A Guide to Setting up Your Grocery Store in the USA

Setting up a grocery store from scratch, or for that matter, starting any kind of store anywhere, is no easy feat and requires one to follow proper directions. The BusinessZeal article below provides you with a guide to setting up your grocery store in the USA.
BusinessZeal Staff
"Obviously, my hero in the business world has been and will always be George Jenkins, 'Mr. George,' the founder of Publix (the nation's multi-billion grocery store chain) and my grandfather. He set a wonderful example for me and taught me many valuable lessons, but the one that stands out, and the one I think about most often is very simply, 'don't let making a profit stand in the way of doing the right thing.' "
― Ed Crenshaw, CEO, Publix
The above words were published in the Tampa Business Journal, where Mr. Crenshaw proudly raves about his grandfather, the legendary Mr. George Jenkins, and rightly so. Mr. Jenkins founded the Publix Super Market, and he did so the hard way. So can you, if you put your heart into your venture, work tirelessly, and as Mr. Jenkins puts it, 'do the right thing'. If you are planning to open a grocery store, you need to follow certain state norms and other regulations, and understand how to prioritize. Learn how to start a grocery store through this article.
Research Your Competition
  • You are certainly not going to be the sole grocery store owner in town, therefore, thoroughly research your competition.
  • Study the various supermarkets and other leading grocery store brands in the vicinity of your city.
  • Carefully study what products they offer, their prices, customer support, membership details, distributors, suppliers, etc.
  • Write reports about this and study them over and over again. This is an important step because you need to be aware of what your competitors are selling so that you can strive to do better.
  • This research also includes studying about potential clients and their requirements.
  • Remember that your competitors may be established well enough, and you need to do exceedingly well for yourself if you are a beginner.
Pick A Niche
  • If you prefer specializing in all the products that most of the behemoth supermarkets offer, you may ignore this one.
  • On the contrary, if you are a newbie and wish to explore a specialty to begin with, pick up a range of products that your store would provide.
  • You could choose specializing in organic or gourmet foods, solely vegetables and fruits, multi-cuisine ingredients, cleaning supplies and domestic needs, etc.
Pick A Location
  • This is a very vital step. I mean, you certainly cannot tow a handcart with your products, right?
  • Choose a location that is preferably in the town center (it may be expensive, of course), or at least at a convenient distance from residential areas.
  • In fact, if you are specializing in a particular range of products, you could choose a location close to places that are related to the same.
  • For instance, if you want to specialize in Italian ingredients, try to secure a location near a restaurant that offers Italian cuisine.
  • Or, if you choose to specialize in bakery items, choose a location close to a cake shop or a bakery or even a coffee house.
  • You could also choose a location near a shopping mall, for it will be convenient for people to plan a trip to the mall to buy clothes and assorted items, and then shop for groceries too.
  • While choosing a location, research the real estate prices too. You don't want to find a location, dream about the store, and then find out that it has a humongous price.
Discuss Finances
  • This is a very crucial, rather a very practical step. In fact, for certain people, it might be the first step to look into.
  • But again, this requires research, as finances vary with the inclusion of the two points above.
  • Outline a strong business plan and decide on the required capital.
  • Apart from the location and niche, decide on the products, brands, building structure, billing, wholesale markets, etc., and prepare a budget statement.
  • Keep a close margin, for your prices will keep fluctuating.
  • A location in the center of town might be more expensive than a location on the outskirts.
  • Also, if you choose a unique specialization, like special truffles for pastas, etc. (that may have to be flown over), it will be expensive. For this, you need to study the requirements of the area as well.
  • You also need to consider transportation expenses, local or otherwise, employee salaries, taxes, insurance, etc.
  • Carefully go over these points and prepare a detailed finance report.
Legal Requirements
  • After the above prerequisites are satisfied, you need to work on the legal requirements.
  • To begin with, you need to obtain all the tax identification numbers (TINs).
  • You must also secure a mandatory federal employee identification number (EIN).
  • You must obtain a sales tax exemption certificate. This gives you the legal authority to collect sales tax.
  • Obtain the required store permits and license. If you do not do so, your store will be closed down before it can sprout wings.
  • Your store should be in compliance with all the federal guidelines. Therefore, complete the insurance and taxation formalities as well.
Buy the Location
  • Once the state permits are in order, you can buy the chosen location for your store.
  • Secure the lease and complete the formalities quickly.
  • Ideally, once you have obtained legal permission, the property owners will be more confident about leasing the building.
  • Keep multiple copies of the transaction, you may need it when the lease expires or if you get into trouble.
Decide a Name
  • Choose a proper name for your store.
  • You can decide your name based on the location, merchandise, your family, etc.
  • If you intend stocking unique items, you can create a unique brand name of your own.
  • Create a good, artistic logo as well, for you will be getting it printed on the store board, store bags, counters, etc.
Purchase Equipment
  • Study the budget statement you prepared earlier and in accordance with the same, purchase all the necessary equipment.
  • Erect proper billing and cash registry systems.
  • Buy computer systems, CCTV cameras, security systems, alarms, and other technical equipment.
  • Buy supplies like trolleys, shopping baskets, tags, storage cartons, shelves, coolers, refrigerators, and other merchandise.
  • Contact trusted distributors and purchase products for your store. Keep track of the inventory.
  • Stock all the goods carefully, in a precise order.
Hire Employees
  • Irrespective of whether your store is big or small, you are going to need a few hands for help.
  • Recruit staff for sales, security, billing, and cleaning.
  • You will need trustworthy people, so try hiring through a known reference.
  • Remember to test the interviewees for drugs and alcohol as well.
Market Your Store
  • This is a vital step for any business.
  • You need to advertise your store properly to attract potential customers and eventually form a loyal clientèle.
  • Distribute pamphlets and brochures.
  • If your budget permits, contact local advertising agencies and market your store on television and on the radio.
  • Run an attractive article in the local newspaper.
  • Conduct campaigns and have unique offers for the first week or so.
  • Have a decent launch party at the store opening.
  • The initial response may be lukewarm, as clients will need time to trust you and your products, but eventually, sales will pick up and you may find your store in the Big League.
  • You need to offer very good customer support, as without customers, your store will stand nowhere.
The above steps are a rough guide for you to understand how to go about establishing your store. The steps could be interchanged according to your priority. For instance, some might already have a location or a niche in mind, and therefore, discussing them may be omitted or may come at a later stage. Ultimately, you need to have a well-outlined plan for starting your store, or any entrepreneurial venture. And remember, this guide is for setting up your grocery store. To make it a resounding success, you need to follow a number of rules, like stocking fresh products, proper marketing, reasonable prices, and most of all, as already mentioned, brilliant customer service. All the best!