17 April 2019/ Retail

What to look for in a retail unit?

You can’t afford not to be fastidious about the way you go about finding your retail unit – the property you commit to needs to be reliable and practical. With so much information online you don’t even need to view a property until you’re sure it ticks most of, and ideally all the boxes. But even so, are you sure what you’re looking for? Do you have a checklist of the most important details, the ones that will make all the difference once you’re trading?

It’s a tricky process, especially if you’re new to shop-hunting. We’ve prepared a short guide to get you up to speed on what to look for in a retail unit.

Where?

It’s the oldest maxim in the retail text book, but ‘location location location’ still stands true as arguably the most important factor, certainly the first consideration, in your property strategy. You might have found a great deal, with low rents and rates and incentives from the landlords, but there may be a reason a property is so affordable: maybe the area has a high nocturnal crime rate, maybe it only gets decent footfall at certain times of the week, or maybe three retailers have come and gone from this unit in as many years.

Take plenty of advice, ask locally, and do your research about an area before you even look round a property. In terms of retail positioning, it goes without saying that you want high footfall, unless you’re a real specialist. But do you want to be shoulder-to-shoulder with your competitors, or keep a distance? This is an old question in retail property: the received wisdom is that it’s better to be close to your rivals, but that depends what you’re selling and how confident you are in your product.

Sainsbury shopLarge retail unit: Sainsbury's, Quay Parade, Swansea SA1 8JA

How much?

When you start looking you’ll find that there are properties of all costs – including the sky-high. And as tempting as they might be, you have to be disciplined and stick to what’s going to work for you. Agree a budget in advance and stick to it, no matter how inviting a more expensive store might be.

When you’re looking at commercial properties always bear in mind the hidden costs beyond the obvious things like rent and rates. Running a store involves numerous fixed costs and overheads,  such as heating, lighting and water, and repairs and decorations over the lifespan of the lease. Always bear this in mind and thoroughly inspect fittings, walls, pipes and circuitry – a  cheap but shabby property will need constant work, and be a false economy in the long run.

Storage

Although it’s often overlooked because of more important considerations, the amount of storage a retail unit has can be vital. You always need to store more than you’d imagined, especially when you’re growing; it’s better to have slightly too much than not enough.

This is something you can research in advance, using a good, detailed search engine. But when you’re viewing a site make sure the storage space lives up to the promise in the listing, and is dry and secure as well. This is less important for a retail store, but for any food seller or publican, the basement storage space is absolutely vital and needs to be large enough to cater for peak times.

Dorking storeSmall retail units: 44 High St, Dorking, UK RH4 1AY

Facilities

Your main concern is bound to be the shop front and sales area, especially if you’re a retailer. But don’t forget how much time you or your staff are going to spend here. Make sure that all the unit’s facilities – the toilets, the sink and the kitchen – are of a good standard. If you’re looking for an A3 unit for a coffee shop, cafe or restaurant, take extra care over the kitchen facilities, and be scrupulous. These will make all the difference on a daily basis, to the quality of the food you’re producing, and your own efficiency as a business.