Start a retail business

Types of retail business


Retail is a term which covers a vast range of business types and models. Some of the different types of retail store include:

  • Convenience store - a small to medium grocery and convenience shop usually operating near residential areas.
  • Speciality store - a store which concentrates on narrow product areas, eg clothing, electrical goods, entertainment.
  • Supermarket - a medium to large grocery and household store aiming for low-margin / high-volume sales.
  • Discount store - a small, medium or large shop which sources end-of-run stock or branded goods to sell at heavily discounted prices.
  • Department store - a large store with a range of goods and services, divided into departments which can be individually managed by buyers, merchandisers or a separate private business.
  • Warehouse / direct retailer - a medium to large store, usually off the high street, stocking goods directly from manufacturer or with costs of another step in supply chain removed.
  • Online store - selling directly to customers through an e-commerce website.

What should I sell?

Picking the right product types is important. You'll need to have a good sense of the local market - the customer demand, the existing businesses trading in the sector, any barriers to market, eg regulatory, cost.

See finding a business idea.

Sourcing goods

Northern Ireland's geographic position has advantages and disadvantages for retailers. The province is the only part of the United Kingdom with a land border with another EU country. The Republic of Ireland provides a nearby market with good trading opportunities and low transport costs.

You might want to import goods to sell to customers. Sourcing goods from abroad could mean cost savings over local stockists or the ability to stock goods which are unique to the Northern Ireland market. However additional transport costs to Northern Ireland, even from Great Britain, can squeeze margins for local retailers - see are you ready to import?

For more information on sourcing the right goods at the right price for your business see choosing suppliers for your business.

Ready to start in retail?

Access free start-up business support from your local council. Contact them to get one-to-one advice from a business advisor and tailored guidance to develop your business plan.

See find your local council in Northern Ireland.