Can You Use Office Space for Retail?

Competition today is fierce, and businesses are always on the lookout for ways to reduce operating expenses and create larger profit margins.

Because the cost of owning or leasing a commercial property is usually a significant part of any business’s monthly expenses, the question will naturally occur to certain business owners: “Can I use my current office space for retail purposes?”

The question of “can” and “should” should both be examined. Let’s start with the facts.

What is the Difference Between Office and Retail Space?

Retail space and office spaces are similar, they simply meet different business needs. 

Retail Spaces

A retail space is a location in which a business displays its goods, and where customers will come to purchase those goods. Retail businesses are designed to generate revenue, and as such, they usually accommodate a greater degree of foot traffic. A retail property generally also has more parking spaces available than there are employees for the convenience of potential shoppers. 

In addition, a retail business will often have higher visibility and be more accessible, and very often the price per square foot will be higher than it is for simple office spaces. Retail properties are commonly used for food service, consumer products (such as clothing, beauty, electronics etc.), professional services (legal, financial) or medical and para-medical services (dental, physio, chiro).

Office Spaces 

By contrast, a commercial space used for an office will generally have lower foot traffic, the parking will not generally exceed the number of workers as it would with retail real estate, there is usually lower visibility and moderate accessibility, and the price per square foot is lower than it might be for a retail store. Office spaces are commonly used for businesses in the technology, accounting, insurance, legal, real estate, medical field or others.

Is It Legal to Use Office Space for Retail Purposes?

The short answer is yes, it is legal to use your commercial real estate in any way you like, provided the use of said property is not in violation of your lease (assuming you are leasing) and not in violation of any by-laws, zoning or building codes.

Is It a Good Idea to Use Office Space for Retail?

As mentioned above, commercial properties are used in a number of different configurations, with different costs associated with each. Retail spaces are often designed in ways that make them more expensive, and so to run a commercial retail space out of an office might seem like a good idea from a financial perspective at first glance.

However, there is a reason why most people don’t sell merchandise out of office spaces, and that has to do with the realities of customer behavior and human psychology. 

Retail spaces have a number of advantages over office spaces to attract potential customers, including ample parking, higher visibility and accessibility, and perhaps most important, a design that is conducive to browsing and foot traffic. 

Offices, on the other hand, are also usually located in larger, multi-story office buildings, with limited visibility and set business hours for visitors. Unless you’re located on the ground floor with your own dedicated entrance from the outside of the building, it’s hard to imagine a window shopper deciding to walk in, take the elevator up a few floors, and find your specific office, just to peek in at what you’re offering.

How Can I Find the Right Commercial Property for My Business?

Whether you’re interested in a commercial lease for a retail location or prefer commercial spaces with a greater degree of versatility to accommodate some form of a hybrid office / retail format, your best bet is always to get advice from a company with a lot of experience and a track record of success. 

In the National Capital Region, there’s no better partner than Merkburn Holdings. With over 1,000 happy clients and 50 years of experience developing relationships and building businesses.

They can help you as your business grows, advise you on the best courses of action, and even retrofit your spaces as your business needs change. When it comes to finding the right commercial lease, Ottawa businesses have always appreciated the care and consideration offered to them by Merkburn Holdings. 

If you have questions, or would like to explore the retail buildings or office spaces they have available, reach out and contact them for more information. With over 800,000 square feet of space in their portfolio, they also provide property management in Ottawa that is flexible and designed to meet the needs of their clients. 

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