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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?


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.

How To Establish An Effective Decision-Making Process In Public/Private Partnerships

When cities take on economic development projects, they often do so in partnership with the private sector. This has the potential to benefit both parties. However, public/private partnerships are complex things and require plenty of planning to minimize risks and maximize the rewards. Even after you’ve found a private investor for your city to work with, there are still a number of things to sort out before formalizing the partnership.

All the key players in public/private partnerships have to agree on the rules and structure for their partnership early on in the process. You’ll want to formalize how decisions will be made, establish effective policies, and come up with a plan for implementing your partnership goals together.


Define The Plan and Goals

You have to agree on the process you’re going to use to make, implement, and reassess decisions. That’s something to talk about early in the process before something comes up and the different partners have different ideas on how to handle decision making.

It’s important to come up with a formal plan of action that’s agreeable to both the public and private partners. This will include a timeline for implementing the project. You’ll also need milestones that each side can use to assess how well their partner is doing at moving toward the shared goals. Agreeing on your goals and the plan for attaining those goals will give you a framework for making decisions regarding the project.

Assign Roles and Responsibilities

As part of the plan for reaching your partnership goals, you’ll need to define the roles and responsibilities of each partner. Both the private partner and public partner have to agree on their individual roles and responsibilities before moving forward with the project.

You should incorporate a summary document outlining performance standards, clear metrics, and a plan for dispute resolution into the contract you sign as part of a public/private partnership. Documenting which party is responsible for what is a key step in making sure that decisions will be made effectively in your partnership.

Include Checks and Balances

There should be a certain amount of flexibility in a public/private partnership. Things aren’t always going to perfectly smoothly during the development project. You’ll need a system in place that lets you reassess decisions if they’re not working out. Both partners should have the opportunity to check on each other’s progress and propose modifications to the process if things aren’t working out as planned.

Laying the groundwork for a successful public/private partnership is a tricky thing. When you’re working out how to establish a decision-making process that’s going to serve both partners, it’s a good idea to get some professional help. Here at Retail Attractions, we specialize in helping both sides in a retail development deal define their goals, understand their responsibilities, and establish a successful partnership. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

How To Develop Retail and Tourism Together For Increased City Revenue

Retail development and tourism development are often planned independently of one another. But if your community has the potential to bring in tourists that’s definitely something to consider when planning retail development. And if your community’s retail offerings can appeal to non-residents, then developing a plan to bring in tourists is key to increasing city revenue.

Considering retail and tourism together is simply good business. Ideally, your community’s retail and tourist offerings should work together to support the local economy. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re doing just that.


Understand Tourism In Your Community

What attracts visitors to your area? That’s the first question to answer when considering the link between retail and tourism. Retail on its own can draw in a certain number of visitors, but tourist attractions are also going to be important.

When answering the question of why visitors should love your town, think about what makes your community unique or extraordinary. What do you have that other communities don’t or that is better than others can offer? Natural attractions such as lakes and rivers should go on your list, as well as outdoor activities. And don’t forget to include attractions with historic or cultural significance, including local festivals. Tourist attractions like zoos, theme parks, etc. should go on the list as well, along with unique local businesses and artisans.

Compare Tourist and Resident Shopping Patterns

It’s important to know what types of visitors are currently being attracted to your community and what your tourism potential is. But it’s also important to understand your resident’s needs and their retail habits. As you’re planning for tourism, you have to be careful to meet residents’ retail needs as well.

In some cases, there will be quite a bit of overlap between residents’ and tourists’ shopping patterns. This means that the difference between residents and tourists won’t have much of an impact on your retail development strategy. But in situations where there’s a wide gap between the two demographics’ needs and interests, you’ll want to attract retail that can cater to both groups of people.

Appeal To Your Tourism Niche

Once you understand what your community has to offer and what the tourists you’re attracting want, then you can focus on developing your joint tourism/retail development plan. This is where you’ll answer the question, “What products and services complement local attractions and appeal to your tourists?” Answering this question will help you discover your niche in the tourism industry and set you apart from the competition.

