There’s a small place on Victoria Street that I’ve driven by almost everyday for the past 12 years that I cannot help noticing is for sale again. It’s a commercial location – actually I think it’s commercial in the front and residential in the back. There is lots of parking and it is in a high traffic area. It’s a cute little place – all brick exterior with nice curb appeal.
However, businesses that set up there don’t survive. Since I’ve been driving by, when the place isn’t for sale or lease, over the last twelve years, it has been a convenience store, a recording studio, a tattoo parlour and something else I can’t remember.
There are other retail locations around town that simply don’t do well no matter what the business is.
One reason so many businesses fail is high rent. Waterloo Region has very few great retail locations to rent. When supply is short and demand is high – rents go up. Small business owners can’t afford their rent and all the other expenses like inventory, payroll and marketing. (They often skip on the marketing).
Many business owners think as long as the road is busy it will be a good retail location. But this isn’t true. It has to be the right busy location. My barber said, “Be on the way home from work for your customers”. That makes sense – if the parking lot is easy to turn into and get out of when the traffic is heavy, I’ll more likely stop.
So what should a small business owner look for in a retail location?
The retail locations that do better are accessible, have great signage and frontage, are on a corner, and have parking. Fitting into the neighbourhood demographics is important, as is fitting in with the stores around you. You want to know who your customer is, how they shop and where they shop and you want to have neighbours that help bring your customers into the neighborhood. You also want to be in an area on its way up. In Waterloo, I’d suggest anything along the LRT route will have long term sustainability.