Opening your own shop

You want to start your own shop. As a start-up shopkeeper, you need to think about many things. For example, whether there is demand for your product, where to open your shop and how to get ready to receive customers. Competition from online shops is also something to think carefully about. Yet there are entrepreneurs who manage to be successful with their own, physical shop. They attract customers through specialisation, service, personal attention and surprising promotions. Doing the right thing for people, the environment and society plays an increasingly important role here. In this article, you will read about general things to consider when opening your own shop.

No matter where you look, you will find that times are tough for the retail industry. Competition from online shops is fierce, yet there are still entrepreneurs who have managed to run a successful brick & mortar shop. They attract customers through specialisation, high levels of service, personal attention and surprising promotions. Doing the right thing for people, the environment, and society is becoming an increasingly important factor, mainly because it affects the choices consumers make.

Number of physical shops in the Netherlands on 1 January 2019-2023

YearNumber
201995.473
202093.784
202193.262
202292.763
202391.488

(Source: KVK Business register)

Is there a demand for your product?

A first important step is to investigate whether there is demand for your product. Doing market research is a good way to do this. Writing a business plan will help you do this. A business plan gives you insight into your business skills, goals, market position and the feasibility of your idea. It forces you to make your idea concrete. This way, you can see whether your plans are feasible and whether there is a market for your product.

Money

To open your own business, you need enough money. You will probably need to borrow money from a financier, such as a bank or an investor. An important part of your business plan is your financial plan. Make a financial plan with good substantiation before you go to a financier. This plan, in addition to your enthusiasm, is necessary to convince a financier to invest money into your business. The industry you are starting in and the risks you run play an important role in a financier's decision.

Finding a suitable property

The location of your shop is essential for its success. Through business brokers, your municipality's business desk or local shopping district managers, you can get addresses of vacant or soon-to-be vacant properties.

When looking for the perfect property, consider the following:

  • Should I rent or buy?
  • What areas does my target audience frequent?
  • Where are your competitors located?
  • What price range, size, and look am I looking for?

Once you find a suitable property, consider the following:

  • What does the lease or purchase contract say and are the price, term, and conditions negotiable?
  • Are my intended activities allowed under the zoning plan?
  • How are the costs for remodelling or furnish the space, energy, internet, gas, waste disposal, parking?
  • What (local) laws and regulations will I have to deal with?
  • How do I make sure people on the outside can see what they can get in my shop? For example, place the coffee corner of your bookshop at the front so the atmosphere draws customers in. Or put the carving table in front of the window of your frame shop so customers can see the craftsman at work.
Consumers are not necessarily looking to buy more stuff: they are looking for a way to meaningfully spend their precious time (retail specialist Joe Pine) 

Find a supplier

Finding a good supplier takes time. Start your search online or visit trade fairs and make contact with wholesalers, importers and manufacturers. Make an appointment to visit, you want to be sure of the good quality of the product. If you buy directly from abroad, have a sample sent to you. Often there is a minimum number of pieces you have to buy or a high starting price. Try to negotiate about this.

A good price for your product

The products in your shop should be priced. You may also list the price on the shelf. Sometimes the manufacturer (brand) sets the retail price but often you calculate the price yourself. Read how to set your prices.

Taking over a brick & mortar shop offers valuable  opportunities

People who take over a company are more likely to be successful than someone who starts from scratch. The company already has turnover, customers, brand awareness, and a reputation. Other benefits of business acquisition include:

  • Existing companies will often find it easier to obtain financing than startups.
  • Experienced sales associates can teach you the tricks of the trade.
  • Existing businesses will usually have taken care of most practicalities already, such as permits, fully compliant buildings, and existing contracts.

Found a business to take over? Contact the KVK Advice team and discuss the steps to take: 088 585 2222.

Register with the Chamber of Commerce

Looking to register your business with KVK? The first thing to do is choose an appropriate legal form. Most new brick & mortar shops start out as an eenmanszaak (sole proprietorship) or vennootschap onder firma (general partnership). Both these legal forms are quick and easy to set up. The main disadvantage of this legal form is that it means you are personally liable for any debt your business runs up. so make sure to diligently investigate your risks and take out insurance for risks you are unwilling to or incapable of bearing yourself. If you choose to set up a vof (general partnership), it may also be a good idea to draw up a partnership contract.

To request a Chamber of Commerce number, you have to make an appointment with KVK online. Where and when you register is entirely up to you.

Do I need a Chamber of Commerce number before I open my shop?

If you have not officially opened your shop yet but you are already applying for permits, remodelling a building, purchasing goods, or signing a lease or financing agreement, you will usually need a KVK number. Fortunately, that does not have to be a problem, as you can register with the Chamber of Commerce in advance.

Have you thought about?

  • Starting as a franchisee? In other words, have you considered joining a chain?
  • Bringing in family or hiring staff? After all, shops are usually open between 50 and 60 hours a week, even without counting the time you have to spend on marketing and admin.
  • Joining a merchants association? By working together, you may find it easier to tempt customers to visit your shopping centre or street and stay ahead of shopping sites and other competitors.
  • Open your shop only at noon and stay open longer in the evening? This better suits the lifestyle pattern of today's consumers. Possibly also offer shopping by appointment. This service can improve customer loyalty and increase turnover.
  • Save energy by understanding the numbers? By calculating minimum stock levels, for example. That way, you might be able to replace your freezer with a smaller one. That makes a huge difference in costs on an annual basis.

Did you know?

  • Being a parcel pickup point will help you increase footfall and that all those potential customers might buy something, too.
  • Retailers have to deal with the rules and regulations of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, NVWA) (in Dutch).
  • Municipalities decide whether shops are allowed to be open for business on Sundays. The same goes for New Year's Day, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.
  • You are not always allowed to paint the façade of your building or put up a larger signage.
  • You need a municipal permit and may have to pay gambling tax if you start an (online) campaign for your shop or a specific product?
  • You will have to deal with GDPR privacy legislation if you start keeping a customer database for a newsletter or loyalty card, for instance.
  • More entrepreneurs are falling victim to fraud and cybercrime.
  • You can use the Waste guide for businesses (in Dutch) to check what waste you need to separate at your location.
  • Did you know that you can find clear explanations of tricky terms like competition, liability and financing in this glossary?

For a quick and comprehensive look at all the rules you will encounter when you start your own online shop, go to the online shop roadmap.

Tip!

To help startups create their business plan, KVK teamed up with CBS to develop the Location scan (in Dutch). This tool provides information about your target audience and competition at the municipality and neighbourhood level. Want to quickly and easily count businesses in a particular industry in any given area? Check out the KVK Business Counter.