Major Overhaul of Existing Shopify Store in a Development Environment

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I have researched throughout the forums here and am just looking to make sure I have my head around this.

I am trying to help with a major overhaul of an existing live shopify store that will require changes to the theme, the way product/inventory is managed via several apps, and changes to how "products" and "collections" function accordingly.

I have access to the store's backend, but implementing a solution that modifies inventory control in a live environment could be catastrophic.

What I WANT to do:

  1. Completely duplicate the existing store, products & apps and set them up in a development environment via the Partner program's "Development Store" tool.
  2. Install apps via the Shopify App Store into the Development/Partner store so that I can understand how they can be configured to meet our needs.
  3. Make all of the adjustments to themes, app settings, etc in the dev environment until we are sure we like how the store looks & functions
  4. Export the "Development Store" back to the existing store and launch.

From the best of my research, this is what I am finding:

  1. I cannot directly "duplicate" an existing store. I can export products via CSV & import to dev, I can download the existing theme files & upload to dev, but I cannot migrate navs/apps and everything else that would actually duplicate everything. I would have to manually duplicate every setting to make sure things look/feel right.
  2. In the new "demo store" I have created as a "development store" via the Partner program, I cannot install the apps that are on the LIVE store without selecting a plan and starting to pay for a new account & app license. So, essentially I cannot test app store functionality that we need to, therefore making the purpose of a dev store obsolete for what I am trying to accomplish.
  3. There is no direct tool offered by Shopify to accomplish what I am trying to do. I can make a NEW store & transfer ownership, I can make tweaks to a live store's theme etc and then publish, but... not what I'm after.

I have consulted many discussion forums trying to find a solution to this. This article informed much of this: .

What am I missing? This seems like a very blatant miss, but over the half decade I've been working within the shopify environment this seems like par for the course.

Without further guidance here, it seems like my only option is to:

  1. Make as many adjustments to the theme files as I can in the existing live store using the "preview" functionality.
  2. Install the "Apps" to accomplish our needs in the store in the middle of the night, do my best to make sure I've correctly set everything up between 2 & 6 am, call the store owner in 6:30am to preview everything before customers land on the site. If anything does not work by 6:30am, close the store for the day and not sleep until its fixedd.

The above just seems, well, absurd.

Thank you in advance for any help on this!