Condo living is associated with comfort and convenience. Location is perfect, security is tight, and everything you might ever need is just outside your doorstep. This is why condo leasing continues to grow in remarkable speed. People do not mind paying more for convenience.
Aside from residential units, commercial spaces in a condo community or anywhere near one is a highly in demand. Any business that could add to the promise of comfort is a welcome addition: coffee shops, laundry services, water refilling stations, and restaurants. Another business venture with very promising returns is a convenience store.
An article in Forbes said that a food store is something that condo dwellers today look for. Pairing food retail with residences is not a new idea but the marketing strategy has evolved. According to Robert J. Bond, president of a real estate and investments company in Chicago and Los Angeles, said food markets or stores were just another postscript of addition in the past. But today, the shop-at-home experience is winning a lot of hearts.
So, it is the New Year and if you are thinking of start-up business ideas in a condo, a convenience store may just be your lucky charm. But how do you open a convenience store? Here are the 11 things you must take note of.
Location is (still) everything
In looking for a condo space for rent, always mind the location. Sure, you might think that since you snatched a prime space in a condo or in a building next to it, then you are okay. Well, probably. But in finding out how to spot a condo space for business, you have to do your own research on the area.
What are the establishments near the condo space? How about vehicle traffic? How far is the nearest convenience store? Is the area still up and about at night? You have to know these things in order to make sound decisions on other aspects as you go along.
Know your market
Are you just depending on condo residents as your market? They can easily be your primary market, but in setting up a business, you must expand your demographics as much as you can. Condos in the Philippines are typically located near business districts, residential building, social hubs, and with easy access to public transport. All of these people who navigate the area, from employees to pedestrians, are potential customers. Do not push them away by making your food store look like it is exclusive to condo residents.
Set up the selection
Once you are able to profile your customers, you can now decide on what products to offer. Browse other grocery and convenience stores to give you an idea. You may also do a survey. You have to research on the lifestyle and habits of your customers to know what they need. You also have to determine how often products will require replenishment, how soon do they expire, and whether your market can afford them.
Where to buy
The way you choose your suppliers is very critical in starting a convenience store in a condo. Do not trust “cheap” all the time. Affordability is important, but what people are really looking for is value for money. Don’t forget quality. You also have to clarify with the suppliers if they deliver or you need to pick them up. If you need to pick up supplies and products, you have to factor in fuel and vehicle expenses. If delivered, inquire about lead times and cut-offs. Remember to research online and offline for the best suppliers and establish good relations with them.
Acquire necessary licenses
Breathe. Acquiring business permits and licenses is easier these days. Some can be secured online or inside shopping malls. Just be prepared on the length of time that your applications will take. Some take weeks and may not be ready when you open. If you will be selling alcoholic drinks and cigarettes, that would require separate permits.
A piece of advice: check your status with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In case of tax delinquencies, you won’t be allowed to register your business.
Logistics, capital, and manpower
This is stage is not necessarily as exciting as shopping for supplies or renovating the condo space, but it is every bit crucial and important. You should add store equipment, construction, security system, application fees, operational and standard expenses in your logistics. Even fuel expenses must be factored in. You have to be strict with your capital and set targets on return of investment. In hiring staff, look at the qualifications but also trust your gut. And since you are leasing a condo space anyway, you might consider a staff house so that you can also keep tabs on your employees. That may even come out as cheaper than shouldering transportation allowances.
Open 24 hours?
Can you afford a 24-hour operation? Factor in staff expenses, electricity, and other operational expenses that build up by the hour. Yes, convenience stores are expected to be open 24/7. But since you’re a start-up, you might want to think this through. You also have to consider your market. Are you near BPO centers that operate round the clock? Are the residents in the condo still awake during the wee hours? Are there public vehicles plying through the area past midnight?
Increase social engagement
Most of your customers are on social media, and you must be, too. Never think that only big businesses need online marketing strategies. A survey released by Manta showed that nearly 50% of businesses have increased activity on social media channels. They use it mainly for customer engagement.
Michael Fertik, in an article for Forbes, warned small business owners from joining all social media channels without knowing who their customers are. Publish consistently and regularly. If you can only manage one post a week, then so be it. Don’t be afraid to experiment: put up posts that tell stories, asks questions, offer a prize, etc. See what works.
Create a loyalty program
The good thing about condo business ideas is the presence of a reliable market. Take advantage of this and create a loyalty program. For example, distribute flyers in the tenants’ mailbox, and if they present the flyer when they make a purchase, give them a free item. Be careful not to discriminate non-residents. You may come up with a loyalty card for special promos and privileges. You may also use your social media channels to build a loyal clientele. Customers love the concept of exclusivity.
Encourage healthy eating
Organic and natural are the way to go. People are generally trying to eat healthier now. Condo dwellers, your primary customers, are all probably aware of the benefits of organic and all-natural food products. Young professionals, BPO workers, and most urban dwellers are slowly making a healthy shift. Offer a few products that encourage healthy living.
Always seek innovation
Never rest on your laurels. Innovation is important in maintaining a convenience store or any business for that matter. What you need to open a convenience store is not just capital, supplies, and manpower. You also need innovation. You don’t need extra space to expand. You can do that by innovating on marketing and offering unique products. You may also offer coffee or cakes near the counter. Packed meals for on-the-go customers will also be a hit.
There are a lot of risks involved here. But who’s backing down? In any business, you need to have clear objectives and goals. In this case, give the customers the utmost convenience they not only demand but expect. Give them what they need. Be at service always, and all the good things will follow.