How to start a supermarket business

Supermarket sopping carts image by TekinT from

Opening a supermarket might seem like a ridiculous business idea when so many chains already dominate the marketplace. Yet you'll still find independent supermarkets in certain towns and cities that manage to succeed amid the corporate behemoths. Even though most supermarkets seem uniform, you can still open one with unique qualities. The start-up procedures for this business are tremendous but doable--as long as you have plenty of initial capital available.

Save up a considerable amount of capital since operating a supermarket isn't a small business. It could cost you up to or over £65,000 to buy a building, renovate it to your specifications, supply food for the store and hire employees.

Plan what type of supermarket you want to open. A more unique supermarket that sells ethnic food or whole foods will stand out more than the store that sells more mainstream food products.

Scope out possible locations for your store and see what your competition might be in those neighbourhoods. Try to find a location right in the centre of a town or city and in a spot that's noticeable.

Consult with your local health department (see Resource 1) about the location of your business and whether it is safe to open a supermarket there. They'll inspect your supermarket after it's built for any health safety issues.

Work out your plan for the building with your contractor for plumbing, waste and areas where food may be prepared. Contact your local food safety inspector to come out and inspect the areas where you will prepare or store food. They may request changes that you will need to address with your contractor before the building is built.

Obtain all the licenses and permits you will need for selling food and drink. You can get these through your local zoning office, health department and other departments such as Department of Agriculture or Department of Consumer Protection. Some licenses and permits need to be renewed after a couple of years. Fees run anywhere from £13 to £162.

Contact your local health department about getting a possible food service certification. This isn't necessary in all states.

Register to get a license for selling liquor and tobacco in a retail store. These are required by federal law through U.S. Dept of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (see Resource 2). Contact your local bureau of the ATF to obtain this registration.

Check to see if your state requires a license for selling dairy products, particularly milk. Some states require this, and licenses can be obtained through your local Department of Agriculture.

Look into other licenses that vary state by state. Some of these may include unusual licenses for something such as selling frozen desserts. More common ones include licenses for operating a bakery, selling over-the-counter drugs, registering weights to weigh deli items or selling lottery tickets. You also need to be registered to sell or redeem food stamps (see Resource 3), plus comply with federal food labelling requirements (see Resource 4).

Hire employees for your supermarket, particularly cashiers, chefs to work in the deli or bakery, shelf stockers and general maintenance staff. Create a family environment so your employees will be loyal to you for many years. Offer bonuses for rewards after an employee stays with you for more than a year.

Set up a manager's office near where your employees do their jobs so you can monitor day-to-day operations and be immediately available to handle problems.

Buy advertising in newspapers or even local TV commercials to get the word out about your supermarket. Be sure to offer discounts on all grocery items during your first week for first-time customers. This assures a loyal customer base that may last for decades.

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