Any privately owned retail store that sells a product from the arts community is going to have its own personality. Opening your own store gives you the freedom to express, not only your personal tastes, but also to provide your community with the music they want. Understanding what it takes to open your doors is more than half the battle.
More than any of the logistics, you need a passion for music and a solid knowledge base. In any arts industry you must love what you do and understand the product you are selling. Opening a record store is no different. Music provokes emotion in people. It is a completely subjective genre of entertainment. While your specific tastes may be where your passion lies, you must also have a working knowledge of the other types of music you carry in order to be able to interact intelligently with your customers.
Determining the appropriate location for your record store can be one of the most critical components in establishing a successful business. Understand your region. Where you live can have an impact on how much of a certain type of music you carry (i.e. Manhattan - classical and Broadway soundtracks, Atlanta - Hip Hop) In terms of market, determine who you are targeting as clients and research the parts of town those people tend to populate.
Decide who you want to sell to. You need to know if your store is going to cater to a general market or if you want to specialize. Take some time to research other record stores in your area to determine the amount of competition you will have for market share. If there is an abundance of retailers already servicing your desired target market, consider broadening your scope or refocusing the direction of your store.
Buying enough inventory to have on hand opening day can be expensive. To help keep costs down, spend some time determining how much of each type of music you want to carry. General market stores will stock a bit of everything. Stores that focus on a specific market will stock heavy on the music that appeals to the target clientele; i.e. vintage vinyl or indie rock. Buying used collections or setting up a consignment system for CDs and vinyl records that are in good condition is another cost effective way to establish inventory.
Unless you want to stack all your inventory on the floor, you will need to plan the cost of displays into your budget. If you have the capital to buy brand new retail display units, there are many catalogs and online stores that you can order from directly. If you are needing to save some money, look for wholesalers in your area that buy the display inventory of companies that have gone out of business. You can often find used displays that are still in good shape or that only need a coat of paint.
When starting any new business, you need to consult your state's tax commission to secure a business license and determine the specific state requirements for opening a retail business. Before you apply for your business license, however, decide on a business name (if applicable) and what kind of business you are setting up; i.e. sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or LLC (limited liability corporation). You will also need to check with your state's regulations on the need for a seller's permit. If you are in a state that requires the collection of sales tax, chances are you will need a seller's permit.