Retail Attractions, LLC
A recent article in Shopping Centers Today (a publication of ICSC) entitled “Cities Court Retail” talked about city representatives traveling to the RECON Conference and setting up shop to try and lure retail growth to their communities. One of the fastest growing types of attendees for the huge retail conference is individuals representing their local interests. Cities spend big money preparing colorful marketing materials, leasing booth space, and paying to send their folks and their marketing materials to the conference and back. One of the things that every group brings to the conference is their own “data”. Demographic and market data that they purchase directly from a data provider or that they pay a third party to put together for them is assembled with attractive maps, photos, and site plans. This information is hawked in booths and given to anybody that will stand still long enough for a hand-off. I am not saying that there is anything fundamentally wrong with this approach. When I was recruiting retail for my city while employed on the “public sector” side of retail development, I fell into the same race and clawed and pushed my way into meetings and booths all over the Las Vegas convention center floor. It just depends on what your city is after. Is the desired goal to tell every retail and restaurant tenant about your market data? Consider this tidbit of reality: THEY ALREADY KNOW. What every community in America (large and small) needs to target is RESULTS! Let me open this thought up a little more as we proceed.
First, let’s be crystal clear about data. Data that is in its raw form (by that I mean data that has not been proven, validated, and categorized for comparative value) is just a bunch of numbers; it’s useless and pointless. But when you take that data and have it reviewed, researched, and validated for accuracy and reliability, and then apply that proven data in its categorical relationship to a need or an opportunity, then the useless data becomes information. When it becomes information the data becomes useful, valuable, and powerful. Cities spend lots of money on data. If the community is tech savvy at all they usually incorporate the data into their websites or marketing material of one kind or another. And then they hope someone will see it and be impressed. Let me be perfectly clear here…data by itself will not help you. In fact, the data you think will help your city grow may, in fact, have just the opposite effect. It may be the reason private sector money passes on your city. This phenomenon especially happens in small and medium sized communities. It’s my qualified opinion that every community in America has some potential to add to their retail inventory, it may be a small one lot deal, a one block deal or a multi-tenant hard corner deal, or even a power center with a strong lineup of national credit tenants. The key to these deals is not your data, it’s a combination of variables: demographics, consumer draw / regional pull, growth plans and aggressiveness of retailers, available developable real estate, developer relations with market, land owner, and or end user, public incentives, and a multitude of other considerations. I hear all the time from city staff the mistaken notion of “we can do it ourselves”. I will very humbly disagree. No, you cannot. Our tried and tested experience has proven over and over again that a qualified, experienced, and well respected third party entity (like Retail Attractions, LLC) can market your community cheaper, more efficiently, and more effectively than you can. In fact, the sooner you get started the sooner you will see results.
If you have lived through the application of data and real world retail and restaurant development in very diverse municipal settings like we have and you have seen what works, and maybe more importantly what does not work, then you find yourself in a position to really help communities identify and remove the hindrances that have kept them from growing and reaching the quality of life standards they want to achieve for their citizens. Quality retail, restaurants, and mixed use development (medical, residential single family and multi-family, professional office, educational) improves the quality of life in every community.
So as you can see, it is so much more than data. It takes experience and the relationships with the people and groups that can make real development happen to really change the appearance of a community. It takes knowing who can take the raw data and turn it into information. It takes knowing the people in the right positions, in the right companies and knowing the strategies for growth in those companies and then partnering your city with the people who actually pull the trigger and can make the growth happen that really energizes progress and synergy and changes cities for the better.