Economic Development Resource

Three Steps to Securing Your Retail Future

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For the past decade, our team at Retail Strategies has partnered with communities across the country to take a proactive approach to retail recruitment, placemaking, and supporting local businesses. COVID-19 has changed the way that retailers can operate, adjusted how consumers purchase goods and services, and created new challenges for communities and their marketplaces.  


The Good News

Throughout the U.S., our communities depend on retail and restaurants to provide quality of life, essential amenities that help attract and retain industry, jobs, and sales taxes that fund municipal operations.

The good news is that the retail make-up of most communities in secondary and tertiary markets includes categories that reported year-over-year sales percentage increase during pandemic months such as grocery, general merchandise, fast food and home improvement. Compounded by people staying at home and online sales tax collections, rural communities are faring better than their neighboring major metropolitan neighbors.

As community leaders you have to be forward-thinking and always have a plan. With the multiplying effect of retail’s recent evolution and the impacts of COVID-19, it is imperative that you take these three steps:

1

Support Your Marketplace:

Shop local


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There are many signs that our collective efforts to combat COVID-19 are working, however, businesses are not out of the woods yet. It is critical is to be creative and identify ways of supporting the businesses open and operating in your market.

You should begin Strategic Planning for reimagining public spaces (e.g. downtown, retail nodes, interior core) in a safe and economically productive way. Implementing placemaking tactics to the existing environment such as design and streetscape enhancements, tourism opportunities, and policy measures will help businesses thrive. Tools and resources to place in the hands of small business owners, such as training for how to sell online, will be critical for adaptation in this new ever-changing world of e-commerce.

To Do:

Begin by making the best use of public space. Do you have parking spaces on your Main Street that aren’t in demand due to current conditions? Consider designing a “streetery” or street deck to provide additional outdoor dining spaces that can be shared by adjacent restaurants.

Next, cities should be flexible as it relates to policy. Relaxing regulations regarding temporary patios, sidewalk cafes and outdoor retail expansions so businesses can create more space for their customers in alignment with CDC guidelines, are measures that will support your local businesses and give consumers the confidence they need to return to the marketplace.

 Finally, get creative. Back alleys that are currently cluttered and not well-utilized can be cleaned-up and repurposed for outdoor seating and gathering spaces with overhead string lighting. Walk-up windows for retail or quick service food pick-up, and even queuing and pick-up lanes temporarily designated for pedestrians on existing sidewalks will provide piece of mind for shoppers, which ultimately supports local business.

2

Restore Your Marketplace


For your community, you want to be the driving force for positive change and coming out of this pandemic stronger than ever. From a retail perspective, closures create an opportunity to maximize properties and recruit businesses that bolster the goods and services offered in the community. This process will involve backfilling vacancies, assisting property owners, and making outreach to targeted businesses to secure interest and potential openings in the community.

Further, if you have a downtown, square, Main Street, or a place in town you’d like to be your entrepreneurial hub – invest in placemaking. National retailers can pay premiums to be on your best intersections and highways, but local entrepreneurs need to occupy spaces in more “rent friendly” areas.

To Do:

First, develop a list of available real estate within your marketplace. Reach out to those property owners to see how you can help. Second, create a realistic prospect list of businesses, or types of businesses, that are missing and/or would fit your community. When you identify a prospective business, look at the real estate within your marketplace to match up where that businesses would fit.

3

Invest in Your Marketplace


Recruiting new businesses and supporting local businesses is an ongoing effort and a constant commitment. As a local government leader, you need to ensure that your community is investing appropriate time and resources to achieving this goal.

This can include regular updates to your commercial real estate inventory, investing ins sources to understand how your trade area is evolving, taking inventory of need and always know the businesses you need to attract, and developing a process to make your local businesses stronger.

I can guarantee you that many businesses have reviewed your market and said “no” for a reason that you could answer easily. It is important that you take control of your future and drive conversations with businesses that maximize your marketplace. By doing this, you can attract complimentary businesses that do not cannibalize but maximize your marketplace making everyone stronger and creating long-term success.

To Do:

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Make supporting and recruiting businesses a priority. Engage stakeholders in this dialogue to get their feedback and ensure they understand this is a commitment you are making to enhance your community. Be persistent and know that this effort takes a major time commitment, but it will position yourself for success in the future.

Get Started!

The most important thing you can do as a city leader is to get started in your community. Having a plan and steps to execute on your plan will multiply the retail in your community. Retail Strategies has worked with communities all over the country and are available to discuss the needs of your community.

sarah beth thornton

Sarah Beth Thornton
256.679.7431
sthornton@retailstrategies.com

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