Industry sector: Retail and wholesale

Shoe shop: Market research

Estimating demand

It's very important to find out whether there is a demand for a shoe shop in your area. Firstly, check out the competition. Count how many outlets are already selling shoes in your area. As well as large footwear chains and independent specialists, remember to include sports shops, outdoor leisure shops, clothes shops, variety retailers who also sell shoes and supermarkets. Try to establish what types of shoes these competitors are selling. You may find that there is an unfilled niche in the market which your shop can fill.

Competition may be less fierce in smaller towns and villages where there are fewer major retailers and specialist chains, but of course the customer base will be smaller than in a large city. The nature of your area will influence the type of shop - if there are schools nearby, it might be worth stocking children's shoes. If the population is mainly older, you should bear this in mind when choosing the type of shoes to sell - such as comfort ranges or sturdy outdoor footwear.

You will also face competition from online retailers wherever you locate - this is becoming an increasingly popular sales channel.

Shop location

Generally, for a retail outlet such as a shoe shop, it is important to have as much passing trade as possible. If you are planning to set up in your local town or city then ideally you should try to locate your shop as close to the centre as possible. The cost of doing this may be prohibitive, in which case you might consider setting up in a suburban shopping precinct. These have the benefit of a fairly large number of customers visiting them each day as well as more affordable premises costs. Alternatively a market stall may be cheaper way of securing a good location.

Also 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 other existing outlets. You should check out the competition to see:

  • what range of shoes and related items they offer
  • whether they offer additional services such as repairs
  • what prices they charge
  • what their opening hours are
  • what type of customer they attract
  • whether the premises and fittings are modern and smart
  • how helpful their staff are

This might indicate that there is a gap in the market that you can exploit. Specialising in a particular type of footwear will help to distinguish your shop from its competitors.

Use the Record Sheet to record the results of your research.

Check out future developments

Check that there are no immediate plans to open a large clothes or shoe retailing outlet in your proposed area, or to build new road systems which mean that local traffic - or pedestrians - will bypass your shop.

Find out what people want

It is becoming more and more difficult for a small, independent shoe shop to survive in the face of competition from national chains, supermarkets, department stores, internet and mail order companies and other non-specialist outlets that sell footwear. It is very important that you make sure that there is a market for the range of footwear and other items you intend to stock. You could carry out some surveys of the people in your local area to find out:

  • what sort of shoes they would like you to stock - for example local employers might be looking for a source of protective footwear for their staff
  • if there is a demand for a shoe repair service or for any other services - for example a bespoke shoe making service
  • what they think of your proposals in general
  • what, if anything, they don't like about the existing shoe shops in your area