How to open a sports shop in Germany

updated on 27. September 2021 10 minutes reading time
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Thinking about opening a sports shop? has all the information you need about legal company forms, business registration, business plans and the possibility of entering into a franchise to secure the success of your new business.

There are many ways to go about becoming self-employed by opening a sports shop. In general, you can start from scratch with a new concept or opt for a tried-and-tested business system by opening a branch of an existing franchise. If you choose to open a new business, you should ask yourself if it would be best to offer a broad range of products from sportswear to bicycles to ski equipment, or if you’d like to specialise in one or more types of sports. If you decide to enter into a franchise, you’ll need to take additional steps when establishing your business. This guide will take you from your idea all the way to a business plan.

What legal company form best suits my sports shop idea?

Before you become self-employed in the retail industry, you must first decide what legal company form is best for your business model. Company forms don’t only differ in terms of liability and share capital – they are taxed differently as well. You should, therefore, choose a legal form carefully, especially since you could be required to invest much of your own private equity, depending on which form you select.

Opening a sports shop as a GmbH

To form a GmbH, you need €25,000 in share capital.

Advantage: Since GmbHs are highly regarded both within Germany and abroad, you’ll be able to enjoy certain advantages as a founder when it comes to banks and lenders.

Liability: A GmbH is a type of limited liability company – only the company’s assets are at risk.

Opening a sports shop as a UG (haftungsbeschränkt)

A UG is a special type of GmbH and is well suited for founders with limited capital who still wish to form a company with limited liability.

Advantage: You can form a UG with a small amount of share capital; just one euro is enough to get started.

Liability: Like a GmbH, only a UG’s business assets are at risk.

Opening a sports shop as a sole proprietorship

Establish a sole proprietorship is relatively easy and exempts you from the obligation to maintain a balance sheet.

Advantage: You aren’t required to make a capital contribution to establish a sole proprietorship.

Liability: As a sole proprietor, your personal assets are at risk.

Opening a sports shop as a GbR

A GbR is a great option for founders looking to open a sports shop without investing a lot of capital or dealing with a lot of bureaucracy.

Advantage: You don’t need share capital or a notary to establish a GbR.

Liability: As a founder of a GbR, your personal assets are at risk.

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Commercially registering your sports shop

Registering your business

No matter which legal company form you choose, you are required to register your retail business in the commercial registry. Your local trade office will automatically notify the appropriate IHK (Chamber of Industry and Commerce, or Industrie– und Handelskammer in German) and tax office. Afterwards, you’ll receive correspondence from your tax office regarding tax registration.

Get educated about business registration in Germany in our articles Registering your GbR: An overview of the Gewerbeanmeldung process and Registering a GmbH or UG: Here’s how!

Business registration in Berlin (downloadable form)
Business registration in Hamburg (downloadable form)
Business registration in Munich (downloadable form)
Business registration in Cologne (downloadable form)
Business registration in Frankfurt (downloadable form).

Registering your sports shop in the commercial registry

If you decide to form a GmbH or UG, you are required to register your company in the commercial registry (Handelsregister). The same holds true even if you decide to proceed as a sole proprietor (Einzelunternehmer) or e.K. (registered merchant, or eingetragener Kaufmann in German).

Opening a sports shop: IHK

Your trade office will inform the IHK, or the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, of your new business. The IHK will contact you automatically. A membership with the appropriate IHK is mandatory.

Trade insurance institutions for sports retailers

As carriers of German statutory accident insurance, trade insurance institutions (BGs, or Berufsgenossenschaften) are responsible for you and your employees. A membership with the appropriate trade insurance institution is mandatory. The German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the trade and logistics industry (BGHW, or Berufsgenossenschaft für Handel und Warenlogistik) is responsible for retail businesses.

Federal associations for sports retailers

Memberships in any relevant federal associations (Bundesverbände) are optional but recommended. Federal associations, such as the German Sports Retailers’ Association (Verband Deutscher Sportfachhandel e.V.), advocate for your interests and those of your industry.

Expertise: What do I need to know before opening a sports shop?

You don’t need any professional qualifications to open your own sports shop. However, it is recommended to undergo training (Ausbildung) in the retail field. You should also possess plenty of business knowledge so that you can realise your business plan. If you don’t have either, it would be advisable to wait until you have several years of retail experience, ideally in a management position. It would also be wise to attend a founders’ seminar, which the IHK offers regularly. If you want to be able to offer your customers competent advice based on practical experience, sports should be your hobby and your passion.

What should my sports shop business plan include?

A professional business plan is required for any founder of a new business. In the retail industry, you will most likely have to rely on investors whose support is essential for opening a business in the first place. To gain their support, you’ll have to be able to win them over with a well-thought-out business plan and business concept. The same goes for franchisors. If your business plan is unconvincing, you will most likely be rejected as a franchisee. You should, therefore, be prepared to put plenty of time and effort into your business plan.

Your business plan should include the following points:
  • Market analysis, location analysis, target demographic: Take a close look at the market and competition around your preferred location. Is the market already saturated? Are there established sports shops in the area already? Who do I want to target as potential customers? What does my target demographic look like? Is my target location easily accessible for my target demographic and for passing customers?
  • Product range, additional offers, marketing: Consider what products you’d like to offer and if you’d rather specialise or take advantage of the entire sports spectrum. You should also think about additional offers. What customer retention strategies would you like to implement? How will you advertise your sports shop? How much of your budget are you going to dedicate to marketing?


Start-up alternative: Sporting goods franchises

Franchising is also an interesting option for opening a business in the sporting goods retail industry. As franchisors, companies like Intersport or Sport 2000 offer founders a tried-and-tested business model with a proven strategy for successful branch establishment. As a franchisee, you would receive support during and after the opening of your branch. For more information, take a look at our guide on establishing a franchise business  (German article).

Checklist for retail entrepreneurs

Our guide to opening a business contains important questions for entrepreneurs to consider, information on qualifications, notes on the legal framework governing retail businesses and a look at the future of the industry.

Which legal form suits you? connects you with the right expert to get advice on your business idea.

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