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Building Trust As A Core Value Is Key To Healthy Public/Private Partnerships

A public/private partnership might be just what your city needs to catalyze economic development and growth. These partnerships offer a win-win situation for both parties. The public party gets funding for public infrastructure and retail growth, while the private party gets incentives that let them expand into a new market. If everything goes as planned, both parties get substantial benefits from the arrangement.

When you’re involved in setting up a public/private partnership, building trust between the two parties is essential. Without trust as a core value it will be very difficult to work together and achieve the goals of your partnership. Here are a few tips for building a foundation of trust that will make your partnership work.

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Honest Communication

Opening up communication channels between the public and private partners is a key first-step toward trust. Good communication in the early stages of negotiation lays the groundwork for a successful partnership. Also, having good communication habits in place will help keep the partnership on-track in the future.

Don’t hide things from your partner. Problems shared early on can be handled together, building trust in the partner’s ability to be honest and work-through difficulties. Communication between the partners should also include discussing goals, exchanging ideas, and finding common ground.

Follow-Through On Commitments

Parties start building trust in each other’s interests, qualifications, and diligence early in the selection process. Finding an appropriate partner can be a challenge. Each side will be giving the other partner a chance to demonstrate their qualifications and commitment and then seeing whether or not they follow through with what they promise.

No one is going to trust a potential partner if they don’t follow-through on their commitments. Once the partners clearly communicate what they expect from the other, both have to live up to those expectations. That includes showing up on time for scheduled meetings, completing agreed upon tasks, and continuing to work toward mutual success.

Cultivate Understanding

Communication and commitment stay vital to the success of the partnership after papers are signed and development starts. As you continue building connection between partners, you should be developing a relationship based on trust as well as shared goals. Both parties need to agree upon performance measurements and hold themselves accountable to those measurements.

Each partner needs to act honestly and in good faith as the partnership continues. And they should be able to trust that the other party is doing the same. It’s vital that both sides continue working to understand the other’s goals and perspectives.

Don’t Forget Stakeholders

Building trust in a public/private partnership isn’t just about the relationship between the two partners. You also want other stakeholders and the public to trust the partnership has their best interests as a core goal. To do this, you’ll need a high degree of transparency and a commitment to present realistic expectations. Exaggerating or misrepresenting the project’s goals might increase support at first,but it will back-fire. Be sure you can follow-through on promised goals.

Whether you’re just getting started looking for a public/private partnership or you’re ready to set one up, Retail Attractions can help. We have years of experience working with both public and private partners and we have the skills needed to help your partnership become a successful one. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help. If you need work with public-private partnerships, you’ll probably also like my book, City on a Hill. Click here to get a copy.

New Retail Growth Is Still Happening In Spite Of The “Retailpocalypse”

We’ve all been hearing about retail closings that are sweeping our nation. It’s a “retail apocalypse” with record-breaking closings in 2017 and 2018 on track to set a new record. But the news isn’t all bad. There are still certain retail categories that are growing and several brands are opening new stores. Here’s a look at the type of retail development that’s continuing to thrive in spite of the retailpocalypse.

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Small-Format Stores

With so many customers shopping online now, quite a few retailers are switching to small-format brick-and-mortar stores. These stores support the online shopping experience and give customers a chance to check out the products in-person. They act as a hub for in-store pickup, easy returns, and local delivery. Target, one of the few retailers actually expanding in 2018, expects to open 35 of these small-format stores this year.

Discount Sector

Off-price stores continued to expand even during the record-breaking closings of last year. Discount brands like T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s and HomeGoods are thriving. Dollar General and other dollar store are expanding all across the US. And deep-discount stores like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet are also opening new stores. These aren’t just small-format stores either. They’re moving into large retail spaces that are new or newly vacant.

