Opening a small retail store or boutique can be a viable way for an entrepreneur with an eye for a good deal to make a living. Small stores must compete with malls, department stores, online ordering, and other boutiques, all potentially vying for the same market, consisting of local residents, tourists, or both. Brick and mortar retail store owners can compete in the space by selecting products – and presenting those products – in such a way that draw in customers and away from other shopping options. Product selection could include unique items that are difficult to find elsewhere in your competitive area. Product selection could also include cheaper substitutes for competitor products. The type of store envisioned in this scenario sells basic, low-cost consumer and household goods, potentially targeting tourists as well.

As with all businesses in Baltimore, there are permits and licenses required, including building permit, use and occupancy permit, and inspections by the fire marshal and building inspector. These permits must be acquired before opening for business, and then they must be maintained while doing business to pass multiple inspections. Preparing the store for business such that it meets regulated standards will be the biggest start-up costs, and may not be factored as monthly operational costs.  Please visit the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation at for requirements for your business.

The tables below depict the common issues and costs associated with operating a retail store.

Political Labor laws – ensuring that staff is eligible to work in the US. Maintaining a safe work environment and compensating legally
Economic Location of brick and mortar location that is accessible, especially for lunch
Commodity prices
Disposable income; tourism
Social Competition from both large retailers; fashion
Competition from other boutique-style retailers; fashion
Technological Record keeping, including staff scheduling and inventory management – software and hardware
Handling money and processing payments
Advertising online and using social media
Environmental Waste disposal
Sourcing, dependent on products (imports, lead, etc.)
Legal Zoning restrictions
Building permit
Use & Occupancy permit, including inspection by fire marshal, building inspector
Water Discharge Permit (sewage)
Critical Success Factors Brick and mortar location that is accessible to target market
Gaining and maintaining all appropriate licenses and permits
Major Activities Associated Costs Cost Driver
Selling goods Wholesale prices for products Number of units of products ordered
Ordering and managing inventory Staff time Volume of products ordered; number of staff members per hour


Projected Expenses
Employee Costs including benefits Year One Cost per month
Owner  $          3,500
Book Keeper – Outsourced  $              800
Legal – Outsourced  $              800
Tech Support – Outsourced  $              250
Sales Associates/Register  $          8,000
Wages Subtotal  $        13,350
Taxes, Fees  $          2,003
Subtotal  $        15,353
Product stock  $          3,000
Cleaning Supplies  $                50
Subtotal  $          3,050
Facility Expense (rent)  $          1,700
Electric  $              300
Water  $              125
Internet/Telephone  $              100
Office supplies  $                50
Property Insurance  $              208
Maintenance  $              500
Computers/Hardware  $              100
Subtotal  $          3,083
Marketing Costs
Web site hosting and advertising  $              200
Web site updates  $              100
Business Cards, Pens, Swag  $                50
Subtotal  $              350
Displays/Decorations  $              3,300
Subtotal  $          3,300
Projected Monthly Costs   $        25,136