It’s easy for a community to feel overwhelmed planning retail development on its own, and even more so when you take tourism into account. Hiring a professional retail consultant will make things much easier. Retail Attractions can help with analyzing tourist and resident demographics, developing an actionable plan, and attracting the retailers you want. Just contact us today to get started.

Are You Missing Important Retailers? How To Target Your City’s Retail Expansion

Your community needs retail. It helps bring in visitors, creates jobs, serves your local population, and increases tax revenue. But just knowing you’d like to bring in more retailers isn’t enough. You also need to know which retailers are missing and how to get their attention.

Having a clear plan is key to retail expansion. And to come up with that plan, you’re going to need a whole lot of very specific information. The easiest way to get that is to work with a professional consultant.


Finding Market Gaps

You probably already have some retail in your city. Even small market communities usually have a gas station or grocery store. And larger markets often have a variety of shops and restaurants already in the community. The question is, what else do you need?

To answer this, you’re going to need to find market gaps in your community. A gap in the market means there’s some need that consumers have which isn’t being met. You need to identify those needs and find a retailer or retailers who can fill the gap. Plus, you’ll also need to look at sites available for development and figure out what you can offer potential retailers who might build in your community.

Running The Data

Without up-to-date demographic data and market analysis, as well as an intimate understanding of how retail works, it’s very hard to figure out exactly which retailers would be best suited to your community. It’s unreasonable to assume that every city government should have someone on staff who’s an expert in retail development. It’s much easier, and more financially sound, to hire an expert consultant when you’re navigating a new retail project.

Retail Attractions has massive amounts of up-to-date data and analytics. These tools give us an advantage in figuring out what demand there is for certain types of business within your community. We can drastically shorten the amount of time your city would otherwise put into data gathering and analysis.

Contacting Retailers

Once you’ve identified what sort of retail your city is missing and which retailers would best fill your market gaps, it’s time to reach out to them. Here, you come up against another challenge. You need to convince retailers to listen to you when you ask them to build in your community.

Retailers take on a big risk when they commit to building in a new market. They want to make sure that there’s a very good chance their new development project is going to succeed before they commit to building in your city. Hiring a trusted retail consultant with a solid reputation, like Rickey Hayes, means developers are more likely to take your community seriously as a good location for development.

Are you ready to take the next step towards expanding retail development in your city? Contact us and we’ll work with your community to figure out which retailers you’re missing and start bringing them into your city.

Here’s How Your Small Market Community Can Attract Big Retail

So you’re in charge of encouraging retail development in a small market community. You want the increase in traffic and tax revenues that expanding retail will provide. But you’ve also learned that attracting retail isn’t as simple as just contacting investors and developers. You need to show them that your town is the best choice for their next project.

Smaller cities face some unique challenges in attracting retail development. It’ll often take longer to accomplish your goal than a similar project would take in a medium- to large-size market. And you’ll have to get more creative in achieving your goals. But that’s certainly not a reason to give up. In fact, attracting retail to towns with a population under 50,000 is something we do all the time here at Retail Attractions.

Understand How Retail Works

The first key step in attracting retail to your small market community is educating yourself. The more you understand how retail works and what retailers expect from your community, the better prepared you’ll be. Our blog is a great resource for information like this. Here are a few posts to get you started:

Know Your Data

It’s vitally important to know your market data. Make sure your city has up-to-date and correct information regarding your trade area, including stats about the people who live in your community and those located close enough to shop there. That includes information on population growth, disposable income, and potential customer bases. You’ll also need information on your city’s regulatory climate and your willingness to partner with the private sector.

But even more important than data is knowing how to use it. Without a story, data is just numbers. And in a small market community, data can actually harm you if you don’t know how to present it. That’s why it’s so important to get expert help in collecting and presenting your city’s demographics.

