Opening a store
I am currently creating a business plan for my local SBDTC about the possibility of opening a brick & motor kitchen knife store. They require me to do as much market research about this venture and I was wondering if anyone could give me some suggestions on a couple of things.
1. I obviously cant compete with online company's but my goal is to offer medium to high end knives with classes on sharpening and some foodie demos, where or who do I contact about prices on buying knives?
2. I am looking at offering other related product like stones, boards blocks\storage etc, again, who do I turn to for pricing.
I have been a chef for 20 years + and I am currently a store manager so I know retail and understand how cut throat it is (pun intended) but It would be nice to do something for a living that I love....which is knives and cooking.
The people here have always been very knowledgeable and honest and that why I am asking advice here.
I would reach out to someone who has done it before. Try Jon over at JKI. I'm sure he'll at least give you some places to start with your research. It's tough starting a business, especially brick and mortar IMO. I would make sure you do local market research to somehow determine the local demand for high-end kitchen knives (lets face it, what we consider entry level will be high end to most folks when they walk into your store). Without knowing if anything will sell and hopefully sell very well, I couldn't recommend you open a brick and mortar (and I'm sure the bank & SBA will be looking at the same thing), but you could always try your hand at online.
Either way (brick and mortar or online), I would suggest to source good knives, you work directly with a knife maker. Most are very approachable, and many end customers already talk directly to the knife makers to get customs done. There's also plenty in the US and I'm sure some that would be interested in helping you. What you're looking to do is get a knife line made in conjunction with them and your experience as a chef and hopefully your market research on what you think will sell well.
Last, I would suggest that you take a hard look at each player in the market, and decide how you will distinguish yourself. What will make people come to you if not your prices? Again this is where looking at your local customers would be very valuable. Doing on street surveys may help, but what do they value? Sharpness? Looks? Ease of use? Not ever having to sharpen it? Etc.
Best of all, good luck, but I'm sure hard work will get you there!
Thanks for replying. I will defiantly follow up on your suggestions. I understand the struggle with competing with online stores, I have been there myself. Its funny, I started this venture because of a number of people who had ordered knives online and although they were not unhappy with the purchase, they would have paid a little bit more to be able to hold and possibly try the knife before buying. I appreciate we have become a "cheap so buy it online society" I like to save money too, but I feel there is enough people out there who miss the "hands on" experience, and some just want to save money. Hopefully, enough people will pay a bit more to be able to hold and use. I hope to offer a lot more than online stores can in the sense of seeing the product up close, feeling the weight and actually using it.....fingers crossed.
Actually talk to as many people in the area who you think are your target market as you can. Then, if they are *actively* in the market for a knife, try to sell them on one of the knives you already own (presuming you have a few of the kinds you're looking to sell) at a price that you think you can do. You'll be guessing at first, and you could do it for just your cost plus $X after shipping from an online vendor.
The point is to see if people are willing to buy what you're offering at the price you're thinking of.
The real test is not if people think it's a cool idea. The real test is whether people will open up their wallets for you. Do that first. Talk is cheap otherwise ... well, expensive for you, cheap for them.
I highly recommend you do this before you go too far with the bricks & mortar research and prep. Test your market now cheaply before you invest a lot into it. When you find the prospects you need and find out what they want and how to sell them, *then* invest your time and money in the physical store. Start by selling in-person and out of your home first. That's what Jon did, if I remember correctly, and I think that's what some of the folks who opened up stores here in Toronto did as well.
Get a few sales under your belt to validate that the demand is there and that you know how to tap into it. Then go balls-out and build the business
Thanks, where could I get the knives, preferably wholesale. There are a few cooking stores where I live (Williams Sonoma and such) but none that sell Japanese knives. Thanks for the idea echerub, I will look into building up a small inventory and trying that route, just got to find some knives to sell. I am doing a ton of research though so thanks to everyone for their input.
I'd also think about offering events like demos of how to sharpen or the basic cuts for beginning cooks....
As someone that basically failed at something like this back in the 80's I can tell you it is really hard to make it on knives alone. Figure out how much of the sale price after overhead you can actually pocket as income. Then multiply that by the number of knives you will need to sell every month to make a living. I found I was selling a lot of knives without having anywhere close to a living wage.
Sorry but market research isn't allowed here.