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By Sarah Corbin
Chameleon is closing.
I'm not very fashion trendy. I'm very thankful that I have a counterpart in this "Shopping" personality here with OakPark.com, because writing about fashion would make me look and feel like a true poser. (Do people use that word anymore? I'm not sure, but it works in this instance) Thanks to Suze we still have a fashion voice here on OakPark.com.
Me? I'm kind of a "nuts and bolts business advisor" with years of experience in merchandising, sales, customer service and marketing. I love Housewares, Health and Beauty and Electronics.
Even though I might not lean on the fashion side of things, I like Chameleon. I like the owner Nick - super nice. And I wish they could have sustained what I think was a poor location. Let me say this loudly: I think the customer service, selection, price and store trend is right on target.
My sincere opinion is that if Chameleon struggled it was from location - and quite frankly - that's enough to tip the edge of success for small retail.
There are quite a few things that go into choosing your location. When you read the list - many of you will say, "Well of course that's true - everyone knows that. " From an advisory standpoint, I don't think business owners & entrepreneurs listen carefully enough when a location evaluation tells them NOT to GO THERE.
By nature entrepreneurs push forward and make dreams happen. Obstacles are mused away, "Even if this was a bad location for them - it will be a good location for me."
If you are a new business owner, the location hunt checklist shouldn't ever be ignored. Sometimes bad marks on locations can be overcome with awesome marketing - but it doesn't always work. When you are a brand "new to open" business, you just don't know if you will have the funds to devote to awesome marketing.
When you evaluate a location here are some basics - with a to do list of sorts. Current business owners might read this and say, "AHA THIS is why we are having a hard time." And if you find yourself in that position. We are a pretty savvy group of folks and can help you figure a way out of your "location" whole.
LOCATION HUNT BASICS
1. Foot traffic. You are going to actually sit out in front of your dream location on three separate occasions and track the amount of people that walk PAST your front door. It's not enough that they exit a nearby business. Those folks have to walk PAST your front door.
2. History of the location. How many Businesses have closed there in the last 15 -20 years? (If you have more than three - it's time to ditch the location - you aren't going to be so much more fabulous than the previous three owners that you can overcome this stigma - TRUST ME.) Did the business before yours close because of a tragedy? It can be hard to get past that kind of history too.
3. Traffic- plain old number of cars going down the road. You can usually get this from the leasing agent. But if they don't have it - park your rear end down and do a double check your self. (This is sort of tricky - you don't want too much traffic - no one ever looks on a four lane highway)
4. Rent cost (lower is always better right?). How low your rent needs to be is going to depend on your expected volume and expected average daily transaction - so it will vary with each industry. Value your rent cost based on triple net: Rent + Common Area Maintenance Taxes. Sometimes a higher rent is ok if you have the "foot" traffic to support the added cost. And be honest about your average daily transaction. If you sell coffee and donuts chances are most folks will just buy a coffee and donut: Average transaction is just $6.
5. Income of neighborhood.
6. Average education level. Depending on your business, a higher level of average education might work better for you.
7. Visibility. Can people see the sign? Can people see the business from the street?
8. Parking. Does the location have dedicated parking? Dedicated parking is always better. Don't let someone convince you ANYWHERE IN THE US that walking traffic is going to drive your business, unless you are on some warm sunny boardwalk. Here in the midwest with winter taking over for 3-4 months of the year - designated parking for your business reigns supreme.
9. Co tenant. Do you have a next door neighbor? Is their business in line with your customer base? (Do you know what your customer base is?) Does your leasing company have other tenants signed sealed and ready to move in? DON'T - please don't make the mistake of trusting a sales agent on their word that such and such business is ready to sign their lease next week and you can share grand opening expenses.
10. Strip Mall vs. Free Standing building. Free standing means you have to be a location people are going to want to come to all on their own. I personally think this is preference driven and could go either way.
11. Population density. More is actually better here. More people closer to your business means more business.
Take the list. Do some measurements. Then evaluate your business or any business vs. the location. Let me know where you come out. Comment anonymously if you like. Email me if you have some serious concerns about your business that you need to work through and you don't want to share out loud.
Or - Think you know a great location for just right business? Put that here too. In the name of research of course.