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How to Become a Shopkeeper

A shopkeeper owns and runs one independent shop or a number of shops. A major part of the work is serving and selling to customers, either at a counter or self-service checkout. Shopkeepers take payments, give change and wrap purchases, as well as answering enquiries and giving advice to customers. They also listen to customers’ needs and requests - which can indicate new sales opportunities. They order stock from wholesalers, manufacturers, agents and importers.

Other tasks include remaining aware of competitors and their relevance to shop operations as well as calculating takings and wages, depositing cash at the bank, book-keeping and stocktaking. It is important that shopkeepers understand the regulations covering trading and running a business, for example VAT and national insurance payments.

What's the working environment like working as a shopkeeper?

Shopkeepers work long hours, including evenings and weekends.

The work involves standing for long periods, and there is some lifting and carrying of stock.

What does it take to become a shopkeeper?

To be a shopkeeper you should:

  • Be independent, energetic and self-motivated
  • Be prepared to work long and unsocial hours
  • Be able to work in an organised way
  • Have a good understanding of business and finance
  • Have numerical ability for handling cash and keeping accounts
  • Have the marketing skills to develop sales opportunities
  • Have good communication skills for dealing with staff and customers.

Shopkeeper career opportunities

Independent shopkeepers include grocers, newsagents, dry cleaners, butchers, bakers, booksellers, florists, antique dealers and clothiers. Many run convenience stores, which open long hours and sell daily necessities.

Independent shopkeepers also run ‘concessions’ - shops within shops - in department stores. Some purchase a franchise (the right to trade under a particular name and business system) from a larger company. 

The number of independent shopkeepers in the UK has been reduced drastically in recent years as they face considerable competition from large, well-established stores. They also have to contend with rising overheads, such as rent and the increasing complexity of modern retailing.

Some shopkeepers may expand or improve their premises to do more business, or become owners of more than one shop.

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Last updated: 18 Nov 2019

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