High-End Retail

At the other end of the spectrum, the high-end retail sector is also growing. Brands that started off online like Birchbox, Bonobos, Brilliant Earth, and Warby Parker are starting to open brick-and-mortar stores for the first time. The information gathered from their online customers lets them target retail expansion to locations where they already have a customer base. The ability to zero in on their best markets makes expansion a less-risky prospect for these retailers.

Grocery

Even though more and more websites offer online shopping for groceries, these sites still can’t beat a grocery store for convenience. People want to inspect their produce before they purchase it and they want to make sure their perishable items don’t spoil in shipping. They might buy some items online, but brick-and-mortar grocery stores aren’t going away any time soon.

Restaurants

Another category that will continue growing is restaurants. In fact, restaurants are so popular that they can anchor other forms of retail. Some former shopping centers in Seattle, New York, and Denver are finding success with food-themed malls. Restaurants and specialty groceries act as the main draw to these shopping centers, attracting customers to other types of retail as well.

Whether you’re a community hoping to attract new retail growth or a retailer looking for the best place to expand, Retail Attractions can help. We have extensive experience working with developers and cities to create the best possible outcome for all interested parties. Contact us today to learn more.

Things To Consider When Negotiating a Fair Deal Structure in Public-Private Partnerships

Whenever you’re negotiating a contract, you want to get a fair deal. And so does the group you’re negotiating with. “Fairness” is a subjective term, though. It’s going to mean something different to different people. If you want to negotiate a fair deal structure for a public/private retail development partnership, it’s going to take some extra effort.

So how do you go about making sure that all parties are reasonably satisfied? Keep reading to find out.

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A Fair Deal

Each party in a public/private partnership is invested in the outcome of the deal and has a stake in upholding the transaction documents. In a fair deal, they’ll be reasonably certain of achieving the outcomes both agreed on. Both sides accept the risks as well as the rewards and acknowledge there’s a fair balance between the two.

The public and private side each contribute to making sure the deal stays fair. The private side takes financial risks expecting to reap significant rewards on that investment. The public side balances that investment by providing infrastructure, incentives, and other resources. And they’re expecting to receive a return on the investment as well in the form of employment opportunities, an improved sales tax base, available services, and other public benefits.

A Foundation For Fairness

It’s pretty much inevitable that a public/private partnership will hit a few rough patches during the course of your retail development deal. You can make things easier down the road by laying a foundation early-on that supports your goal of maintaining a fair deal structure. Both parties need to do their homework and evaluate the risks and returns offered on both sides.

Don’t just leave negotiations up to the lawyers. The more involved each side is during the negotiation, the better you’ll be able to ensure you’re creating a fair deal. Open communication and shared information go a long way toward cultivating the mutual trust needed to maintain a fair partnership.

A Need For Counsel

While it’s vital that both parties stay involved when negotiating the deal, they can also benefit from an outside perspective. Public/private partnerships involve a wide variety of technical and legal details. So you’ll want to hire someone with the expertise to make sure everything goes smoothly. It’s better to take a little extra time and bring in an expert than to rush into a deal only to find out later that it wasn’t as fair as you both thought.

Retail Attractions provides a much-needed perspective on partnership negotiation. We have extensive experience with retail development details. We’ll help you make sure the deal you work-out benefits both parties. With our knowledge of the retail development process, we can advise both public and private parties as they negotiate and compromise to develop the best possible contract. To learn more, contact us and check out the book City On A Hill.

Here’s Why You Should Work On Your Municipal Infrastructure Before Starting Retail Development

Retailers do extensive research and analysis to make sure they’ve found a good location before deciding to build in a town or city. You can help your community stand-out in these searches by meeting their requirements for retail development sites. One of the best ways to do this is by focusing on developing your municipal infrastructure.

Having the right municipal infrastructure in place is a huge advantage when marketing your community. Retailers will be much more eager to work with a community that’s proactive. If they see you have an actionable plan to upgrade infrastructure and handle the increased demands of retail development, they’ll see you’re serious about working with them.

