Running multiple Magento stores on one install.



  • This assumes a standard LAMP setup. In our case, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, Apache 2, MySQL 5 and PHP 5.3.
  • It’s necessary to create some symlinks on the filesystem, so you’ll need access to do that. You don’t really want to be trying to run Magento on a shared host anyway, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
  • The stores are on different domains, although the principles are the same if it’s a subdomain, subfolder or other configuration.

Magento is powerful and flexible, but not terribly well documented, so figuring out the best way to accomplish something can take some digging and some experimentation. I needed to set up two stores to run off the same Magento installation as two catalogues (one a subset of the other) from the same retailer.

There are two broad approaches:

  • A single VirtualHost with aliases for the various domains, with logic added to the root index.php to decide which store to load.
  • A VirtualHost for each domain, linked to one core Magento installation.

I took the multiple VirtualHosts approach, as it seemed a little more logical to me (a matter of taste, really). It has the advantage of each domain having its own .htaccess, which might be handy if you’re doing other things alongside Magento.

When running multiple stores from one Magento instance, they all share the same back office and catalogue. Once you set up a second website, store or view then anywhere they need to differentiate the option appears to use the default config or to apply a site- store- or view-specific setting. This means that themes and extensions for the various stores all live together.

A side note: websites, stores and views

You’ll need to decide whether your new store is a whole new website or a new store of the same website. Broadly speaking, from the point of view of what the customer sees:

  • Websites are separate entities
  • Stores are distinct but share customer accounts and shopping carts
  • Views may be the same store in a different language or layout

Although that’s pretty configurable. Websites can be set to share customer accounts, for example. And, again, they’ll all share the same admin and catalogue.

In this case, we went for two distinct websites.

The method

  1. Create a new root category for your new website. You can put a full category tree under it and add products to the categories.

  2. In the control panel, go to System > Manage Shops and create a new website, then shop for that website and view for that shop. Take note of the code you assign to the website - you’ll need it later. Assign your newly-created root category to the new store.

  3. Create a new VirtualHost for the new website. Note that the Magento files will need to be accessible to PHP from this VirtualHost, so pay attention to any restrictions on your server.

  4. In the new VirtualHost block, you need to set two environmental variables:
    SetEnv MAGE_RUN_CODE "your_new_website_code"
    SetEnv MAGE_RUN_TYPE "website"
    If doing this in the VirtualHost is a problem, your server configuration may allow you to do it in the .htaccess file below.

  5. Copy index.php from the document root of the existing site to the document root of the new site. Find and modify the following variables to point to the files in the Magento installation:
    • $compilerConfig
    • $mageFilename
  6. Copy .htaccess from the existing document root to that of the new site. Check it for any hostname-specific rules that have been added, and modify them as necessary.

  7. Create symlinks of the following folders in the existing site’s document root to the same locations in the new site’s document root:
    • app
    • errors
    • includes
    • js
    • lib
    • media
    • skin
    • var

    For example, ln -s /path/to/existing/document/root/app /path/to/new/document/root/app.

  8. In the control panel, go to System > Configuration > Web, select hte new website from the dropdown in the top-left corner, uncheck Use Default by the Unsecure and Secure Base URLs, then correct the URLs set to those of your new website.

  9. Reindex everything.

  10. Optionally set the theme for the new site under System > Configuration > Design.

  11. Job done.

If, after doing this, the home page of the new website is showing a default Magento 404, then check that the code for the new website is set exactly the same in the control panel and in the server environment variable. A typo in the control panel setting lost me 45 minutes. That was frustrating.

Also note that as we’ve edited a core file or two (index.php and maybe .htaccess), keep an eye on them if you upgrade your Magento instance.