How to Open a Computer Shop

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Opening a computer shop is a challenging venture. Big-box retailers and thousands of online retailers have entered the computer trade, so competition is fierce. A computer shop can be lucrative if you find the right location, plan your financing and marketing carefully, and focus the business on key, local niches where you can add value.

Things You'll Need

  • Articles of incorporation
  • Leased or owned store space
  • Hardware and software training (PC and Mac)
  • Startup capital
  • Inventory (computers and accessories)

Preparing for Success

  • Define your value proposition. Every major retailer and online storefront sells computers and accessories, so it is important that you determine what will be unique about your business. You may offer training with your computer sales or in-home service. Service is likely going to be part of your value proposition, because it is the one area where larger retailers are not well-positioned to compete.

  • Secure financing. You may be able to finance your business through personal funds, credit cards, loans from friends or relatives, or traditional lending. The Small Business Administration offers loans designed to help entrepreneurs start new businesses. You'll want to show any potential investor or lendor a detailed business plan, particularly for a market as competitive as computer sales and service. Be sure you have enough capital to survive those slow, early months.

  • Incorporate. You'll want to structure your computer business as a corporation to protect yourself from any personal liability in the case of lawsuits. Because you will be selling and repairing thousands of dollars worth of equipment every day, this protection is important. Requirements for incorporation vary by state, and are usually dictated by the individual secretary of state's offices.

  • Lease or buy a building. Good visibility on a busy street is ideal, but these locations are often costly. If you plan to service computers for local businesses, as opposed to the retail market, a high-traffic location may be less important. If you aim to service the retail market, look for places, such as a strip mall, that's already be attracting your core, computer-buying demographic (middle income and higher).

  • Find vendors. You'll want to carry major PC brands and Macintosh models, and any related accessories and peripheral devices (printers, scanners, etc.). Look for manufacturers and distributors who may be able to provide you with marketing and technical support. The more successful you are, the more money they make, too. Because service will be important, look for products that carry strong warranties. If you sell a computer that stops working in a few months, it will reflect on you as much as the manufacturer.

  • Plan your marketing. How will you spread the word about your business? Decide where you will advertise and whether there are certain noncompeting local businesses you can partner with. For example, you could establish a deal with a local restaurant where patrons receive a coupon for 10 percent off a purchase at your store. Such deals benefit both partners. It is important to allocate enough marketing resources for your launch, and to build a referral program into your marketing. Find a way to reward customers who send business your way, perhaps with discounts on their purchases.

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