Do you need...?
Do you need business cards? Not if you're selling on the phone. Do you need premises? Again, maybe not if you're selling over the phone. Do you need an expensive list of national contacts? Not if you're selling from a local shop. Do you need an equal opportunities policy? Not if you're not employing anyone.
Don't skimp where you need to spend
As well as doing things they don't need to, some start-up owners don't do vital things well enough. Regularly I see new shops open up that have an appearance that is, quite frankly, tatty. They haven't spent money in a vital area so these shops never last. They are taking their most potent marketing message - the look of their shop - and almost begging their potential customers not to enter. These shops don't succeed either because the owner didn't realise the importance of appearance or because they didn't have enough capital to get it right.
Incidentally, I believe that anyone considering starting a retail business should consider a web-based one. The start-up costs are much lower and it's a field where sales are still growing. This can't be said for traditional high street retail.
There is an easy way to decide what must and must not be done when starting up. Simply answer the following questions:
Can I source or produce the product and deliver it professionally while making a profit?
A small business is like a flame struggling to stay alight on a cold, wet night. Everything must be done to nurture that flame and there is no time or money to be wasted. That's why we cannot afford to do things that aren't related to the critical questions above.