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Plan Your City Systems

If you’re ready with plans for improved traffic flow and public transportation, that might just be the thing that catches a retail developer’s eye. Retailers want to see that your city is prepared to make new retail developments easily accessible. They’ll also be looking at available properties to make sure they’re the right size and in a good location to attract traffic from local and out-of-town customers.

Retailers also want to know that the city infrastructure can handle an increased demand on water, sewage, electrical, communication, and other systems. They won’t want to deal with construction delays or other problems that might come up if your city isn’t ready to expand.

Reexamine City Ordinances

It’s also a good idea to take a look at city ordinances and zoning that will affect retailers. These include rules governing parking, landscaping, signage, and lighting. Making things easy for incoming retailers can go a long way toward convincing them to build in your town.

Another thing to reexamine is your review and approval process. Retailers are not going to want to mess with a lengthy approvals process for permits. The more simple and easy to understand your approval process is, the more attractive working with your community will be.

Get Some Help

Retail Attractions provides general municipal consulting services to growing communities. We offer services that will help you develop:

  • Local or regional comprehensive plans
  • Water, stormwater and sewer master plans
  • Transportation/traffic flow master plans
  • Technology master plans
  • Zoning master plans
  • Parking, lighting, sign, and landscaping ordinances

Once your community has a plan for developing a healthy infrastructure, Retail Attractions can help you come up with a plan that will entice retail development to your community. If you want to learn more, just get in touch with us through this link.

If you found this article useful, then you’ll probably also like my book City on a Hill. It gives a no-nonsense take on economic development that’s really helpful for cities just getting started with their retail development plans.

Early and Frequent Communication Is Key To Developing Public/Private Partnerships

If you’re going to get a public-private partnership off to a good start, communication is essential. The more you can open up and use communication channels between each partner the more successful your partnership will be. Good communication lays the groundwork for a successful partnership, and building effective communication habits will also help keep the partnership on-track in the future.

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Communication Between Partners

Public-private partnerships are complex things which often involve large groups of people. Without a plan for achieving effective communication within this partnership, the partnership can crumble. Because of this, communication is key to getting both parties working as a team.

Internal communications should include shared partnership objectives. Partners should discuss their goals and find common ground that will help them develop and agree on ways to reach those goals. Good communication allows the exchange of ideas, information, and needs that is required to support effective decision making within the partnership.

Communication Outside The Partnership

Both public and private partners should also prepare for communicating about the partnership to those outside it. Good communication within the partnership is an essential first-step for this. You don’t want different parties disagreeing with each other publicly. Make sure you’re keeping all spokespersons for the partnership up-to-date on what’s going on so they can deliver a consistent message.

External communication with stakeholders, investors, public officials, the local community, and the media isn’t something you can afford to overlook. When your partnership cultivates a transparent, honest approach through community outreach and communication, you’re taking a big step toward ensuring continued support for the project. Just don’t make the mistake of over-communicating. For example, if you announce a plan to purchase land before the deal is finalized it could drive-up land prices in that area.

Get Help With Your Communications

Because good communication is so important to the success of public-private partnerships, it’s not something you want to leave to chance. A trusted third-party consultant like Retail Attractions can help. We have extensive experience working with both public and private parties. And we know how to foster good communication within a public-private partnership.

A Retail Consultant helps you navigate the confusing world of retail development effectively. We can help with strategic planning, site selection, demographics analysis, and so much more. And since we’ll be sharing the same information with both the public and private partner, that’ll help with communication.

If you need to work with public-private partnerships, you’ll probably like my book, City on a Hill. It’s full of helpful information for everyone working on retail development in a community.

How Do I Fill Vacant Retail Space? 3 Good Ideas For Bringing In New Tenants

2017 saw record-breaking retail closings, and it looks like 2018 could break that record again. CoStar Group calculated that more than 90 million square feet of retail space is set to close in 2018. This number is easily on-track to pass the 2017 record of 105 million square feet.

As more and more stores close down, it’s leaving empty retail spaces across the nation. This “retail apocalypse” is hitting landlords hard and leaving them with a big question: “How do I fill these vacant spaces?”

