Start a dollar store by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your dollar store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a dollar store?
Independent store costs depend on location, inventory, and advertising budget. While it would be difficult, it's theoretically possible to get started with as little as a few thousand dollars if opening in a less desirable section of town. Franchises can cost up to $267,000 or more for a 10,000 square foot store. These start-up costs cover everything from stock to marketing supplies, plus they give an owner a comprehensive plan on how to manage their business.
There are also DIY franchise packages that can be purchased for under $30,000 if the owner is willing to do the majority of the work on their own. If financing, make sure you get a loan that can stretch to include the cost of merchandise.
What are the ongoing expenses for a dollar store?
Dollar store businesses have to account for the costs of their location (rent, permits, etc.), as well as the cost of merchandise, advertising, and employee salaries. They’ll also need commercial insurance to protect against liability claims, natural disasters, and criminal activity.
Who is the target market?
The target market is anyone who appreciates a good deal. In certain communities, this may mean catering to those at the lower end of the income spectrum. However, the market is open to people of all earning brackets.
How does a dollar store make money?
Dollar stores charge a mark-up on the items they sell. They will typically get inventory by buying large quantities of stock at wholesale prices. By buying products at a deep discount, owners can afford to sell them for a dollar and still make a profit.
How much can you charge customers?
Some owners set their prices at $1 or less while others will make exceptions for higher ticket items. If choosing to make certain items more than $1, be sure to do so sparingly. Your base clientele will not appreciate having to hunt for prices when they’re in a dollar store.
Dollar stores aren't always the least expensive place to shop when compared to other types of discount stores. Many owners will sell off-brand items at odd sizes as a way to make it look as though customers are getting a better deal than they are.
How much profit can a dollar store make?
Dollar stores may make up to $.80 profit on items they sell, though the average is about $.35 for each item. This means a dollar store would have to sell 200,000 items a year to make around $70,000 in profit.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Selling certain items at big losses is a good way to attract people into the store, so they have the opportunity to pick up other items at a much larger profit. Running promotions or contests can help to attract new clientele too. Dollar store owners can also consider branching out as a franchise or potentially opening more conventional convenience stores in addition to their original venture.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Dollar Store Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your dollar store is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a dollar store business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A dollar store business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a dollar store business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your dollar store business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
How to promote & market a dollar store
Paper flyers, banners, and modest digital advertising are all ways to let the community know about a new dollar store. The ideal customer is someone who likes a good bargain, so they may not appreciate a store that’s spending money on fancy advertising campaigns. You can even throw a party using items exclusively from your store to attract and excite potential customers.
How to keep customers coming back
Customers don’t necessarily expect to be given the 5-star treatment when they’re in a dollar store, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it. Customer service should be friendly and efficient, the store should be clean and well-stocked, and items should be easy to find. The more owners can keep a balance between maintaining order without sacrificing their selection, the more likely it is that customers will want to frequent their location.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Dollar Store In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Owners should want to provide budget-conscious shoppers with a safe, spacious, and convenient place to shop. The dollar store can be a community resource that plays a vital role in maintaining a community and helping it thrive.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a dollar store?
The duties of the owner and staff are all tied in with the daily operation of the store. Stocking, selling, managing employees, ordering inventory, and marketing are all tasks that will need attention on a regular basis. Owners should also consistently be looking for new opportunities and avenues to find additional stock at the right prices.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful dollar store?
Dollar store owners should have some experience either managing or owning a related store (e.g., convenience store, general store, etc.) Having a general business degree may help, but is by no means required. Owners should be organized, good with people, and able to keep up with the needs of a diverse customer base.
What is the growth potential for a dollar store?
Dollar stores are big businesses in many parts of the US. Many people need a store near them where they can buy necessities and luxury items that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to buy at a conventional store.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a dollar store?
Dollar stores are like a more practical type of convenience store, which means the location of the store needs to be easily accessible to your customers. If there isn’t enough traffic in the area, it can lead to a store’s swift downfall.
The next step is ensure you have the right relationships with wholesalers and liquidators. Not only is this a good way to get quality merchandise, it’s also usually the only way to get new merchandise on a regular basis. The more items you get into the store, the more you’ll entice people to stop by just for fun. Most people who shop at a dollar store are open to buying more than just the bare necessities, and new merchandise is a good way to inspire them to try new products.
Finally, make sure that the store is always clean and that you’re stocking things that your demographic can actually use. Customers need to see the value of shopping at your store over the other types of discount stores in their area. The more you can do this, the more you’ll get the word-of-mouth you need to convert more people into regular customers.
How and when to build a team
Most dollar stores function best when they’re open from morning to night seven days a week, so owners should hire a team right away. Look for employees who are responsible enough to handle different types of customers so there’s less chance of theft or disturbances (which can be a common occurrence in discount retail stores.)