5 Retail Business Formats and How to Choose the Best One for Your Business

Here are five core retail business building formats and how to choose the best one for your business.
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Commercial retail locations come in as many shapes, sizes, and forms as the businesses that inhabit them. And choosing the right one is possibly the most important decision a brick and mortar business can make. Your location will directly impact your bottom line, your foot traffic, and your ability to grow.

Here are five core retail business building formats and how to choose the best one for your business.


Downtown Centers and Pedestrian Areas

Many business owners dream of having a storefront on Main Street that lasts for generations. As a focal point for a diverse range of locals and tourists alike, downtown streets and other pedestrian centers are popular choices for many types of retail and service businesses. They generate local loyalty (especially in WNC), and the older buildings give you the air of being well established, even if you’re starting fresh. On the other hand, your most loyal customers could get frustrated by parking challenges, and older buildings may generate issues of their own.

CHOOSE THIS FORMAT WHEN: your town has a healthy, revitalized downtown; your brand is focused on history or exclusivity; you’re fine with limited space and adaptability for your smaller or specialty store; you want more freedom as a business owner; your customers skew younger and urban; the space is well maintained or recently updated; you want to participate in regular downtown events and business collectives


Enclosed Shopping Malls

There are many pros and cons to opening your business in a shopping mall. Malls offer customers a one-stop location for shopping, dining, and entertainment with never-ending parking (except maybe on Black Friday). Indoor malls also offer a year-round respite from the weather, be it hot or cold. The guaranteed regular foot traffic at malls more than makes up for the competition from neighboring storefronts. However, because of these conveniences, malls can charge high rent and maintenance, as well as enforcing their own set of rules.

CHOOSE THIS FORMAT WHEN: your target demographic matches the mall’s customers; the anchor stores are doing well; what you’re selling is distinct enough to deal with lots of close competition; you don’t want to depend on advertising to find customers; you don’t mind the tradeoffs of high rent and strict rules and regulations


Open-Air Grocery and Shopping Centers

Sometimes called “strip malls”, these shopping centers may be a string of several similarly sized storefronts. Or they may be anchored by one or more supermarkets, big-box retailers, or service centers flanked by up to 20 smaller storefronts. Whichever is the case, if there are at least a couple well established and successful businesses in the shopping center, that bodes well for foot traffic to your business. And shopping centers also generally offer plenty of parking for employees and customers. However, if your anchor store packs up and leaves, that could severely hamper your bottom line.

CHOOSE THIS FORMAT WHEN: you want high visibility from a main thoroughfare; you want the foot traffic of a mall without the higher rent; you want to be along public transit routes; the anchor stores are doing well and there are few empty storefronts; you need a modernized and updated building; you’ve confirmed the availability of parking and regulations on the property


Business Parks

Office buildings and business parks are distinguished from smaller shopping centers mainly by the types of businesses. Business parks feature mainly non-retail businesses, such as B2B, medical offices, and financial planning centers. However, if your retail business caters to other businesses, this could be the ideal location for you. And there are often well-maintained outdoor spaces for you to enjoy.

CHOOSE THIS FORMAT WHEN: your customers are other businesses; the corporate vibe matches your brand; you want to share maintenance costs with other businesses in an office building; you’re not dependent on foot traffic or street visibility; there are few empty storefronts


Freestanding Kiosks/Carts

Is a brick and mortar storefront really the best retail format for your business? Perhaps it’s too much of an investment for a beginning business like yours! Freestanding kiosks or carts could be the solution. Think of them like the food trucks of retail. You can “park” them at a location that is guaranteed to have the foot traffic you need, like an outlet mall or downtown street corner (if permitted), and you’ll save on rent while you build your customer base. On the downside, kiosks placed in open air are much more exposed to weather. And the space limitations may not work for certain retail sellers.

CHOOSE THIS FORMAT WHEN: you don’t have a lot of funds for upfront costs; it’s a perfect spot for foot traffic; you understand the zoning and regulations for the space; you’re not worried about parking, weather, or limited room to grow or expand; you have a plan for growth


Ready to Find the Best Retail Format for Your Business?

The list above greatly simplifies the spectrum of commercial retail spaces available for your business. The location you choose should depend on the factors most important to you, including your industry, your budget, your business plan, space and transportation needs, and where your customers are. Your commercial real estate agent is by your side to help you weigh all these factors to find the perfect retail space.

NAI Beverly-Hanks continually strives to be the best in the business and provide you with the expertise you need. Contact us today to speak with an NAI Beverly-Hanks commercial real estate agent about securing the perfect retail space for your Western North Carolina business. 

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