Start Small, Then Expand

Patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to retail development. Even when Rickey was working in Owasso, OK and conditions were perfect for retail expansion it still took 10 years to retail the market. You can’t expect your small market community will turn into a booming center of retail overnight. Setting a series of smaller goals over the course of several years is more practical.

For example, let’s say your small market community is located on a highway. Adding a QuikTrip near the exit from the highway to your town will pull in a lot of business. Once you’re pulling in traffic, there’s an increased chance that you can get a couple of fast food chains like a Taco Bell or Chicken Express to open locations nearby. Those will also drive a bunch of sales and the tax from those will lead to an increase in revenue for your city.

Hire An Expert

One of the biggest challenges facing a small market community is getting retailers to actually see you as a money-making location. You need a way to stand-out from the competition. This is where having a retail expert on your side can make the most difference. It’s one thing to submit data to a company. It’s another for the decision makers to hear that your town is a prime location from a contact they know and trust.

Retail Attractions has extensive experience bringing new retail into small market communities. In fact, most of our clients are towns with a population less than 50,000. We’ve enjoyed a high success rate in helping small market communities increase their retail revenue. And when you work with us, Rickey Hayes will put his network of connections to work for you to help bring big business to your small community. Contact us today to get started.

3 Key Roles Your City Plays In Retail Site Selection

Companies choosing a new location for retail development aren’t the only ones involved in site selection. If you want them to choose your city you have to play a role as well. Developers are looking for proactive cities ready to provide the sort of information and assistance they’re looking for in a successful partnership. You’re their best source for information about the community and local politics, and the only ones who can prove your city knows how to market its attractions.


Local Knowledge Guru

You know more about your community than real estate professionals and site selectors. Your local knowledge isn’t readily available to them and could influence their decision whether or not to build in your city. But unless you make it a point to share this information, they’ll be in the dark.

It’s up to the city to share key info such as unpublicized plans for road widening, infrastructure improvements, residential subdivisions, and other mixed-use commercial deals. Call attention to publicized plans as well, just in case site selectors overlooked that information. You’ll also know about things like local liquor laws and building codes that developers will want to know about.

Political Navigator

Few things are more frustrating for outside investors to navigate than local politics. If there’s political instability in your city, many investors will think the location is too much hassle. Developers see small to mid-size markets as a more risky venture for retail and restaurants, so this affects those markets most.

A united community is highly attractive to potential investors. Developers would much rather work with a city that’s focused and working together than one that’s divided. They need to know they can count on your community to work with them. It’s also easier for them to work in communities that have streamlined the permitting processes and other regulatory requirements.

In-City Marketing Expert

You need to prove to potential investors that your city can make a good first impression. This often begins with the website. Many cities have old websites that are difficult to navigate and cluttered with out-of-date information. You don’t want people researching potential retail development locations to overlook your city because of a negative first impression. Instead, contact us for website consulting, design, development, hosting, and maintenance services tailored to your city’s needs.

The easier you can make it for developers and site selectors to find information about your city’s growth plans, navigate local politics, and market a new development in your community the better. But you still have to catch their eye in the first place. Let Retail Attractions help. We have the contacts within retail and third-party objectivity needed to market your community successfully. Get in touch with us today and we’ll help you grow your city.

Are You Making These Common (but Critical) Mistakes in Retail Site Selection?

The retail site selection process is more complex than ever. When you’re looking for a new retail development site, the factors that will determine whether or not your company is successful in that location aren’t always readily available to traditional site selection models. Without help from a third-party with contacts in developing communities as well as in the retail world, it’s easy to fall prey to common mistakes in retail site selection.


Relying Heavily on Models

Companies often invest heavily in site selection models designed to explain complex retail environments. Because of the amount of money poured into these models, it’s tempting to have unreasonably high expectations for the results.

Site selection models are a useful starting point, but they’re not well equipped to handle non-standard factors in a given site or to take into account variables that aren’t easily measured. For that, you need someone who’s familiar with the site or has the connections to track down the site-specific information you need.