The obvious first choice is to find new long-term retail tenants. But that’s not always an option in today’s economy. In many cases, filling your empty retail spaces requires some creative thinking.

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Rent To Pop-Ups

Pop-up stores rent retail space temporarily, often for just a few months. Holiday retailers who set up in the months around Halloween or Christmas are a classic example. Another is tax-preparation companies opening for a couple months before April. New businesses might also lease space temporarily to try out a market before committing to a long-term lease.

Rent is typically lower for month-to-month agreements, but it’s often better than leaving your space empty. If you’re going to rent to temporary tenants, it’s important to have basic infrastructure in place. Pop-up shops want a space with restroom, Wi-Fi, heating/air conditioning, and lighting already in place. A neutral color scheme is also a good idea so incoming tenants can personalize things how they want.

Non-Traditional Tenants

Retail space is typically in a convenient location and has readily available parking. Those two attributes can make your vacant spaces a good choice for non-traditional tenants. Day-cares, churches, community clinics, and cultural groups might be interested in your space if they know you have something available.

Renting to clients that aren’t retailers might have an added bonus. The extra traffic can make surrounding vacant spaces more attractive to retail clients, and boost sales for retailers already in the area. There’s one case in Fort Lauderdale, FL, where a theater rented rehearsal space in an upscale shopping center. This boosted sales in surrounding stores and the new location also brought more publicity to the theater. Now, the 3-year lease is turning into a permanent arrangement.

Rethink Retail Space

A long-term solution to vacant retail space could involve changing how you present the retail space. If you had a large store move out, it might be easier to rent if you sub-divide it and market the new spaces to small businesses. And if you’re responsible for a larger retail complex with multiple vacant stores, shifting your marketing focus might help. Some former shopping centers in Seattle, New York, and Denver are finding success with food-themed malls. Other locations are shifting to mixed-use and renting our former retail stores as office space.

If you found this article useful, then you’ll probably like my book, City on a Hill. It gives a no-nonsense take on economic development. Click here to check it out. And if you’re looking for expert advice on how to market your vacant retail spaces, get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to help out.

Answering Questions About Leadership In Public/Private Partnerships

One of the more popular ways to start a new retail development project is to enter into a public/private partnership. This type of partnership exists between a city government (the public party) and a retailer or developer (the private party). Public/private partnerships are built on the idea of shared control between private parties and city governments as they work together toward a retail development goal.

In order to achieve their goals, public/private partnerships need consistent, coordinated leadership. Whether it’s an individual or a small group, good leadership in a public/private partnership is essential to keeping everything moving forward as planned.

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What does a leader do?

In a public/private partnership, the leader is responsible for defining clear goals and keeping the project moving toward those goals. They’ll help bring the right parties to the table, act as the bridge between private project managers and political leaders, and give other stakeholders a forum to share their thoughts on the project. They’re also working to coordinate the development process and keep everyone on-point.

The most effective leadership for public/private partnership isn’t a top-down approach where the leader’s just giving orders. A project like this needs a leader who facilitates and inspires others to keep moving toward shared goals. The leader acts as a point person, getting everyone involved in the project together and then following through with them until the project is completed.

Where do you find public/private leaders?

You’ll need to find someone that both parties agree on as the leader. The last thing you want is for a leadership choice to cause fighting between the two groups. Keeping with the idea of sharing control, it might be a good idea to appoint one representative from each group. Then they can jointly act as project leaders.

You’ll also want to plan for the possibility that leadership could change during the course of the partnership. Many political leaders, for example, are replaced after a 2- or 4-year term. You’ll need a plan for transcending political and administrative changes. That’ll help ensure the new leaders have the same commitment and goals as before so the project can keep moving forward without unnecessary restructuring.

How do you lay the groundwork for effective leadership?

