work from home

Can retail businesses work from home?

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Now its pretty well understood that you can work from home if you run a consultancy type business. All you need is a laptop, a smart phone, a sound proof room (where your clients can’t hear your kids screaming in the background) and plenty of coffee on tap. BUT not many people consider the advantages of working from home when thinking about retail business.

Now the reason for that is that it is unlikely that people will think of your house as shop.  It is a house and houses aren’t shops and so people will unlikely walk into your house to look at your range of produce.  But why can’t retail businesses work from home?

Well to start with you need to be able to store and display stock if you are a product retailer (you sell clothes or kitchen equipment).  You need space to house equipment if you are a service type retailer  (hair dresser for example).  In general you may not have a big enough house that offers you the space you need nor do you fancy having people walk around your house looking in all of your drawers.  So having space is a challenge.

The next thing is ‘how do you get paid?’ In a shop you have a register that takes credit cards and money.  So the next challenge is how to get paid is running a retail business from home.

So there are a few challenges.

Let’s start with the space challenge.  People who don’t have space in their houses or who don’t want people rummaging through their homes should consider a garden shed (more like an office than a shed).  Now I am not talking about a shed that stores the lawnmower but rather a garden shed that is purpose build to allow the retailer to acquire the space they need (whether for selling products or service).  Modern garden sheds (let call them garden retail units) can comprise of a shipping container converted into a retail shop or a purpose build wooden cabin. Now the great thing about a garden retail unit is that you can make them 100% self contained i.e. install high levels of insulation, solar panels on the roof, a battery bank etc As well as reducing your overheads, a garden retail unit can help you turn your business green at very little additional cost.

So having a garden retail units can accommodate retail businesses and help you turn your business green at the same time (all good things).  One thing you need to consider when considering this option is whether or not you are in a place that can accommodate traffic.  Note if you are in a rural setting and have few houses around you then a garden retail unit is a good thing if you are thinking about running a retail business that sells products and need people to visit you unit (like a showroom).  It’s not so good if you live in an estate where you can only offer on street parking and so any additional visitors to you premises will cause a nuisance to neighbour.  If you are a service retailer (hair dresser) and work on an appointment system then having a garden retail unit will likely cause less traffic problems BUT just be aware that this could be an issue.

If traffic is a problem or there is an issue with planning then the alternative solution is to go mobile.  If your customer’s can’t come to you then think about going to them.  The best example of this that I noticed a couple of months back was a mobile barber shop.  The guys who run this shop simple parked up in local free car parks put out their sign that they were open for business and hey presto people in the local business park came and got a hair cut.  So going mobile can work.  Perhaps not so much for people selling products but certainly for people selling retail services.

OK so the space problem is solved, how do you get paid?  Well in this modern world there is a thing called handheld payment terminals  These things are great as they only need a WiFi connection and can allow you to take cash, card and even contactless payments. Now you could say “why not just take cash?” All that limits your customer base as not everyone has cash PLUS it is easier to do your account when you use something that records payments.  If you only take cash questions could be asked about whether or not you are recording all of your cash payments for tax purposes (the grey economy).

Handheld units therefore solve a number of challenges.  They allow you to access a larger customer base (cash payers , card payers and contactless technology payers) and they allow you to do you accounts easier (recording transactions as and when they happen).

The challenge with handheld payment terminals is to find one that takes the least commission (as they all take commission).  The one we have noticed that takes the least commission is sumup. Quite a neat little unit that only takes 1.69% commission per transaction.  This is cheap compared to others but you should shop around.

Now why do a blog on proposing that retailers work from home?  Well the reason is that by working from home people can reduce their energy use.  They don’t need to commute to work (saving energy), they can have fully self contained renewably power units in their back gardens (turning businesses green) and by working from home they support local business and local communities which keep the money in the local economy (makes for a healthier living).

We would like to see everyone working from home (as we do) and working in retail should be a blocker to that thinking.  Working from home should be an option for everyone.




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