Selecting a retail location can be hugely intimidating. Most people lease a space and this locks you into a multi-year financial commitment plus the cost of renovating. Big or small as a company, the wrong location really can't be overcome with clever marketing. We've seen a wholesale reverseral of big box store strategies from companies like The Gap, Best Buy and Office Depot. Bigger isn't better and selective markets based on demographics can be far more important than "filling out" a geographic map.
I'll argue that selective markets is everything for retail. If you can't go digital in your sales efforts then you better put your physical presence in the right spot for traffic and demographics. It's half the battle and if done incorrectly it will most likely tank your store effort.
So if you're the little guy how do you find out the right place to be? Follow your complimentary retail stores.
I had a great lession in graduate school on using other companies' research. A marketing course was taught by an adjunct faculty member who was the vice president of operations for a regional banch in the Fox Valley, IL area. In those days the area was IL's growth boom and today, Aurora, IL, at its heart has grown to be the second largest city in IL. The bank was in growth mode along with the area opening a dozen new branches a year. The faculty member's confession was they followed McDonald's. You see McDonalds is in the real estate business as much as it's in the hamburger business. McDonalds spends millions a year researching where to open locations. It secures the best locations before its competition. You can't achieve that without spending lots of money on research. The bank learned that the McDonalds' demographic was their demographic - middle class working families with locations with high and growing drive by traffic. So the bank built its branches within one block of a McDonalds location. It worked very well for them.
So the lession learned here is find a complimentary retail store or chain that shares your customer demographic. Are they upper middle class and health conscious, i.e. Whole Foods? Are they techie and hip, i.e. Apple Stores? Are they family oriented with children, i.e. Hobby Lobby? Go in and speak with the managers of these stores. If you don't directly compete I'm sure you'll have a great conversation and for all you know they'll help promote your new location.
You get the idea. Why not right on the shoulders of giants? They can help carry you along.