Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Kim Perkins
October 1, 2011

Question: I’m hoping to open a new store this summer and have been looking at available real estate. I have found spaces for lease in locations I like that are 1,200 to 2,400 square feet. Can you tell me how much floor (sales) space and how much back-room space I should plan for?

Answer: In a recent study of mainstream, independent gift stores, the average size was 2,250 sq. ft. with 74% dedicated to sales floor space. Generally, when you lease retail space, you pay the same amount per square foot for your back room as you do your sales floor space, so the idea is to maximize your selling space. However, there are many considerations, some of which are not an issue in mainstream gift stores. You need a functional back room to receive and price merchandise, unless you plan to do that at the register. Also consider where you will keep back stock for busy seasons. And do you plan to have space for readers? Practitioners? Classes? A small, 8-by-8 sq. ft. room can generate a great deal of revenue as reader space.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to