The Checklist Every New Retailer Needs Before Signing a Lease

Opening a new retail store is an exciting venture, but before you sign on the dotted line of a lease, there are crucial factors to consider. A lease is a significant commitment that can determine the success or failure of your business. To ensure you’re making the best decision, here’s a comprehensive checklist every new retailer should follow before signing a lease.

1. Understand Your Business Needs

Location Analysis

The location of your retail store can make or break your business. Assess the neighborhood, foot traffic, and proximity to competitors. A prime location can drive sales, but it also comes with a higher price tag.

Target Market

Understand the demographics of the area. Does your target market live or work nearby? Conduct market research to ensure there is a demand for your product in that location.

Space Requirements

Determine how much space you need for your products, storage, and customer service areas. Consider future growth when evaluating the size of the space.

2. Financial Considerations

Rent and Additional Costs

Calculate the total cost of the lease, including base rent, common area maintenance (CAM) fees, insurance, and taxes. Make sure you understand how these costs are calculated and how they can increase over time.

Security Deposit

Know the amount required for the security deposit and the conditions for its return. This will help you manage your upfront costs.

Financial Health

Review your financial statements and projections to ensure you can afford the lease for the duration of the term. It’s wise to have several months of rent saved up as a buffer.

3. Lease Terms

Lease Duration

Consider the length of the lease. Shorter leases offer more flexibility, while longer leases can provide stability and potentially lower rates.

Renewal Options

Understand your options for renewing the lease. Are renewal terms favorable, and do they align with your business growth plans?

Exit Strategy

What happens if your business doesn’t perform as expected? Ensure there are exit strategies in the lease agreement, such as subletting or breaking the lease with minimal penalties.

4. Legal Considerations

Legal Review

Have a lawyer review the lease. This might seem like an added expense, but legal jargon can be complex, and you want to ensure your interests are protected.

Permits and Zoning

Verify that the property is zoned for retail use and check for any necessary permits or licenses. Operating without proper zoning can result in fines or closure.

Liability and Insurance

Understand your liability and insurance responsibilities. What insurance does the landlord carry, and what do you need to cover?

5. Landlord and Property Management


Research the landlord or property management company. Are they responsive to maintenance requests? Do they have a history of disputes with tenants?

Maintenance Responsibilities

Clarify who is responsible for repairs and maintenance. Understanding this can prevent future conflicts and ensure the property remains in good condition.

Build-Out and Improvements

Negotiate who will pay for any necessary renovations or improvements. If the landlord covers the costs, will these be added to your rent?

6. Operational Considerations

Hours of Operation

Check if there are any restrictions on your hours of operation. You want to ensure your business can operate during peak times for your target market.

Signage and Visibility

Confirm you can install adequate signage. Visibility is crucial for attracting foot traffic, so make sure there are no restrictions that would hinder this.

Parking and Accessibility

Evaluate parking availability for customers and employees. Easy access is essential for a positive shopping experience and repeat business.

7. Competitive Analysis

Neighboring Businesses

Analyze the types of businesses nearby. Complementary businesses can drive traffic to your store, while too many competitors could split the market.

Market Trends

Stay informed about market trends in the area. Are new developments planned that could increase traffic, or are businesses closing down?

8. Flexibility for Growth

Expansion Opportunities

Consider if the space allows for future expansion. It’s ideal to have the option to grow without needing to relocate.

Technology and Infrastructure

Ensure the property can support your technological needs, such as high-speed internet and security systems. Modern infrastructure can streamline operations and enhance the customer experience.

9. Sustainability and Efficiency

Energy Efficiency

Look for properties with energy-efficient systems. This can reduce operating costs and appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers.

Sustainable Practices

Consider how the property aligns with your sustainability goals. Implementing eco-friendly practices can enhance your brand’s reputation.

10. Community Engagement

Local Support

Engage with the local community. Building relationships with other business owners and participating in community events can boost your business profile and drive traffic.

Customer Feedback

Gather feedback from potential customers in the area. Understanding their needs and preferences can help you tailor your offerings and improve your chances of success.


Signing a lease is a significant milestone for any new retailer. By following this comprehensive checklist, you can make an informed decision that sets your business up for success. Each point on this list addresses a critical aspect of leasing a retail space, helping you avoid common pitfalls and ensuring that your new location aligns with your business goals. With thorough preparation and careful consideration, you can find a space that supports your vision and contributes to your long-term success.

The Checklist Every New Retailer Needs Before Signing a Lease
Joseph Gozlan Commercial Real Estate Expert


Commercial Real Estate Advisor

Direct: (903) 600-0616