Industry sector: Consumer services

Shoe repairer: Market research

Estimating demand

You will need to find out as best you can whether there is enough local demand for your shoe repair business. First of all, check out the competition. Try to identify and count the number of businesses offering some or all of the services and (less importantly) the products that you intend to provide. These will include other shoe repairers as well as DIY shops (these may offer key cutting, engraving and sharpening) and watch/phone repair shops if you offer this service (these will offer battery replacement, minor repairs, like new watch straps, glass or screens) and shoe shops (these usually stock shoe care products and accessories). Don't forget to include shoe repair businesses that operate from supermarket outlets, markets or from units in supermarket car parks.

Shop location

The location of your shop is important. A High Street shop benefits from a large amount of passing trade which means that more people get to know about it and may pop in to make impulse purchases as well as planned visits for repairs. However, High Street premises are often too expensive for the small, independent shoe repairer so other areas may have to be considered. You may, for example, consider premises located in a suburban shopping precinct. This type of premises will generally be more affordable but still serve a reasonably sized catchment area. There may also be suitable units available to let in a local market or supermarket which are likely to benefit from high levels of passing trade.

Check out local crime rates - you don't want to have to cope with excessive levels of shoplifting, break-ins and theft.

Why will customers choose your shop

You need to make sure that enough customers will choose your shop rather than any existing outlets. Check out the competition to see:

  • the range of services they offer
  • whether access is convenient
  • the prices they charge
  • their opening hours
  • the type of customer they are attracting
  • if the premises and fittings are modern and smart

With over 2,000 outlets offering shoe repairs and key cutting, Timpson is a very dominant presence in this market and much of the chain's recent expansion has been into supermarket outlets and car parks. Even if the nearest Timpson branches are quite some distance from your proposed location, you'll need to take them seriously as competitors because they are likely to be sited in locations that attract the maximum possible amount of trade.

Check out future developments

Make sure that there are no immediate plans to change your proposed area, such as new road systems which mean that local traffic will bypass your shop. You could also try to find out whether a competitor - particularly Timpson - is planning to open a shoe repair outlet in your proposed area. However, the opening of some new businesses - a supermarket outlet, for example, as long as it doesn't include a shoe repair outlet - could be a real benefit in that they can greatly increase the number of people walking past your shop.

Find out what people want

It can be a good idea to try to establish whether people living and working in your area would use your shop. You could carry out some surveys to see:

  • how much demand for shoe repairs there is and how much it's affected by factors like the state of the economy. It's also worth talking to any potential trade customers that you've identified like sports teams, police forces, equestrian businesses and so on that might use your business for bulk repairs to footwear and other leather goods
  • if there's demand for any other services that you're thinking of offering
  • what, if anything, the people in your area would change about existing repair shops