The Ultimate Startup: Owning Your Own Sporting Goods Business
So, you have a passion for sports, and you’re interested in turning that into a career. Sadly, being a professional athlete may be out of the question.
Your chances of becoming a professional basketball player, for example, are 1 in 11,771. And that’s if you were a high school athlete.
Don’t let that discourage you though! You can have a highly successful career in the sports field even if you’ve never picked up a basketball. All you have to do is start a sporting goods business!
Imagine, you would have an establishment to call your own, surrounded by your favorite things all day every day. Not to mention, you would be helping athletes of all ages find the perfect equipment!
But how do you start such a business? What are the steps needed for building a thriving sporting goods store?
If you find yourself asking these questions, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll give you a basic outline of what you need to do to get off on the right foot in the sporting goods industry.
Study the Market
The first step to take when opening any business is to study the market. You want to make sure that there is an opportunity for success in your chosen niche.
Scout out the competition and decide what type of store you want to open based on what the community’s needs seem to be.
If you would be the only sports equipment store in the area, it might be a good idea to go all-purpose. But if there are a few options available to potential customers already in existence, you may want to consider getting a little more specific.
You should also exercise caution when choosing a niche, should you go with one. If there are no hiking supply stores around and you live hundreds of miles away from the mountains, for instance, it’s probably because there isn’t a market for one.
Picking a trendy activity such as cross-fit is an option as well, just keep in mind that trends often lose their luster after a certain amount of time.
Analyze Your Surroundings
Continuing with the previous point, an important part of picking a niche is to analyze your area. Think about what kind of activities people are interested in where you live and open a store with those activities in mind.
Those who live near the ocean, for instance, might do well with a surfing or other extreme water sports-themed store. Whereas a sporting goods store in a more mountainous area would do better with mountain biking or camping supplies.
Do you live near a river? Are bike paths popular in your area? Take your time studying your options and choose carefully.
Build a Business Plan
Of course, with any business comes the need to create a smart business plan that you can hopefully execute and find success with. And while every business is different, with a sporting goods business, there are a few things you should consider building around going forward.
First, you’re going to need to figure out store hours. It’s a good idea to stay open a bit late, as well as on the weekends so that people in need of sporting goods can visit your store at a time that works best for them.
Also, you probably are going to want to set some goals, but short term and long term, so you can have an idea of where you want to be after various time periods.
Find Ways to Be Different
While it’s certainly possible that you would be the first sporting goods store in your area, odds are there are already a few stores nearby. Because of this, and the fact that your business will be brand new, you’re going to have to find ways to stand out from the crowd.
The big problem? Doing this is often easier said than done. But if you did a good job scouting your competition, you should be able to find a few key boxes that nobody in your field is checking.
If you can, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Look at what everyone else is doing and figure out what service or good you would like to have but don’t have access to already?
For instance, you may notice that nobody is selling used sporting goods equipment anywhere in your area. Making this a part of your business strategy can make your store stand out, drive traffic through the door, and help you carve out your own piece of the market share.
Locate a Store Space
Once you have all of your planning and preparation done, it’s time to locate a space for your store. This means you’re going to first need to decide whether you want to rent, build, or buy based on what your budget will allow for you to do.
Regardless of what option you choose, it’s important to remember that sporting equipment is often rather large and bulky. That means that, even if you plan on opening a nice-sporting goods store, you’re going to need enough space to do so.
The last thing you want to do is to create an environment that feels claustrophobic and unwelcoming. Because no matter how good your prices are, or what kind of gear you’re selling, people aren’t going to want to spend a ton of time in a cluttered store.
Take Pride in Your Storefront
It goes without saying, but the front of your store is a great way to attract local customers and bring people through your doors. That’s why it’s so important to invest both time and money making sure that your storefront is aesthetically pleasing and eye-catching.
A great way to do this is to build around a physical item so that you attract attention to your store. This is easy, because you’re selling sporting goods, and there are plenty of iconic pieces of sporting equipment that you can build around.