Even the best leader can’t do much good if the groundwork for your public/private partnership is shaky. Take the time early on in the process to prepare for public/private partnerships. Make sure both parties do their homework and establish a solid foundation for good decision making in the partnership.

One of the best things you can do early on in the process of creating a retail development partnership is to bring in a retail expert. Here at Retail Attractions, we have extensive experience helping communities and developers come together in partnerships that benefit both parties. We can help you lay a solid foundation for your retail development goals and we’ll work with leaders to ensure your project reaches completion. Get in touch with us today to get started.

What Do Record-Breaking Retail Closings Mean For Your Community?

As of mid-April, various companies are set to vacate more than 90 million square feet of retail space in 2018. This new number comes in the wake of department store chain Bon-Ton being forced into liquidation. RadioShack, Payless ShoeSource, and Toys “R” Us have also filed for bankruptcy protection. And other companies are scaling back their U.S. presence, including Rite Aid, Subway, and Best Buy.

Suzanne Mulvee, a senior real estate strategist at commercial real estate services firm CoStar, predicts Bon-Ton won’t be the last company announcing new closings this year. This doesn’t mean all physical stores are going away, but it does represent a massive shift in the retail industry.

So what does the “retail apocalypse” mean for you? Whether you’re a retailer trying to figure out how and where to build or a city that’s relying on retail growth, Retail Attractions can help you answer this question.

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More Space Available

The retail closings are going to free up large amounts of retail space. Some property owners see this as a good opportunity to fill the spaces with more profitable tenants. But with so much space available, getting new businesses moved in is going to be highly competitive. Communities and property owners will need to know how to market their retail spaces in a competitive market.

Cautious Expansion

After having seen so many retailers go under, other retailers and restaurants are going to be much more cautious when expanding into new areas. And that means it’s going to take a great amount of initiative and a well-planned strategy to recruit them for your community.

Another way that retailers are expanding more cautiously is by opening small-format stores. The smaller stores let customers experience the products in-person but focus on being a hub for in-store pickup, easy returns, and local delivery. Target, one of the few retailers actually expanding in 2018, expects to open 35 of these small-format stores this year.

Two Categories Still Growing

Rickey Hayes, the founder of Retail Attractions, says, “Two categories that will continue to grow [are] restaurants and groceries.” Even though there are online sites getting in on grocery sales and delivery services that bring the ingredients for quick meal-prep to your door, they still can’t beat the physical locations for convenience. People want to inspect their produce before they purchase it and make sure their perishable items don’t spoil in shipping. And if you don’t want to cook there’s no way to beat the convenience of a restaurant.

Search For Better Data

If you’re a retailer looking for smart ways to expand in today’s retail landscape, you’re going to need access to better data for finding emerging markets. The dynamics of retail have changed. And figuring out exactly how that plays-in to your business isn’t easy to do on your own. That’s one area where Retail Attractions can be a huge asset for your business.

Here at Retail Attractions, we’re keeping a close eye on the emerging trends in retail. Whether you’re a community looking to attract retail or a retailer wondering how to move forward, you need someone with a wider view who is able to accurately predict what comes next. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get through the retailpocalypse.

What Does It Mean For All Parties In A Public-Private Partnership To Do Their Homework?

If you want to create a successful public/private partnership in a retail deal, it’s important that both sides do their homework. Whether you’re the public partner or the private partner, you’ll need to make sure that you’re preparing for the deal and that your partner is also doing their part to make sure that this deal goes smoothly.

Preparation before you sign a deal can make a world of difference in whether or not both parties consider the partnership successful. Both partners must be ready to invest in the project long-term and make a commitment to staying informed about their project for as long as the partnership continues.

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It’s Not All About The Prep-Work

You’re not going to go into a deal without due-diligence to make sure that it’s a good idea. But do you know it’s also important to keep “doing your homework” as the project progresses?

Both partners need to go into the project with a good understanding of what is involved. And they also need to stay informed throughout their partnership. Whether you’re the public or private partner, you have to commit to staying informed about all the financial, social, and technical aspects of the project.

