Choose your country

Or view all businesses for sale



Everything You Need to Know About Shops

Here's what you should know if you want to set up shop in Canada.

You came, you saw, you sniffed the profits.

Canadians like their corner store - and they don't mind walking to it. A whopping 92% of all sales happen not online, but in-store the Retail Council claims.

So, is there any more room in the picture for you?

Facts & Figures

  • The retail trade grew 3.2% in 2016, according to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. 
  • There are around 229,309 shops in Canada.
  • A third of Canadian shops are profitable, averaging over $650,000 in annual revenue.
  • Productivity is relatively stable, according to official Canadian industry statistics.
  • The average grocery store makes CDN $771,600 per year. But the profit margin is only about 1.5%, with expenses averaging CDN $3,8 million.

A Shop Is a Shop Is a Shop

Wait, what's a shop?

Shops come in many shapes and sizes. Call it a store, an outlet, a reseller's, a cash and carry, a boutique, a salon, a mini-mart, a bargain basement, a market, a mart, a trading post, a multiple store, a lock-up shop, a supermarket, or a convenience store – if goods or services are sold there, then it's a shop.

From corner shops to franchises, shops in Canada are flourishing.

Trends and Tales

According to the Canadian Business Journal, the much-touted demise of the brick-and-mortar shop is a myth.

Only one of the top 10 North American retailers is online-only: Amazon.

When you look at Amazon, with their new brick-and-mortar stores, or at Dollarama, with 60 more stores in the pipeline every year for the next decade, it's clear that retail isn't scared of physical shops.

In fact, according to a recent Retail Council study, From Omni-Channel to Frictionless Retail, more than 90% of sales in Canada still happen in-store.

Shoppers simply won't trade the experience of instant gratification for anything in the world.

Challenges for this Sector

Of course, there are some challenges.

Shoppers have little time or patience these days.

Some retailers, such as Walmart, are catching on to the trend of app-assisted self-checkout.

With changing demographics, new technologies, and more travel opportunities, customers expect their shopping to be quick, cheap, and engaging.

CBC News claims politics will also make it harder for businesses to thrive in the near future.

With populism and nationalism on the rise, it's likely to spill over into Canada.

Retailers of imported goods may need to rethink their business models or relocate.

What Does Running a Shop Involve?

Let's say, once you have bought your business, you've established your procedures, delegated most of your tasks, and assigned one or two employees in charge of the day-to-day running of your business.

Now, you're likely to focus most of your attention on marketing, warehousing, security, business purchases, incentivizing employees, as well as cost-cutting, decorating, health and safety issues, etc.

You also could be looking into expansion or mergers.

But in all likelihood, you'll probably be spending a good part of your time on those great or not-so-great little surprises that business life throws at you.

Is it for everybody? No.

If you've studied business, and you're familiar with accounting, finance, economics, mathematics, marketing, and statistics, you're likely to find it easier.

But either way, you need to be a well-rounded person - astute, practical, courteous, sociable, and a very hard worker - to pull it off.

Of course, if not, it helps to find yourself a trusty right-hand man or woman who has whichever of these skills you lack.

Business requirements

As with every business, your shop needs to comply with Canada's regulations.

This usually involves a licence or a permit, depending on the type of shop you want to operate.

Aside from the tobacco dealer's permit and the liquor licence, you'll find several other permits.

These include permits for:

  • Hiring
  • For registering the business
  • Signage
  • Selling food
  • Alcohol or tobacco
  • For importing goods
  • For turning a residential property into a commercial one – if applicable
  • Plumbing works
  • Entrances
  • Parking

– and the list does go on!

How Much Does It Cost?

The asking price for a shop in Canada can vary depending on the kind of turnover and annual revenue you can expect from a business, the type of property ownership, the location, the type of retail, and how well-established it is.

Current BusinessesForSale offers range from a few measly tens of thousands to millions of dollars!

And the sales channel can also affect the price tag.

Most shops for sale in Canada are conventional brick-and-mortar shops, but some will come with their own e-shop as well.

In some cases, you may need to invest more to upgrade an e-shop than you would pay for a brand new website.

Of course, before you decide to buy a business, you should learn all you can about the employees, the culture, and the customer base.

Whether it's a turnkey business or not, you may need to invest more than you initially budgeted for if you want to rebrand it or to give it a different direction.

Tips and Advice

Before you take the plunge, think about what your company should look like 5 or 10 years in the future.

That lovely mom-and-pop from the halcyon days has no business being on your charts.

Consider joining forces with a similar shop in your area in the near future, or at least keep an open mind.

It's a very competitive sector, so the question isn't if you can beat ‘em anymore. It's how soon can you join ‘em.

After all, if nearly a quarter of a million shops are up and running, and their owners can do it, then so can you!

Bruce Hakutizwi

About the author

USA and International Manager for, a global online marketplace for buying and selling small medium size businesses. The website has over 60,000 business listings and attracts over 1.5 million buyers to the site every month.


Subscribe to our email updates

Sign up to receive the latest advice, most popular businesses, special offers and much more.

I'm interested in is committed to protecting your privacy. We will use the information you provide on this form to send you marketing emails . Find out more about what we do with your information in our Privacy Policy.
Marketing Emails: You will receive newsletters, advice and offers about buying and selling businesses and franchises. We will also send you information about events relating to buying, selling or running a business.