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How Much Space You Should Lease For Your Retail Business

Posted by Bill Beckeman on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 @ 10:10 AM

I would say that you need exactly 1,850 sq. ft., 2,307 sq.ft. or 4,202 sq.ft.  OK, you’re on to me – those are the actual measurements of spaces we are currently seeking to lease in our portfolio.  But seriously, how do you decide how much space you should lease?

average retail space sizes

The right answer starts with the amount of space that maximizes the profit from a particular location.  Unfortunately, that’s not a simple analysis.  So, it’s also helpful to understand what’s the minimum amount of space you can fit your business into because that might be all you can really afford, or it might be really hard to figure how much incremental profit will come from any additional square footage that you lease.  That being said, it’s usually difficult, if not impossible, to expand your operation after you sign the initial lease, so if you end up determining after the fact that you should have leased more space, you’ll probably be out of luck unless you move (and somehow deal with the lease that you just signed and the expense to relocate). 

A further consideration is the availability of quality spaces in the area where you plan to locate. The qualities of the specific location are usually more important than the precise size of the space you desire and you will be faced with trade-offs based upon what spaces are actually available for lease.  But you first need to know at least an approximate size range for your business before you can begin the site selection process. (We'll help you with this with the chart below.)


If you haven’t prepared at least a basic store layout, developing one is your first step.  You should probably take a crack at sketching it out yourself.  You can simply use graph paper and a ruler or for the more technologically inclined you might want to try laying your space out using Sketchup or SmartDraw.  It will get you to start thinking about things such as:

  • Where do you want your entry door relative to your cash registers or reception desk? (think about it from a customer viewpoint as well as from a security perspective)
  • How will you maximize usage of your valuable window-line? (what do you want customers outside to see in order to lure them into your store?)
  • How will your customer circulation work?  What items do you want in front the front of the store and how will they be displayed?
  • Where will your storage space be located?
  • How/where will you take deliveries? 
  • How will you handle trash, etc.?

You might consider adding to your reading list: Inside the Mind of the Shopper, The Science of Retailing, by Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.  It’s a rather academic, although very well-researched and thought-provoking book about grocery store layout and store design.  You’ll learn why most grocery store entry doors are on the right and why customers typically navigate stores in a counter-clockwise direction, among other interesting findings that are likely also applicable to other store types.


Once you’ve developed a sketch or two to reflect your vision and determined the approximate size(s), you can compare your initial findings with other businesses that you already know.  Below is a table including categories of retailers and service providers in New England with typical size ranges and averages for well-known retailers.

The table includes the retailers in each category with the greatest number of stores in our region, with the average square footage numbers rounded to the nearest 100 sq.ft. The typical size ranges reflect the range for approximately 90% of all operators in each category.


Business Category

  Buiness Name


Average Store Size  (Sq. Ft.)

Typical Size Range (Sq. Ft.)




Convenience Stores


1,400 – 2,800

  7-Eleven Food Store



  Cumberland Farms



  Richdale Convenience



Eye Care






  Pearle Vision



  Cambridge Eye



  Cohen Fashion Opticals



  For Eyes



Wireless Stores



  Verizon Wireless



  Metro PCS



  AT&T Wireless



  T Mobile






  Wireless Zone



  Best Buy Mobile






  Dunkin Donuts






  Honey Dew Donuts



  Marylou’s Coffee





(More Information)

  Papa Gino’s









  Pizza Hut



  Pizzeria Regina



  Papa John’s



  Little Caesar’s





(More Information)

  Chipotle Mexican Grill



  Qdoba Mexican Grill






  Moe’s Southwest Grill



  Taco Bell



Quick Serve Sandwiches


(More Information)







  Panera Bread











(More Information)




  Burger King






  Five Guys



  b. Good



Ice Cream and Yogurt


(More Information)

  Dairy Queen



  Coldstone Creamery



  Ben and Jerry’s






  Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt



Dry Cleaners


(More Information)

  Anton’s Cleaners



  Best Cleaners






  Lapels Dry Cleaning



  Dependable Cleaners



Nail Salons


(More Information)

  California Nails



  Hollywood Nails



  Pro Nails






Hair Salons/Hair Cutters


(More Information)




  Cost Cutters



  Hair Cuttery



  Dellaria Salon



  Great Clips



  Fantastic Sam’s






Health& Fitness Services (small format operators)


(More Information)

  Get in Shape for Women



  Fitness Together



  Curves for Women



  Anytime Fitness



  KoKo Fit Club



(The above data was compiled mostly from KeyPoint Partners' proprietary retail research. KeyPoint Partners offers a variety of interesting publications about retail real estate I'm sure you will find of interest.)


There’s still much work to do on the store planning and layout front but the real work will begin when you start to evaluate specific spaces.   Accordingly, it makes sense to identify a retail space architect/interior designer who can help you lay out specific spaces once you zero in on one or two locations.  The best spaces that come available for lease often lease up quickly, and having this space planning relationship lined up in advance can help you be ready to act quickly. 

If you find yourself considering one of the spaces we have available for lease in our portfolio, we can help point you to such firms who can assist you.   We have found that hiring an architect, although not always necessary, is money well-spent to avoid later surprises, unless you happen to be a code expert and know the local bylaws that will come into play.


So now you’ve figured out the ideal size for your store, selected a target location, hired an architect, developed an initial space layout and are now ready to lease the space.  Almost.  How much rent should you pay? What other lease terms are important to address?  Assuming you started the whole process by making sure you had the financial resources lined up to launch your new business, which is mission number one, you may still need some help to get across the finish line.  Maybe it’s a great topic for a future blog, although I am probably too conflicted to really help you with these issues.  Lining up an attorney who specializes in commercial/retail real estate along with an experienced retail broker or advisor to represent you might be a better plan.

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Free White Paper and Store Size Chart button

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