Why I am not opening a shop front

I’m sick today. Headache. Staying at home. It makes me believe that my recent decision to not open a shop front is the right decision.

About two weeks ago, I started contemplating the possibility of opening a shop front in Canberra for Oz Fair Trade. It will be decorated with all sustainable furniture, and it will serve fairtrade coffee, tea and snacks. The walls will be painted with eco-friendly paint. It will be a place for socially conscious people to hang out and find great gifts for themselves and their loved ones. I had a vision and it felt great.

I started looking for retail leases. Two options jumped out at me. One was a shop in Bailey’s Corner facing London Circuit with a big window. It’s asking $40,000 p.a.. The other was a similar sized shop in Gold Creek opposite Cockington Green, asking for $18,000 p.a.. I really liked the shop in Gold Creek, and the rent seemed to be affordable.


My excitement lasted until I crunched some numbers and brainstormed likely problems I’ll face. The biggest issues arise from being a single business owner. No one will open the shop when I’m sick, like today. But the rent will still need to be paid. I will have no free weekends, because the shop’s financial survival will depend heavily on weekend sales. I will no longer be able to visit my inter-state parents and friends. I will no longer be able to do a trip. I will have to rely on hiring or give up work for two days a week, unless I can find volunteers to mind the shop for me. All these sacrifices though won’t bring in much profit, especially given the current gloomy outlook of Canberra’s economy.

So even though opening a shop front would be wonderful, it doesn’t make financial sense. Friends who have tried told me that it’s not worth it. The alternative of e-commerce involves much lower fixed cost and much more flexibility. Like today, when I’m not feeling well, I can still write a blog and dispatch orders. But I will struggle to mind a shop.

Even a shop won’t generate much sales during the week, which means the rent is not divided by 7 days but more like 4 days or less. Financially it can’t compete with market stalls, where rent is considerably cheaper. As a registered charity, I even get free market stalls sometimes. The downside of market stalls include set up and pack up time, limited stocks for display, and dependence on weather condition. However, the financial stress of opening a shop is far greater than the downsides of operating a market stall.

I still hope that more sales will come through the website, so that I can manage it with a full time job. I realised however that e-commerce is not easy. Despite all my efforts, I still don’t get much traffic. This is why I considered opening a shop. I think many people still prefer seeing and feeling a product before making a purchase. Moreover, having a shop will give credibility to the business, and put it in front of more people. I liked the shop in Gold Creek because most customers will be tourists, so I hoped that they would help spread the word and visit the online shop down the track. I also loved the atmosphere in Gold Creek, and that it’s close to home.

Perhaps one day I will open a shop, if I can find a team of volunteers who can mind the shop when I’m at work, away or sick. That would be wonderful. I think Gold Creek is the perfect place to open a shop. It is so relaxing and pretty. If I’m rich enough to not having to work, then I would definitely open a shop there, drinking fairtrade tea and be surrounded by pretty things and wonderful people all day long.

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