Start a sporting goods store by following these 10 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 sporting goods 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 sporting goods store?
The entrepreneur must rent a retail space for his sporting goods store. Alternatively, he could purchase a website for his store. Additional costs include purchasing the initial inventory, paying employees to man the registers and stock the shelves, obtaining a business license and insurance, and connecting/running the utilities. A computer and high-speed Internet connection will also be necessary for inventory research purposes.
What are the ongoing expenses for a sporting goods store?
Ongoing expenses include the cost of employee wages, workers' compensation insurance, utilities, rent, and inventory. The typical sporting goods store clerk makes around $8 to $10 per hour. If you do not want to manage the business, a sporting goods store manager will require a salary in the range of $25,000 to $35,000 per year. The monthly Internet connection will likely run between $40 and $60. If you do not want to clean the store yourself, a cleaning service will be necessary. Such a service typically costs about $120 for 1,000 square feet and upwards of $175 for a 3,000 foot space. Monthly utilities will likely run between $100 and $200 per month depending on the time of year. If you decide to rent your retail space instead of purchasing, monthly rent will likely cost between $700 and $2,000 per month depending on the size of the space and the specific location.
Who is the target market?
Sporting goods store business owners typically prefer selling to coaches of youth sports teams, junior high school teams, and high school teams. These coaches buy sports equipment in bulk so each player on the team has enough gear to make it through the year. Customers who prefer high-end sports equipment are also coveted as they are willing to pay a premium for high-quality items. Such items usually carry a larger profit margin for the business owner.
How does a sporting goods store make money?
Sporting goods stores make money by selling sports equipment at a profit. Once inventory is ordered, the price of these goods is then marked up so the business can make enough profit to cover overhead expenses and continue operations.
How much can you charge customers?
Sporting goods have a wide price range. As an example, shock absorbers for tennis rackets will sell at $5 for a pack of two. A baseball mitt can sell for upwards of $150 or more. A set of golf clubs will retail for several hundred dollars. Sports drinks will sell for $1 to $3. Keep your prices in line with the competition and your customers will remain loyal.
How much profit can a sporting goods store make?
The profit ceiling hinges on the size of your sporting goods store as well as the size of your market. If your business is operating like a well-oiled machine, it is possible to make a profit of several thousand dollars per month. If you grow at a rapid pace and reach the level of success achieved by sporting goods chains like Dick's Sporting Goods, it is possible to make several hundred millions or more in profit each year.
How can you make your business more profitable?
One of the best ways to make money as a sporting goods store owner is to purchase used sports equipment from customers and re-sell it for a profit. Accept items in decent shape, clean them up and you will eventually sell them for more than you paid. If you are particularly knowledgeable or skilled as an athlete, you can pitch your services as a sports instructor to clients. Another idea for a related side business is to set up batting cages, an electronic golf simulator or sports-related arcade games in or near your sporting goods store.
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 Sporting Goods 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 sporting goods 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?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
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.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
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 sporting goods store. 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 sporting goods store is usually 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 storefront:
- 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 sporting goods store.
- 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 a storefront:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your sporting goods store 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.
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How to promote & market a sporting goods store
Take advantage of a wide array of advertising methods. Establish a strong web presence with a search engine optimization (SEO) push that makes use of keyword-laden content, guest blogging efforts, social media, and a website that is regularly updated with insightful content. It is also prudent to advertise in the local paper, on the radio, and possibly even on local TV programming. Some sporting goods store owners enjoy success by sponsoring a local youth sports team. Such sponsorship places the store's name and/or logo on the team's jerseys and/or sections of the stadium in which games are played.
How to keep customers coming back
The best way to attract customers is to provide excellent deals to your initial customers. They will spread the word to fellow coaches and athletes about your competitive prices and high-quality inventory. Regularly update your social media profiles, website, and blog to skyrocket up the search engine rankings. Spread out your marketing budget across various mediums, and you will retain customers across posterity.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Sporting Goods 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?
This is the perfect business for individuals who have a sports background or are interested in athletics. Those who are particularly knowledgeable about sporting goods brands and the merits of particular sports equipment will thrive in this business.
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 sporting goods store?
Sporting goods store business owners perform varied activities throughout the day. The morning is spent preparing inventory for the day's sales, opening the store, and preparing cash register drawers. Mid-day activities include assisting customers, fielding phone inquiries from prospective customers, researching potential purchases, and placing orders for new inventory.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful sporting goods store?
The entrepreneur must have knowledge of sports, excellent people skills, and they must enjoy the presence of youngsters. If the sporting goods store owner is unable to discuss the nuances of particular sports equipment, customers might opt to do business with a businessman who understands the intricacies of his inventory. The entrepreneur should also be a savvy marketer. He should understand marketing strategies that will connect him to target customers, with a special focus on developing a rapport with coaches and players of local youth leagues. As noted above, young athletes purchase a larger portion of sports equipment in comparison to other types of customers.
What is the growth potential for a sporting goods store?
Sports have never been more popular. An entrepreneur who sets up shop in a bustling suburb or urban environment will undoubtedly enjoy a steady stream of customers. This business has fantastic growth potential, especially if it is located in an area where families reside. A large portion of sporting goods are sold to youth sports participants.
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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 sporting goods store?
It is prudent to load up on youth sports equipment as many of those who visit sporting goods stores participate in little league baseball, pee wee football, youth tennis and other sports leagues. Inventory should be wide-ranging in terms of price, style and utility. Your inventory should also cater to the sports seasons. For example, displays in early spring should cater to baseball and softball plays, and football equipment should be your main concern as fall approaches.
How and when to build a team
You can't operate an entire sporting goods store on your own. You will need help from at least one other employee when the business launches. This individual will assist with customer service, sales, stocking the shelves, ordering inventory, and even some marketing efforts. Once the business receives a steady flow of customers and you begin to make money it is time to add more employees. Add new employees on a gradual basis as there is no guarantee the business will continue to attract new customers on a consistent basis in the months and years ahead. However, it is prudent to keep enough people on board so you don't have to work an employee more than 40 hours per week. The goal is to avoid potentially crippling overtime pay by balancing out the hours across several employees.