Oversimplifying Customer Base

Not every person within a certain number of miles of the site you’re looking at represents a potential customer. The actual trade area is defined by more complex factors than concentric rings, and the percentage of people within that area that fits your customer profile is a more important figure than the total population. Retail Attractions’ demographic analysis can supply this nuanced information, along with Opportunity Gap Analysis for a specific location that will let you know if your company can fill retail gaps in that community.

Not Rethinking Expansion

While brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going away, the rise of online shopping is changing the world of retail development. Customers still want the option to go into stores and see the products for themselves, but they don’t always buy in-stores. It’s increasingly common for customers to go home and order online, then have the items shipped to their homes or come back to the store for pickup.

With that shift in how customers approach shopping, many companies are downsizing their individual stores and working on using the store to drive online interactions with customers. This dynamic varies depending on the company and product, but it’s something to keep in mind when considering site selection.

Too Much Emotional Investment

Site selection needs to remain objective. A site can’t be chosen solely because of a desire to beat out the completion, or because the site is in a big-name city, or because so much effort has already been poured into evaluating a less than ideal site. A fresh pair of eyes in the shape of a third-party consultant like Rickey Hayes can help your company make the decision whether or not to build in a specific location based on what actually makes the most sense for the company.

Retail and restaurant site selection is a complex process, but we aim to make it easier with a simple approach: know the product, know the consumer, and find a location that maximizes sales potential. Contact us today to learn more about how Retail Attractions can help your business find the best site for your next expansion.

Three Essential Building Blocks for Creating The Website Your City Needs

Most cities have a website. It’s a necessity in our highly technological world, where the Internet is usually the first place people go when they’re looking for information about a specific location. But does your city have a good website?

When you’re trying to attract retail development to your city, the first thing they’ll do is look you up online. If they find an out-dated website that’s hard to navigate, they’ll likely take their business somewhere else. A poorly designed website tells potential investors that your city doesn’t know how to market itself. In contrast, a solid website design lets investors know you’re serious about investing in the city and staying in touch with the visitors and community members who will form their client base.

municipal website design


Overall, layout is the first thing people notice when they visit a website. Is the homepage eye-catching and uncluttered? Is the menu simple and navigable? Does the search bar work? Is your community website mobile-friendly? If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, then it’s time for a redesign.

Modern city websites utilize web design principles to create a responsive site that works well and looks good on mobile devices as well as PCs. When you have a good website, it gives your community instant credibility and helps you stand out from the competition. It’s one of the fastest ways to demonstrate the business value of your community.

Easy Navigation

The second thing users notice about a website is whether or not it’s easy to use. No matter how nice the homepage looks, the website is useless if users can’t find what they’re looking for. You want a website with clear, consistent headers and navigation menus to guide users in the right direction.

When potential retail investors are looking at your website, they want to know people who visit your site can easily find places to shop or dine out. This information is usually included in a “visitors” link in the menu. The “visitors” link often directs to another website with information for tourists on where to shop, eat, and stay while they’re in town. This website should also be helpful and easily navigated.


Catching a visitor’s attention and being easy to navigate aren’t the only roles of a website. It also has to present relevant, up-to-date information. No one’s going to be impressed with the website if they search for upcoming city events and find a news article that’s 2 years old. Make sure all the information about your city is as current as possible.

Convinced you need a website redesign? Contact Retail Attractions for help. We know exactly what your website needs to attract new investors. We are partnered with a full-service website development firm to provide web consulting, design, development, hosting and maintenance services specifically tailored to your community’s needs.

The Common Sense Guide Negotiating A Fair Retail Deal

When forging a public/private partnership for retail development, fairness must play a role. It would be very difficult to sustain a partnership where one party feels like they got the short end of the stick during the negotiations process. Defining, and agreeing on, what is “fair” for all parties involved can get rather tricky, though.

