Congratulations!! the first step is to have the courage to think “We should have our own store”
I am going to walk you through the steps while diving down into each one of them over the next few weeks and today I am focusing on Location.
Step 1.1: Narrow Down on a City and Rough Area
a. Where are your current or potential customers — We analysed the pincodes of all our customers and found that a large number of orders were coming in from Bangalore and Mumbai (South and west Bombay pincodes to be specific) this data point was extremely encouraging for us, a solid data point we can rely on.
b. What customers do you want to attract — We were missing out on tourists that travel to Indian but are unable to experience the deepest parts of rural India and its craft. We wanted to present a piece of rural India to them and help them take home some incredible craft.
c. Where do you have feet on ground — First store means you will have to be there every step of the process, and be there once it opens so you can set processes for your brand. It makes sense to open it in the city you have an employee, office or consultant. Your second store can surely be in any city.
d. What area matches the vibe of your brand — To think of it, when you imagine an artisanal brand you see it to be in a hidden beautiful bungalow surrounded by trees and not in a high rise. You imagine it to be set in a culturally rich area, the architecture and vibe of South Bombay and the artistic lanes of Bandra were ideal.
After analysing these points we realised that Mumbai would be an ideal city and South Bombay or Bandra would be the ideal location.
Step 1.2: Walk the Streets of the rough area you have shortlisted and narrow down to the lane.
I literally delegated all my work at Okhai for a few weeks. I would like to take a moment to thank our Sales and Sourcing head Nusrat for holding fort.
Day 1: Network with Brokers, put the word out that you are looking.
JLL, Knight frank are big reliable players in this field and Area Specific Local Brokers are as good but just sometimes a little uncertain to work with, so you have to be just a tad bit more careful and clear about the terms. My first meetings with everyone was complete, I knew that I have made myself look like a solid client looking to close an actual deal. I made sure I did not approach them directly but got referred by other serious clients they have had in the past.
Showing properties is a time consuming process, and sometimes after showing and negotiating if the client doesn't convert its a huge loss for them, so they are also cautious. And it’s only fair.
They are going to look at your brands website, what kind of potential does it have, how has it performed, where has it sold so far, what does the brand stand for, most professional brokers get into all this to find you a right match. They are all pretty smart now.
Day 2: I submitted a presentation on Okhai with tentative photos of how I imagined the Okhai store will look like. They need to show this to owners, shopping malls so that they can actually approve you. This is important if its your first store because no one wants to give you their property if they are unsure of what you are going to do with it. A visual mood board of images helps them get confidence. A lot is at stake here for them, if you open an ugly store their building could actually lose value. If you create a landmark their own value is going to go up. They have to select carefully too. With the mood board and about Okhai circulated, the brokers were on the job !
Day 3: Around the same time I got introduced to a very experienced person who has probably opened 500 stores. He told me “Kirti go walk the streets for hours, go stand there and watch the customers, are they your customers?”. So I went to Linking road in Bandra and started walking from one end to another slowly, and went back and forth. It was a weekday, most of the sales staff in the showrooms were playing video games on their phones, until a big car arrived, someone stepped off, bought and left, and the next one did not turn up for hours. I started to understand that this broad road was full of “Billboard Stores” , if you are a massive brand and you need to demonstrate presence you need to make a statement on linking road in Bandra. You may not really make huge sales, but it’s a massive billboard on a drive through road, which pays for itself through the sales.
Day 4–6: I did the walk again and again until I realised the true sales of each store by counting the number of shopping bags people walked out with. But of course I was by now talking to everyone I know in the industry, validating my numbers. Observing shopping traffic is very important, shopping traffic is different from just traffic, its people walking out with shopping bags :)
Day 7–9: I walked and observed each potential area, from Colaba to Bandra, it started to feel like I was not doing anything important and I was having to shove off a lot of work on my team because I was walking. While it seemed lame at the time and I thought why cannot I just hire someone to do this. I have now realised how important those few days of walking and observing were and in the years to come a physical store is going to stand strong because we placed it at the right spot.
Day 10: I knew it had to be Kalaghoda or the inner lanes of Bandra. The meetings began.
Conclusion: It’s ok to spend a lot of time selecting the location yourself, specially for the first store. Once you open it you can replicate the learning to open another hundred. This one has to match a million tangible and intangible criteria.
How to Launch Your First Store —Step 2: Property
Get ready for the tough part, the moneys, the due diligence & the negotiation.
Next week. Ciao for now.
Link to the first post —