable. For example, a chiropractor or osteopath operating as a sole proprietorship will need much less space than an entire team. When scouting, you can rule out anything falling below this baseline, while locations that give you room to grow can go on the “nice to have” list.
What’s your available budget?
How much money do you have to turn a retail location into a self-care business? You’ll need to think about far more than rent. There are also deposits, equipment, signage, marketing, incidentals, and of course, paychecks — including your own! Take stock of any savings, loan opportunities, and grants you can access. Remember that you shouldn’t spend it all at once since it might take a while before finances recover from the investment.
Self-care retail features you can’t do without
Once you’ve answered the questions above, you can start researching and scouting locations. At this stage, the focus should be on features and amenities each storefront might provide, such as:
Storefronts are not interchangeable properties that fit every business model. The features and amenities you’ll get from a downtown storefront differ entirely from a shopping mall store, a strip center, or a commercial warehouse. After all, buildings with an open work floor are great for community nail salons but lack the privacy that’s vital if you’re opening a spa. It’s also important to note if they’re ADA compliant; a house might make for a super cute hair salon, but unless it already has a ramp, you’ll need to factor installation into your overall budget.
Self-care business owners must focus on property categories that align with their brand and its available services. For example, trendy and vibrant salons are well-suited for an active downtown core, while a meditation center matches the calm surroundings of a park. Don’t forget about practical considerations like floor space or available rooms, including break and restroom facilities that employees need.
Foot traffic and signage
Foot traffic is an important part of any self-care business, but that doesn’t mean you should solely focus on locations at busy intersections. Once again, the goal is to prioritize sites new clients will find organically, whether while visiting another retailer they enjoy or driving home after work. Perhaps they’ll make an impulse stop to buy products or check for appointments later in the day. In all cases, you want to focus on that crucial target audience that will help the business grow in its early stages.
Start by thinking about optimal signage. People walking might pay more attention to street signs than display windows, but a catchy display might attract the attention of anyone riding the bus. Next, use your market research to offer deals that resonate with customers, particularly seasonal specials that reflect an upcoming holiday. Tempt passersby to pause or, better yet, come on in. Once they’ve crossed your threshold, you have the opportunity to convert them into a client.
If clients aren’t walking to your self-care business, they’ll need another way to get there. For some locations, that means by car, which also means you’ll need parking spaces. What’s more, those spots aren’t just for clients — every manager and employee on the schedule needs to get into work as well, and would rather not pay for parking privileges.
Of course, securing the right amount of retail parking can be a challenge. Businesses fortunate enough to have parking spaces tend to have a limited supply, while everyone else must rely on public lots or third-party services. And that’s before considering that parking can have diminishing returns for retailers — the increased noise, reduced sidewalk space, and higher odds of accidents aren’t exactly siren calls for self-care clients.
The key is to strike a balance between your location and target clients’ preferences. For example, an urban self-care brand targeting students or young adults without cars should seek locations on bus routes. Meanwhile, businesses that cater to commuting clients can find a site with a shared retail lot that supports the expected volume.
You’ve found your location - now what?
You’re still not done once you’ve found the perfect spot — or one you can make work. You must address a few more considerations before signing on the dotted line.
Negotiating a lease agreement
Unless you can buy a property outright, your self-care business will likely need to cover rent every month. That means you’ll need to negotiate with commercial landlords who fully understand the location’s value and want to profit from it. The good news is they also want your business to succeed — which impacts their bottom line after all — so they should be open to negotiating favorable terms. Before beginning negotiations, make sure to evaluate the neighboring businesses to guage how they might impact the long-term property value of your site. If there’s a Starbucks nearby, for example, odds are good that local real estate will appreciate over time; locking in a multi-year lease will save you money in the long run.
All your research about a property and the surrounding neighborhood is a significant boon here, but you can go further. Try to figure out the average cost of incidentals and utilities in case you can include them in the lease. Once you have a contract in hand, double-check all the renewal and termination clauses so you’re in an advantageous position whether the business succeeds or fails. Most importantly, talk with other business owners in the area to learn what kind of rent and unexpected costs they’re paying — here are the average rates per square foot as a baseline:
Power centers: $25.34
General freestanding commercial buildings: $22.87
Neighborhood center: $22.78
Strip centers: $21.61
Zoning regulations and permits
Before you see a single client, your self-care business needs its permits in order. Each retail location must comply with specific legal and zoning requirements, such as lot coverage, business permits, and even the height of commercial buildings. These requirements vary by state depending on your business category, full-time staff, and client volume. The last thing you need is for your business to shut down because you missed a detail, so find out the zoning rules for your area and apply for the necessary permits.
There’s a lot of ground to cover when choosing a location, but getting the details right gives you the best chance of success.