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The Keys to Spice Store Success


If you’re reading this then you’re still thinking about starting your own spice store and you’re probably leaning toward building your own from scratch.

So what are the keys to a successful spice store? Here are a few things that we’ve learned along the way.
You’ll need a great location, be prepared to work your butt off, have a good great business sense, take tremendous pride in providing exceptional customer service and have a great back end spice partner where you can buy spices and seasonings wholesale while also being able to receive the ongoing spice education that you’ll need. The most important ingredient you’ll need?  Some luck! Heck even Steve Jobs at Apple® needed some luck!

Disclaimer: It’s guaranteed that your spice store will never be as big and/ or as profitable as Apple®!


First location, location, location
Today's retail real estate market is littered with failures. The commercial real estate market is loaded with significantly more bad locations than good and there are no silver bullets to understand the difference between a good or bad location. The best retail areas within any given city or town are thriving while other areas just a couple blocks away are seeing rising vacancies and shrinking rents. The process of choosing the ideal retail site has become more complex than ever in a commercial real estate market that is fraught with high churn rates and uncertainty.

You don't need a huge location and you might be surprised, but we’ve seen shops thrive in a space of 900 – 1,200 square feet. But the location has to be superb. You’ll want more foot traffic than drive by traffic (i.e. a downtown walking area as opposed to a strip mall). We’ve found that our wholesale customers that locate their new spice shop close to where their target demo shops for their specialty food needs have a greater chance at success. The ideal demographic loves to discover the best ingredients to cook with at these types of “top food quality” foodie hubs – butchers, gourmet markets, farmers markets, wine shops and cookware stores. Local businesses that don’t work as well as strategic alliances are restaurants, bakeries and liquor stores.

I know of one successful shop owner in particular who now has 4 shops. They like to scout out a perspective area over a 6-9 month period. They sit and watch the traffic at different times of the day, different days of the week and different times of the year to gauge the walking pattern flows. If you don’t get the location part right you’re chance of success goes down significantly.


Gotta’ Have Money in the Bank
You also don’t want to choke your new shop by going cheap. You need to have a deep enough bank account to survive for at least a year. Two years would be even better. It takes time (typically 18-24 months) to build up a significant level of repeat traffic (the lifeblood of any business) and you’ll need to pour all of your first profits back into your business. You'll need to be able to tap into your bank account to draw a salary, advertise and to invest into more inventory as your shop slowly starts to pick up momentum and earn some profit dollars.

We’ve worked with numerous entrepreneurs who’ve launched their own spice stores from coast-to-coast. We’ve helped stock their stores with a full selection of spices and seasoning blends and we’ve also worked with them to develop unique spice blends for their local market. This customizable expertise is invaluable.


Go Wide not Deep
When we work with new shops we always recommend starting with a wider selection of spices and seasonings rather than a deep selection. A wider selection with less on hand is better for testing and protecting the starting cash flow. Some would rather have a smaller selection but with more on hand at launch. While buying more of an individual spice or seasoning helps with better margins we’d recommend going wider so that your customers can vote for what you need to carry more of – with their wallet! Going wider also helps to protect the cash flow (then you’re reinvesting into inventory that moves).


The First 6 Months
When you first open your spice shop you have about six months before potential customers don’t see you as “that intriguing new store on the block”. Then, the splash you made when you first opened starts to die off. When you’re the new store on the block, your neighbors want to see what just opened and what all the fuss is about. This is when you have to be looking to build potential relationships with local chefs, cafes, hotels, restaurants and it'll never be easier to do this than in your first six months. During this critical first 6 month time period you have to be able to "wow" your new customers to get them to come back in and give you a second, and even more important a third order. And if you’ve really done a good job, then on one of those return visits they bring along a friend or family member, as they want to share the “cool new place” that they discovered.


Still Want to Spice Things Up?
Is it easy to open up a new business? Heck no! I’ve seen figures that show 90% of all small businesses fail within the first 3 years. The reasons generally come down to at least one of these four reasons and often more than one:

•    Didn’t pick the right market to go into (the neighborhood, town or section of the city wasn’t big enough)
•    They went for a cheap place to rent (not enough traffic or the right kind of traffic)
•    Ran out of money before they could turn the corner
•    Didn’t have the great business sense of a successful small business owner (you’ve got to be smart, able to adapt quickly, have a healthy dose of fear, bring an almost fanatical approach to customer service and know how to protect their cash flow)

If this still sounds like you then we’d love to talk to you about some of the next steps you’ll want to consider in getting started.

So give Sarah a call at 888-762-8642 or shoot her an email at sarah@spicesinc.com to see if this is the right fit for you.


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