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How do I get a business licence for a retail store in the UK?

27 January 2023

Getting a retail business licence varies according to many factors, such as the location of the business and the nature of the services it operates.

Different regions have their own regulations. You should conduct research into your retail store licencing requirements. 

The business licence required to start a retail business depends on the government department responsible for handling business licencing matters.

Andrea Landi

What is a business licence?

A business licence is any type of licence that a state requires companies to have so they can begin trading.

Do I need a business licence? Or, what types of licences does my new retail store business need? These questions must be addressed early on in your new business development lifecycle. This ensures everything runs smoothly. If you open an online store, things might start to get complicated.

Not only will you be dealing with local laws and regulations. But you will also be dealing with them on an international level. As reflected by your online customer base.

There are questions that must be addressed when starting a new retail store business such as: what type of licenses do I need for my business? It is your responsibility to ensure that your new retail store business has the correct licence (s) to adhere with the rules, regulations and standards outlined in the relevant business licence specifications. 

How to obtain your licences for your new retail store?

Follow these steps on how to obtain your business licences for your new retail store. 

  1. Incorporate a legal business entity for your retail company.
    You request a business licence on behalf of your company. There are different business entities defined in different countries.
  2. Determine the licence(s) your business requires.
    Depending on your industry and the location of your business, you may need to get licences at different levels of state and local governments. A lawyer or resources from your local business office may help you understand this.
  3. Request your business licence.
    You may request online licences, or you may have to submit paper applications. Submit your licence applications before you operate your business. Some licences could take longer to review during the application process.
  4. Renew your business licence.
    You might have to renew your business licences as often as once a year. Talk to a lawyer about this. Pay close attention to the regulatory requirements for your location. This will help avoid matters such as lapsing periods for your licences.

What is the best business licence for my retail shop?

When you start a retail store business, you might find that you are required to obtain a licence before you start trading. You will need to address specific business licence requirements. 

The requirements will mostly depend on several factors.

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Factors to consider when obtaining the best licence for your retail shop

  • Your business structure i.e. corporation, LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.
  • Your industry (in our case, your new retail store business)
  • Your state’s regulations
  • Your county’s regulations
  • Your city and or township’s regulations

There are a few ways to determine your specific licencing requirements. Contact your state and/or local authority. They will guide you and help determine the level of licence requirements needed for your retail store. Here is a list of a few avenues to explore in your search.

  • Hiring corporate/retail business lawyers.

A retail business lawyer can examine your specific circumstances. They will carry out the necessary research to ensure your business is compliant.

  • Utilising retail business licence services.

Consider using third-party business licence services, such as Incfile’s business licence research package  The service carries out comprehensive business licensing research. They can determine the requirements of your new retail business, its licensing needs, permits and tax registrations. Business licensing services can provide a list of licence options. They provide the licence itself, along with other compliance and regulatory requirements.

Ensuring that your business is in compliance within your region is your responsibility. Take compliance seriously and obtain the correct licences for your retail store. The types of licences you need will depend on where your business is located and the type of operation. If in doubt, ask your local business agency or governing entity.

What are the common mistakes to avoid?

An important task that must be addressed from the onset of your new retail business is ensuring you have the correct licences in place. Unfortunately, this important step often gets overlooked  by many new retail business entrepreneurs. 

There are some common mistakes that we see new retail businesses make as they are getting started. Most of these mistakes can be avoided. Talk to your local business licence department.

Below are some common mistakes that we see new retail business owners often make.

Failure to apply for an adequate business licence:

Usually when we encounter a new retail business that is not licenced, it’s not because they are trying to avoid going through the licensing procedures. But rather, they are unsure or unaware about what is required. Check where your new retail store business is located and enquire whether this carries any implications.

Start by asking yourself simple questions and begin compiling a list.

Start by asking yourself questions such as:

  • What licence am I required to obtain if my business is operating from my house as opposed to a commercial space?
  • Do I need a licence to play music in my retail store and if so, what licence do I require and where can I get it?
  • What licence, if any, do I need to sell a product with an ingredient that is new to the market? 

After compiling your list of questions, contact your local authority responsible for business licencing. Check to see what the business licence requirements are for your business. This avoids unnecessary enforcement and avoidable fines further down the road.

Changing your new retail store business without updating your licence:

There are situations that require updating local authorities to ensure a licence is up-to-date. A common one would be a new business owner who buys an existing business.

Depending on the location of the business, this could cause the current licence to be void and might require a completely new licence to be issued. New retail store business owners are advised to check this periodically. 

Contact your local authorities to ensure your licence has the right information.

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Getting your new retail store business registered

Getting your new UK retail store business registered is a very important aspect when getting started on your new retail business venture. Your local authority should be able to show you how to get the licences registered correctly. It is important to note that you need to make sure that your registration matches your type of business.

How do I make sure my business licence is right?

Business licences are a requirement in most countries, cities and regions. Depending on your retail business operations, you may be obligated to get a business licence at the Federal level, if you are based in the United States.

Almost all businesses require some form of business licence. Get your licences in place before your business starts trading.

Verify with your local authority and check you have the correct licences for your business.

How to determine your new retail business requirements?

There are services that can research licence requirements on your behalf. CSC Global can provide information, instructions, and licencing services. The CSC Business licence Compliance Package provides detailed business licensing research. They can uncover most, if not all, of your business licensing requirements. They provide detailed information covering state, county, and municipal licensing authorities.

As a new retail business owner, it is your duty to comply with all legal requirements that regulate your type of business and its location.


What is a business licence?

A business licence is a permit issued by governments or local authorities. It gives instructions on how specific business activities should be carried out. They are designed to keep business owners, customers and clients safe.

Do I need to hire a lawyer to apply for a business licence?

No, you do not need a lawyer to apply for a business licence. But hiring a lawyer can help with the correct filing and maintenance of your business licence.

Can I operate my online retail business without a licence?

Retail businesses are regulated by the locations where they are registered or operated, even if they operate completely online. Check with your local government and business agencies to find out the legal requirements specific to your business.

How much does it cost to get a licence for my retail business?

Business licence costs depend on the location and type of business you operate. Different types of licences also vary in cost. Business licence costs are generally low. Check with your local authority to find out more information.

How can I obtain a business licence for my new retail store?

You can get a business licence from a local authority. An example of a local authority in the UK is your local council. 

How do I change the business licence of my shop?

Amending your business licence will require submitting an application. Applications are sent to your local authority. In some cases, they may request you provide additional supporting documents. 

How much does it cost to get a business licence?

Local authorities set the fees. The cost of a business licence will depend on the type of licence that you need. For more information about the cost of business licences in your area, visit your local authority’s website.

You can also visit our business licence support database here. The database gets regular updates to keep in line with evolving regulatory standards.

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