While a giant baseball bat sitting out by the road is going to be effective, that doesn’t mean that the little things aren’t important, too. And the best thing that you can do for your store, and more specifically your storefront, keep it clean and clutter-free.
It may sound a bit obvious, but it’s impossible to own and operate a sporting goods store without having any actual sporting goods. So, before you finally open, you’re going to need to acquire enough inventory that you can use to get you started.
A pro tip? Be on the lookout for sales online. You can often find really good deals on sporting goods, especially if you plan on buying in bulk, on the internet.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to various manufacturers so you can buy from them directly. You’re going to need to make tons of relationships with manufacturers eventually, so why not make it one of the first things you do?
Lastly, selling used equipment is another great way to build up your inventory fast without spending a ton of cash. So even if you only sell used goods for a brief period of time, doing so can help you get your store off the ground in the early stages once you’ve opened.
Consider Opening an Online Store
If you live in a small town or a town where sports aren’t as big of a deal as you’d like, you may find that opening up your dream business isn’t a smart business strategy. That’s why it’s a good idea to open up your store to the entire world and sell items online to anyone and everyone who may need them.
Once again, this can be a great way to help you get your store off the ground in the early stages. And if you don’t mind handling all of the shipping yourself, you can still make plenty of money selling items online.
Of course, sporting goods are often large, and thus, shipping fees are going to be high. But if you consider that kind of thing in your pricing, you should be able to still sell items online and make enough money so that it’s worth your time.
Figure Out Your Marketing Strategy
If your sporting goods business is your first-ever business, you’re probably a bit worried about how you’re going to get your name out there at first. And unless you have a marketing degree or access to someone who does, you’re going to be overwhelmed with all of the various marketing strategies for businesses that exist.
That’s why, before you open your doors for the first time, you should pick a few marketing strategies and run with them. Picking a few, no more than three can help make sure you put enough resources into those strategies so that you actually see positive results.
Trying to do every single marketing strategy isn’t smart, as you’ll only be spreading your resources thin and you won’t see a good return on your investment. And if marketing isn’t your cup of tea, investing in an outdoor brand digital marketing agency is more than a good idea.
Get Comfortable with the Internet
Even if you don’t plan on doing a ton of online marketing, it’s wise to get comfortable with the internet and create a strong online presence for your store. Getting listed on Google’s My Business, for example, should be one of the first things you do when you open your store.
Also, mastering social media marketing is a great way to grow your brand and attract new customers to your store. This is especially true if you plan on selling goods online, and thus, don’t need to rely on local customers only.
Having a website with a blog is never a bad idea, either. You can write about various sports and sporting goods information and link your products (and your store) in those articles. And if you start getting lots of traffic, you can even make money off of ads on your site, too!
Get Active in Your Community
We get it. You want to drive traffic through your doors and into your store. That means you want to rely heavily on your local market, and you need to find ways to let people in your town know you exist.
Well, the best way to do just that is to get out in your local community and be active. Something as simple as sponsoring a youth sports team, for example, can let a ton of people who need sporting equipment know that you exist.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with how you attack your local market, too. Participating in your local holiday parades, for example, is a creative way to let people in your area know that you exist. Having a big sale with food and drinks can help get more people inside of your store as well.
Don’t Try to Grow Too Fast
Once your store is open, and you’re having some success, you’re going to feel pressure to try and grow. From hiring new employees to opening another location, growing is exciting and something you shouldn’t be fearful at all.
At the same time, trying to grow too fast can set you up for failure, which isn’t what you want. So take your time, take calculated risks, and don’t be afraid to stay the size that you are for an extended period of time.
Hit That Home Run!
And there you have it! An in-depth guide on how to open up a sporting goods business in your area! So, using this information, you can make sure that you set yourself up for success from the very beginning.
Remember, the planning process is the most important. Take your time, map out your every move, and don’t be afraid to change and adapt your plan as things start to unfold.
If you can, find ways to be different. From offering a unique product to a different kind of service, anything you can do to stand out is always a good thing.
Last but not least, don’t try to grow too fast too soon. Open up more stores is a great long-term goal, but it isn’t something you should focus on right away.