An independent retailer is someone who has started their own retail business independently, and not as part of a franchise chain.
The Business Model of an Independent Retailer
The independent retailer buys merchandise from manufacturers, wholesalers or distributors at wholesale prices, and then sells them through his store to the end consumer at higher retail prices.
Read Also: What is Retail?
The difference in value between both prices is the gross profit for the retail business.
This gross profit is then used to pay rent, employee costs, and other operating expenses, and the remaining is the pre-tax profit for the business.
Read Also: Retail P&L
Advantages of Being an Independent Retailer
There are many advantages to being an independent retailer, when it comes to decision making, innovation and freedom.
When you operate your own business, at your own rules, you can move much faster than big retail chains.
By moving faster we mean spotting and catching up with new trends in pop culture, and getting the advantage before anyone else. In this article we explain how to use modern internet marketing tools to spot trends and benefit from them in your product sourcing.
You could stand out in your community as their preferred vendor, just by using this advantage (i.e you don’t have to compete on price).
You will be the one brining them the latest trends.. fast.
Business model innovation is an area where most retailers are lagging.
While the traditional business model we explained above is the norm, there are different innovative approaches that can be added or tweaked and make the business more profitable or add to its streams of income.
When you run your own business, at your own rules, you will be able to experiment with different ideas, both, in products, as well as entire business models.
We explain this more, with an example of a hypothetical business in this free course.
Access our members area and read our ideas on different alternative business models for retail businesses. Read our case studies, blueprints and frameworks, and download ready-to-use templates that will help you run your business like a pro.
Having Power Over Their Profitability
Retail owners that operate as part of a franchise have to pay royalties and marketing fees, but that’s not it.
Apart from the fees, they can be affected by cannibalization when other franchise stores from the same brand open close to them, which has been the case for many Subway franchisees.
When you run your own brand, you decide where to open new locations and when it is time to close existing ones that are affecting the overall profitability.
Customers love independent retail stores for the personalized experience they can offer.
Many boutique owners are an integral part of their communities, and offer their loyal customers a special clienteling experience that can only be matched at luxury stores.
Being Your Own Boss
One of the main reasons you might be thinking of opening a retail business is to be your own boss.
If this was your primary goal, then launching it as an independent retailer will give you this type of freedom.
This is not the same when you operate as part of a franchise, because you have to adhere to the brand guidelines and ways of doing business.
Disadvantages of Being an Independent Retailer
Having listed all the advantages above, we should also say that being an independent retailer is not an easy task.
There are a lot of power and benefits that can be obtained from being part of a franchise chain, that will not be there for independent retail stores.
Low Bargaining Power
Being on your own also means having a low bargaining power when it comes to negotiating with suppliers, vendors and landlords.
Harder to Attract & Retain Talents
Top talents look for big employer names.
You will find it difficult to attract and retain top talent, unless you establish a great culture and good reputation for looking after your employees.
Read more on Retail Recruitment
It Takes Time & Effort
Because you will be running everything on your own, without corporate support, things will take more time and effort to get started.
The fact that you will start a new brand that customers don’t know about will also mean taking more time, effort and money to become known in the market.
Finally, it will also take some time to establish yourself with suppliers, so that you can get the best prices and terms.
Small Independent Retailer Examples
We have been impressed by a lot of small independent retailers that have started and grown fast over the last few years.
We will list some of them here and highlight some lessons that we can learn from their success.
Independent Food Retailer
Salt is one of our favorite food brands, and the reason is that we admire how they go about their marketing so brilliantly.
Not only did they master the art of branding and social media marketing, but they have done a great job in partnerships, pop-up store utilization and building a community and a lot of excitement around their initiatives.
Independent Fashion Retailer
Alpha Forward is one of our favorites when it comes to independent fashion retailers, and that’s for many reasons.
We believe Alpha Forward excelled at serving an underserved niche, which is “Females who like to wear like dudes“.
They also mastered the art of story telling and building a community around them.
In the picture above you will see their warehouse around launching time for one of their drops. They show you what goes on behind the scenes, and how much effort and hard work goes into the brand, and that’s what makes it unique.
It’s also one of our favorite examples of how influencers could (and honestly should) monetize their personal brand by building a retail business.
Which takes us to the final example..
Independent Beauty Retailer
One of the best examples of an independent retail brand that was started by one person, run by a few employees, and found a lucrative exit through acquisition.
It also demonstrates the power of retail in building fortunes.
Kylie’s brand is not the only example. There is also Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, Kind Science by Ellen Degeneres, Yeezy by Kanye West, Skims by Kim Kardashian, and many other beauty and fashion brands that started by celebrities.
Steps to Become an Independent Retailer
- Learn about the retail industry and how it works
- Read about starting a retail business or buying a retail business
- Create a retail business plan
- Rent a retail space and furnish it
- Buy the products
- Recruit & hire your retail team
- Open and operate your own store
- Understand retail financials to manage your business wisely
Resources for Independent Retailers
We’ve built a big library of free and members-exclusive resources for retail owners. It’s intended to help you optimize your business, so that you can get more out of it.
Here’s a list of some of these resources
- Read our library of free educational articles on retail basics
- Download cheat sheets, templates and store posters
- Take this free retail math test
- Check out the benchmarks of the retail industry and compare your business to them
- Use these free online retail calculators
- Read the latest statistics from the retail industry
Become a member and get access to in-depth retail courses, blueprints and step-by-step frameworks that show you how to run your business the way it is run by corporate retailers.
You’ll learn about budgeting and creating a financial plan for each year. You’ll get to know better ways to price your merchandise, so you can get the most out of it, and you will learn how to analyze the performance of your inventory and business as a whole, and what actions to take to get better returns.
You’ll also get access to ready-to-use templates that will get you started faster, and many more resources available only in the members area.
Retailer & Founder of Retail Dogma, Inc.
Rasha has 14 years of retail & ecommerce experience. She has started an ecommerce business in 2008, and later worked at H&M, Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret and Landmark Group. She’s lived in 4 different countries, speaks 3 different languages and holds a BSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences and an MBA in Strategic Management & Marketing.