Retail Development Consulting

Do Your Homework

By the time you reach the final negotiating stage, you should already have a good understanding of what you and your potential partner each hope to get out of this retail deal. Spend time talking with them and building trust. Be clear about what you need this deal to accomplish and get clarification about what they expect as well. The better you understand the deal being negotiated, the more likely everyone will be satisfied with the terms in the final transaction documents.

Stay Involved

It’s imperative that the principle parties stay involved during negotiations. You’re the ones driving the shared vision. You’re the ones who will reap the benefits, and consequences, of this deal for the next few years. Ignoring or abdicating responsibility for negotiating a fair agreement can make the deal fall through. Retail deals are much more successful if you’re putting effort into laying a solid foundation for long-term cooperation.

Think Long Term

Don’t loose sight of the big picture by getting bogged down in tiny details. Remember compromise is often a necessity for both sides. Be ready to negotiate sticky aspects of the deal and work through disagreements before the terms are finalized. Ideally, you’re forging a long-term partnership that will benefit both parties. Exercising patience during the final negotiations and documentation process will pay off long-term.

Consult Experts

There’s far too much involved in negotiating a retail deal for the public/private partners to do it alone. Don’t hesitate to bring in experts to consult on the details. Both sides need legal and technical counsel to help negotiate terms and make sure you don’t miss any legal requirements or site-specific details that have bearing on your transaction.

When thinking of experts who can help in the negotiation process, don’t underestimate the value of bringing a retail specialist on board. If you hire Retail Attractions, you get the advantages of insight from an economic development professional without the cost of a salaried employee. We’ll work with the community and/or development firm to smooth the negotiation process and help you reach a fair and mutually advantageous agreement. Contact Rickey Hayes for more info, or click here to check out the services we offer.

Risks and Rewards in Public/Private Partnerships

Every financial venture carries a certain amount of risk. In a public/private partnership for economic development, both sides face some pretty significant risks but the partnership also offers greater rewards than either could reap on their own. To minimize risk and maximize reward, you have to set up the partnership carefully in the beginning stages of planning.


Consider Both Sides

A public/private partnership is more than a straightforward financial deal. Such partnerships are complex, often long-lasting, and carry a high level of risk as well as the promise of significant rewards. When navigating a public/private partnership, both parties have to focus on mutual success.

The public partner can’t just focus on their community’s needs and the private partner can’t just focus on their bottom line. Both have to recognize and acknowledge the needs each party brings to the table, as well as the risks they’re taking on by entering the partnership. When both parties are committed to working together for their common good, they can accomplish goals that wouldn’t be possible apart.

Acknowledge Risks

To deal with conflicts and plan for an uncertain future, both parties need to know what the risks look like. On the public side, one risk is that the partnership will result in conflicts of interest and stir up dissension in the community. The public side may have to deal with land use conflicts, liability impacts, and accusations about the misuse of public funds. They’re also taking a risk that the developer could go out of business or not follow through on their side of the partnership.

On the private side, the largest risks are financial. Development is a time-consuming process, and there’s a risk of running out of funds before the project finishes if there are delays or poor planning. The public partner is also gambling that the project will create long-term value. Another risk is that key changes in public or political leaders could derail the partnership. These sort of risks should be addressed in the planning stages of partnerships.

Reap The Rewards

If you can make a plan to deal with and/or avoid the risks, public/private partnerships result in plentiful rewards on both sides. For the public side of the partnership, success results in greater wealth in the community, improved infrastructure, increased tax revenue, and creation of jobs. For the private side, successful retail development partnerships are financially profitable, establish their market niche, enhance the organization’s reputation, and provide resources to take on new projects.

Every partnership is unique and a one-size-fits-all formula doesn’t apply. When you’re trying to manage risks and work towards mutual success, it helps to have someone on your side who has experience working with public/private partnerships and fostering economic development. Retail Attractions has extensive experience on economic development projects and understands the perspective of communities and developers alike. We tailor our consultation to your unique situation and we’ll work with both public and private parties to get the most out of your partnership.