How To Start and Operate Your Own

By Dusty and Bonnie Henson, Owners "World Famous" El Paso Saddleblanket Co., El Paso, TX

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Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Chapter VII


Although every square foot of space you have leased is valuable and should be used to its fullest potential, not all of your store can be devoted to the display of merchandise. Your office operations, shipping and receiving, and janitorial supplies need some allotment of space.

Because you need to devote as much footage as possible to activities that create sales, keep your backstock to a minimum. As new merchandise arrives, get it marked and out onto the shelves as quickly as possible. Your receiving area needs to be just large enough for efficient checking in of orders, storage of boxes and packing materials, and room to pack shipments for customers who can't carry their purchases with them. Keep your janitorial equipment neatly stored in a closet or corner out of traffic ways.

The office area

Position your office area between the sales floor and the back room. Do not go behind a solid wall. It is important that you have a good view of the store from your desk, especially if at first you will be running the store by yourself. Get your paperwork out of the way first thing in the morning before customer traffic gets heavy. Once you have buyers, stay on your feet and work the floor.

The sales floor

The sales floor itself is where you generate income, so give very careful thought to the arrangement of fixtures and displays. Take a close look at the side walls to determine which is easier to install racks or shelves on. If one is solid concrete, it may be more difficult to work with. Consider the balance of your starting inventory. How much is textiles that needs racks? How much textiles needs platforms to stack on? How much is pottery and kachinas that need shelves or tiered tables? How many showcases and counters are needed? Visit other successful stores to make mental notes of lighting, display, and spacing.

For safety and customer convenience, make sure all aisles are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and overweight patrons. It would be rude to make anyone feel embarrassed. Tall people are especially sensitive to low-hanging displays suspended from the ceiling. These create a claustrophobic atmosphere and block your view. Keep hanging displays up high and use them sparingly.

Position fixtures and freestanding shelves to maximize visibility of all merchandise. Not only is this wise for security, it allows the customer a panoramic view of what you have to offer. The more visual stimulation you create right from the entrance, the better chance you have of enticing the customer to browse through the entire store.

Consider the floor covering that is currently in the store you've leased. Is it in bad repair? Worn, frayed, or bumpy carpet is a hazard. If your landlord won't replace it, consider removing it yourself. Either have new carpet installed or attractively paint the concrete floor that exists. Avoid any surfaces that could cause accidents. Texture can be added to paint to prevent it from being slippery.

Other considerations

If you are not in a mall or a shopping area that provides public facilities, customers will be asking to use your restroom. Make sure it is clean and stocked with paper supplies everyday. A small customer convenience area is a nice touch, but not mandatory. This could include a bottled water dispenser that provides both hot and cold water, a small table for disposable cups and possibly some instant coffee or cocoa mix. On a cold nasty day, it is an unexpected courtesy to offer a hot beverage. This warms up the customer physically and emotionally, and increases your chances for a sale. Also have a folding chair handy in case a customer is accompanied by an elderly person who needs to rest a bit. Do not have excess seating available or your store will attract "sit-arounds." This is a class of people who apparently have nothing better to do than sit around and gossip. They are not customers; they do not help your business; and you must discourage them from taking up residence in your shop. Don't let friends or family members hang around either. You are a merchant. You have work to do. Their distractions will only cost you money. Even when you don't have a store full of customers, you need to perform routine upkeep such as dusting, straightening, marking prices, replacing worn signs and creating new displays.

The exact arrangement of your store will be a process of trial and error. Try to put several plans down on paper first. Then go with the one you like best. Don't set anything in stone. You may decide to relocate every single fixture. Have some good natured, strong, willing-to-work, guys around for this procedure. Pay them for their time.

The layout you choose for your grand opening may not be an eternal arrangement. Allow for flexibility if major changes are needed. After a year or so of successful operation, you may feel a full- scale Indian jewelry department is warranted. This will require attractive showcases and a safe. At least $75,000.00 worth of inventory is needed. So this is definitely not for your start-up year.

As your business develops you may be doing so well that you're tempted to open a second location. Whoa! Stop! Think a minute! I guarantee you there are ways to double your sales without leaving your current shop. No matter how full of merchandise you think your shop is, it can handle twice the stock. You may have to invest a little in building more fixtures and displays, but the cost is nothing compared to what you'd spend on a second location.

Maximize-maximize-maximize every potential you can think of before running out and repeating all your start up costs. Besides, how do you know you can trust other people to honestly run the other location. Would they work as hard as you? Would they be as careful and vigilant as you?

When you experience that first exhilarating blush of success don't get carried away. Put some money in your personal bank account. Buy yourself something special. Then get on with maximizing every detail of your operation. Order more inventory, hire a extra salesperson, improve your lighting--anything but opening a second store.

From time to time you will have to junk some of your original fixtures. It's good to occasionally replace and rearrange. Your store needs a perpetual fresh look to emphasize the turnover of merchandise and impress upon the public you always have something new and exciting. However, avoid a total overhaul. There's a lot of wisdom ithe old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Whatever basic format seems to be working, keep on with it.


Updated 2001
© 2001. El Paso Saddleblanket. All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced without the written permission of
El Paso Saddleblanket Co.

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