Sharing Your Information

As you’re gathering information about the project, you don’t want to keep it all to yourself. Both sides of the partnership should be doing their homework and sharing that information with each other. Retail development is a complicated process and good communication is essential to keep things moving forward.

Clarity and transparency should mark every stage of the partnership. And if you bring in a consultant like Retail Attractions, you should also share the work that they do. Your consultant can also help you come up with an information-sharing strategy that works for your partnership.

Communicate About Finances

Before you enter a partnership, you’ll need to do your homework regarding a joint financing plan. You’ll also want to find out about any limitations on your partner. For example, if you’re the private partner and you’re depending on public funding you might need to have a backup plan in case of budget cuts, administration changes, or emergencies that are outside your partner’s control.

Public/private partnerships allow for quite a bit of creativity in funding retail development. Both parties should be researching funding solutions and sharing their ideas with their partner. Once again, this is an area where a retail consultant can be a big help. They have experience working out development deals like yours and can offer suggestions for funding.


If you’re ready to get some help doing your homework when preparing for or while in a public/private partnership, get in touch with us. Retail Attractions has extensive experience working with both public and private partners. And we’re ready to help you develop a retail deal partnership that will benefit both parties.

A Small Town’s Guide To Attracting And Retaining Millennials

The exodus of young people from rural to urban areas can take quite a toll on the population of a small town, or even one of the smaller cities. But even though Millennials (a group that includes anyone born between 1981 and 1996) tend to migrate into urban population centers, it’s vital that small towns find ways to attract and keep young people in the community.

In October of 2019, a Politico survey of American mayors found that 85% list attracting Millennials as one of their top 10 priorities. Millennials are a vital part of the workforce. They’re future homeowners in your community. There’s a good chance they’ll start up small businesses. And they’re one of the key demographics to look at when planning for retail development. But how do you get them to want to live in your town?

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Engage With and Consult Millennials

Millennials are going to be one of your best resources when figuring out how to market your community to them. Start out by talking with the Millennials who already live in your community. Invite them into your governmental process. Interview them in-person. Send out invitations to take short online surveys.

Don’t rely on TV or newspapers to reach Millennials. When you’re asking them to weigh-in on your community, you’ll need to reach out in a way that they’ll notice. Setting up a social media presence for your community is a good start. But by far the most effective way to spread your interest in working with Millennials is by word-of-mouth. Once you start talking with a few Millennials, they’ll share their experiences with their friends.

Invest In Millennial’s Priorities

There are some specific things that the average Millennial is going to look for in a community. Whether or not your community fits into their preferred lifestyle will play a huge role in determining their interest. In general, Millennials are looking for

– High-Speed Internet: Millennials are a generation that relies heavily on the Internet for shopping, socializing, recreation, and work. If they can’t get high-speed internet in your area, they won’t be interested.

– Affordable Housing: Affordable housing is another key concern for Millennials, and it’s one of the biggest assets a smaller town can offer. It’s typically much more affordable to live in a rural or suburban areas than a major city.

– Hang-Out Spots: Millennials like the option to spend time in locations that are not their home or work. Coffee shops, micro-breweries, and similar locations are a big draw for Millennials.

– Entrepreneurship Opportunities: A high percentage of Millennials either already own a small business or plan to start a business in the near future. If your community is supportive of small businesses, entrepreneurial Millennials are more likely to move in.

Connect With Institutions and Employers

City government isn’t the only institution that’s interested in attracting Millennials. Educational institutions and local employers also have a vested interest in bringing in young people. Since their goals align with yours, they can be some of your best allies. Schools can help bring in new Millennials and encourage them to stay local by sharing opportunities in the community. And employers can work on positioning themselves to attract and retain Millennial talent.

A strong Millennial demographic is going to support the community and business institutions that already exist in your city. And it can also help your small market community attract new retail development. Young people are the future of any community, so make your town a location where they’d like to put down roots.