I have an MBA and did some research regarding this. The best advice I got was from the folks at the AHA. It takes about 1,000 customers to sustain a homebrew store. If you can find a market with that demographic, you're off to at least a somewhat profitable start.
Here is the body of a note I got from Gary Glass. I strongly suggest that you give him a call and discuss. I had considered opening a store in NJ and did some of the research.
Want To Open A New Homebrew & Winemaking Shop?
Before you spend too much time on a business plan, here are a few calculations to determine if your market is likely to support a retail supply shop.
The first rule in deciding whether or not to open a homebrew supply shop is DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. The second: DO YOUR HOMEWORK. If your reason for opening a shop is "there isn't one in town and I have a lot of friends who like to brew," that may not be reason enough.
Demographics are accurate -- you may bend them, but you can't break them. The easiest demographic to find and work with is population. Experience shows it takes between 250,000 and 500,000 people to support a "stand-alone" homebrew supply shop. Here's how the numbers break down based on industry estimates.
• There are between 500,000 and 1 million homebrewers in the United States. There are estimated to be at least 4 million home winemakers in the United States.
• The average homebrewer spends between $100 and $150 per year on his/her hobby. (This represents an average of those who get a kit for Christmas and never brew, to those who brew every week for a while.)
• The average home winemaker spends between $100 and $150 per year on his/her hobby.
• It takes a minimum volume of $100,000 per year at retail to support a shop. Here's why:
Cost of goods, including freight ..... $60,000
Rent & utilities ...................................... 12,000
Promotion ............................................... 6,000
Net ......................................................... 22,000
And you haven't paid anyone a salary yet.
If you are the owner/operator, $22,000 may keep you alive, but it may not be enough to make you a happy, independent business owner. However, if you double your volume to $200,000, the net rises by $40,000 because the cost of goods is the only number that applies to the second $100,000.
What does it take to get volume to $100,000 given the above parameters? Using the most conservative numbers, you'll need 1,000 brewers and home winemakers spending $100 per year for a volume of $100,000. If there are one-half million brewers and winemakers, then one in about every 500 people in the country is a brewer or winemaker. If you need a population of 500 to get one brewer or winemaker, you need 500,000 people to get 1,000 brewers or winemakers. If you estimate that each brewer/winemaker spends $150 per year, you need a population of 333,333. If you think there are 1 million brewers/winemakers in the country, and each spends $100, you need a population of 250,000. At the most optimistic, if you estimate 1 million brewers/winemakers spend $150 per year, you would need a population base of 167,000 to make $100,000 in annual revenue.
It's our best guess that the low end of these numbers is too optimistic and the high end too pessimistic, but we are not far off. This example only brings you to $100,000 in volume. To reach the more desirable $200,000 mark, double everything. At the very best, if you'd like to open a shop and have it produce meaningful income, you'll need a good quarter million people in your potential customer base, at least in your market area, free of competition.