Your community’s retail strategy can be proactive or reactive. A reactive strategy means that you evaluate businesses as they show interest in your community, rather than having your economic development team seek them out. Even if your community is in the enviable position of having the attention of the businesses you want to attract, is usually still makes sense to have a proactive strategy to ensure that you shape the type of environment desired by your residents and visitors.
On paper, your goals sound simple: position your town or city as a great place to do business. Present data that retail chains find useful and insightful (and make sure that data is enticing enough to encourage those retailers to do their own homework about you). And of course, attract the best retail to increase your tax base and boost the quality-of-life factor for your residents.
The questions are…
- How do we best accomplish those goals?
- Do we do it alone or with help from the outside?
- What does it really cost to do it right?
Retailers Need Information…but Maybe Not the Information You Think
Historically, communities have produced elaborate reports detailing pages of facts and demographics about their trade area. They’ve expected retailers to wade through those documents to find the nuggets of information they need to evaluate whether the community is somewhere they should consider for their brand.
Yes, retailers need credible data about your community to decide whether yours is one that interests them (and more importantly, fits their criteria for expansion). But here’s the truth: When it comes to planning an effective retail recruitment strategy and amount of data, it’s more important to focus on quality not quantity. Here are a few tips on how to maximize your retail recruiting budget (by focusing on the factors that retailers care most about):
Offer data that will entice them to dig deeper.
Any chain business that is looking to add their next location in your community will have a process for determining if you are the right fit for them. Your job is to offer them compelling data that might encourage them to further explore your community. But don’t worry—you do not need to do their jobs for them.
Focus on the facts.
Don’t spend lots of time and money developing a lengthy narrative and sales presentation. Retail real estate departments are too busy to read a novel about your community. This is your community’s resume and they will quickly scan the key facts to see if you are worth evaluating further. What national and regional chains are looking for are the facts: key demographics, why you feel your community is a good fit for them – often by showing them how your community is similar to other projects they’ve completed, and how their business will fill a gap or need. This is good news for you because it simplifies what you actually need to provide them. Scrap the long story about your community and stick to the credible data. That’s what they really want.
Have realistic expectations.
Do your homework and focus on your true potential. That’s the kind of credible data that retailers are seeking. Once you do that, target retailers that are a good fit for your community. For example, if you’re a small community, you don’t want to waste time chasing a Costco or a Whole Foods, when these companies almost exclusively locate in larger markets.
You can do your own retail recruiting.
There are firms out there that will gladly charge tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a site selection platform and consulting services with the promise that they have connections with certain retailers. So, if you want a Target in your community, they can help you get one. Reality check: retail chains know markets. They have their own teams focused on site selection. The firm you hire and/or tool you use will not make or break a retail chain’s decision to locate in your community. What matters most is that you provide solid data and are easy to work with. You need tools that help you 1) identify realistic retail possibilities for your community and 2) prepare useful information to give to those retailers that will move your town to the top of their list of markets to evaluate.
Retail recruitment is an important process. You want to market your community the best way possible and attract great retail that makes your town an even better place to live. However, rest assured that you will not be put at a disadvantage if you don’t fork over big bucks.
All you really need to attract retailers is a powerful location decision platform for running analytics, the ability to create tailored recruiting packages through that platform, and an understanding of what retail companies use to evaluate communities like yours. Armed with the right information and tools, you can create a solid retail recruiting process.