Small businesses are not dead. In fact there has never been a time small businesses have gained this much support. Sure it’s quite riskier and more challenging operating a small business during these times, but there is still a huge opportunity to solve various consumer problems and meet increasing demands.
So, if you’re thinking that now might not be the time to open a small business, think again! More people are doing it than ever. And while that means there is also more competition than ever, there are an incredible amount of great retail small business ideas that might resonate with your dreams and passions.
Let’s take a look at this far from exhaustive list of retail small business ideas and see if any jump out at you.
More and more of us are interested in a diverse array of things. And that’s great! If you’re having trouble narrowing down the type of product or service you want your store to offer, choose a few. More and more SMBs are doing it.
Actually, the idea has been around for a while. Yamaha sells both motorcycles and pianos; Bic famously sells both lighters and pens; Nestle sells water and chocolate.
Today, small retailers usually focus on two less costly and time-consuming products. Some craft breweries are venturing into selling hot sauce or even repairing bicycles. Larger retailers like Urban Outfitters have rebranded themselves to selling much more than just clothes; books, cards, plants, albums, and many other small ticket items now line their shelves.
There are endless ideas out there, so don’t be afraid to try something unique. A new combination of products might seem strange at first but it will certainly garner attention. And if done well, could be a huge retail success.
2. Food Trucks and Pop-Ups
Quick service restaurants continue to do well across the board. Even fast food, in the wake of the health and wellness craze, have found ways to keep growing. Nowhere is this growth among QSRs greater than with food trucks and pop up shops.
Food trucks are mobile, diverse, and can cater to any type of demographic. Plus with restaurants today having limited seating or indoor dining completely prohibited, food trucks have a competitive edge.
As a food truck business owner, you can follow seasons around the country, plan holidays strategically, post up near big events, and easily rebrand yourself if need be. This small business idea offers a remarkable amount of flexibility and choice.
Pop-ups have similar luxuries. They are an easy way to market your SMB and great talking points for social media. Plus, it provides the urgency and excitement that get a buzz going around your brand. Pop-ups can serve food, but they can also be all other sorts of retail, from a fashion boutique shop to a pet store.
3. Sell Booze
It wasn’t that long ago that we had just a handful of beers, wines, and liquors to choose from. There weren’t that many others made, laws were tough, and distribution was even tougher. Clearly, this is no longer the case. Craft breweries and distilleries are everywhere. Local wine and cheese shops seem to be on every corner. Artisanal spirits, like those sold as vomFASS, have been a massive success. And demand continues to grow right along with it. If your city has a void in wine shops, craft beer bars, or any other kind of alcohol or liquor store, think about filling it. Your neighbors will love you.
4. Start a Co-op or Neighborhood Business Organization
Big and small cities alike are more locally-minded than ever before. There’s no more New York, L.A. or bust. Cities like Sioux Falls, Santa Fe, or Asheville (to name just a few of many great smaller cities across the country) are welcoming new residents from all over the country. And they’ve drawn attention by offering a strong community and neighborhood environment.
At the heart of creating this atmosphere are co-op spaces, community markets, and local festivals. Co-op grocery stores or wellness shops are competing against some of the biggest names in the country. Local gyms partner with other businesses to entice new customers. More and more cities now host farmers’ markets and swap meets. If your town needs something like this, think about organizing it. If it’s already there, think about what kind of small business idea is missing and start it up yourself!
5. Eco-Friendly Stores and Sustainable Products
Most of us, thankfully, are demanding more responsibility from our retailers. And many retailers have responded in kind. QSR small businesses are often more focused on providing a local, farm-to-table menu. Shoe companies, like Allbirds, use natural, recyclable materials, with each pair. Even large coffee brands, like 365 Everyday Value, are insisting that their beans are sustainably sourced and fair-trade.
This movement is only gaining momentum, so hop on the bandwagon while there’s still time. There is still plenty of market space for thousands of different products.
6. Health Retail Stores
More and more Americans are spending money on taking care of themselves. From gym memberships to herbal tea shops, the global health and wellness market revenue is expected to reach 6033196 million USD in 2025.
The cool thing about health and wellness retail is the diversity in the types of products or services you can offer. You can start a small spice merchant store in Taos, a juice spot in Portland, or natural supplement store in Minneapolis.
Think about what type of wellness you’re most interested in and see what local supply and demand there is. Once you’re up and running, you’ll have plenty of avenues to expand and scale your small business.
7. Organic Small Business Shops
This one is rather broad, but that’s the beauty of it. Organic products are more popular than ever. And it’s not just organic produce that consumers are demanding: cosmetics, skincare, baby products, pet food, alcohol, to name just a few.
Again, focusing on your sourcing, sustainability, and supply chain can give your store instant credibility. Find your niche and start your small retail business.
8. Keep It Local by Getting Crafty
What’s better than locally made? Handmade by you, the retailer. It’s interesting, easy to tell your brand story, and inspiring. And most people want to support this type of small business. It’s also easy to partner with other local artists to sell handmade products together. This type of cross-promotion benefits both vendors and will make your shoppers happy.
9. Back to the Basics with Vintage Shops
Not only is vintage cool, but it’s great practice to reuse old, but perfectly good apparel. Plus, it’s gotta be one of the most fun small businesses to start. It’s easy to build your inventory and you get to do it by shopping at some of the most interesting places.
Vintage shops, thrift stores, or second-hand markets are all easy ways to compete against eCommerce retail, too. Very few web stores have started selling used goods online.
10. Subscription Boxes
The art of cooking might be waning, but Blue Apron sure isn’t. The company that sells you a meal in a box was the quickest growing retailer in 2017. And Blue Apron is just one of MANY.
Dollar Shave Club started selling full male grooming kits in 2011 and was recently bought out by the retail giant, Unilever for about $1 billion. Winc (formerly Club W) sells monthly, customizable wine sets. Try the World sells authentic gourmet food selected by chefs from all over the world.
The industry is growing at an incredibly rapid pace and can be sold online or in brick and mortar stores. It makes shopping easy and exciting. So come up with the next big box subscription idea and run with it!
11. Cannabis-Related Retail
Marijuana is now legal in most states in some form. The industry has been flooded with both small players and big businesses, making a tough market to enter. The regulations and laws surrounding it are also difficult to work around. This is not to say that someone shouldn’t open a cannabis store; it could be remarkably lucrative. But for the sake of this article, the focus is better put on retail that is tangential to cannabis.
The growing interest and use of cannabis is impossible to ignore, and opens up doors for new glass stores, QSRs, vape shops, apparel retail, and even art shops or studios. You have a lot of options and a huge, largely untouched market to open a small business.
12. Donate with Your Retail SMB
Lastly, what about following the now famous example of TOMS shoes, and donating something with each purchase. People will pay more for these types of products, so your margins don’t even have to suffer. This goes hand-in-hand with the sustainability movement and is a great way to create some positive press around your brand even before you open. You could donate the product that you’re selling (like TOMS does) or you can make it something completely separate. What a great way to start a small business.
Other Retail Small Business Ideas?
Of course there are! Plenty. But this is a good place to start. If you’re thinking about opening a small business or have just started one and need a great small business POS system, look no further than KORONA. Click the link below to see some of our great point of sale features and sign up for a free demo!
Among other things, Michael writes about trends and tips in retail for KORONA POS. His focus is on bringing small business owners a more holistic approach to growth. In his spare time, you'll find him hiking somewhere in the southwest. Connect with him on LinkedIn.