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How to Start a Candy and Gift Shop
Turn your passion for sweets into a profitable business by opening a candy and gift shop. Chocolate candy alone generates $19.5 billion in sales in the United States as of 2012, according to the Packaged Facts website. Chocolate does well in good times and bad, because it's considered an affordable luxury. Of course chocolate isn't the only candy -- there are a myriad of other selections for your shop.
Obtain the necessary licensing. A state business license is a must. Selling candy retail requires a sales privilege license, sometimes called a sales tax license. Some cities require their own business and sales tax license. If you make the candy in the shop, the shop requires an inspection and licensing from the health department as well. Obtain an EIN, Employer Identification Number, from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Check with your state's business development office to see what other licenses and registrations are necessary.
Select the candy and gifts to stock. The type of candy you offer has an affect on the types of gifts you carry. For example, customers at a retro candy store, one that stocks candy from the 1950s, would expect quirky gifts; those who shop at a gourmet chocolate shop would expect more upscale gifts. Candy products include exotic flavors, children's, gourmet chocolates, sugar-free, penny candy, old-fashioned, retro and homemade classics to name just a few. If you're not making the candy, find reliable vendors. Industry gift tradeshows are held on a seasonal basis for the trade -- that's you -- to introduce the latest and greatest gift items. The shows are not open to the general public.
Research locations. Options include busy strip malls, kiosks in major shopping malls, a shop in the mall, renovated downtown areas, tourist locations and streets where other similar but not competitive shops are located. Select and install fixtures and display cases to show off the candy and gifts. Some cases may have to be refrigerated for perishable candy -- such as chocolate dipped strawberries or candied apples -- or to keep chocolates on the cool side so they don't melt. Install a point of sale system to keep track of inventory and sales. Forecast how many employees you will need to keep the shop staffed while it's open. Some malls require that the stores be open as long as the mall is open.
No matter where the shop is located, marketing is critical to its success. Free samples of your homemade fudge may convince browsers to become buyers. Establish both a website and social media accounts at sites such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter. Candy and gifts are photogenic, so post photos at sites such as Pinterest and Instagram. Tour the shop with a video camera every season and post the video on video platform sites. Showcase photos of you or your staff at work. Hold contests to guess the ingredients in one of your more unusual candy flavors. Announce discounts and coupons that are available only to your friends and followers. For holidays such as Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduation and weddings, post gift suggestions.
Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."