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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.

Aerial Photography and City Planning

We’re all familiar with the concept of aerial photography. These photos are taken from high up in the air to provide a big-picture view of the land below. If the photography is done correctly, the resulting images can be a useful asset for city planning and retail development projects. Aerial photography works for surveying sites, legal documentation, and marketing, among other things. It’s just one more tool Retail Attractions uses to make your city planning project a success.

Economic Development Consultant Aerial Photography and City Planning

Types of Aerial Photography

Aerial photographs can be vertical or oblique. The vertical photographs are taken with the camera pointed straight down. It’s also called a 90-degree or birds-eye view. This type of photo provides a map-like image without distortion.

Oblique photographs are taken at an angle. A 45-degree angle is popular, but they can be taken at many different angles and heights depending on how you plan to use the photograph. This type of aerial photograph shows perspective and provides a view that lets you look at the relative sizes of buildings, trees, and other objects in the area.

Using Aerial Photographs

The different types of aerial photographs have different applications. With vertical shots, multiple photographs of a specific site can be taken at the same height from the ground and combined with GIS (Geographic Information System) to use with surveying, engineering, site planning, and aerial mapping. These photographs can also be used to help resolve legal issues such as land disputes and accident analysis.

Oblique photographs have a more limited application for the technical side of city planning but still play a valuable role. Since they provide perspective, these photographs are useful for marketing the project and tracking construction progress.

Where To Get Aerial Shots

If you’re already working with Retail Attractions, we have current aerial photographs for most of our client cities on file and we can provide the data in print or electronically. If you’re just starting out with city planning or need up-to-date aerial photographs, we provide a variety of aerial photography services to meet your needs.

One of the many advantages of working with Retail Attractions for your aerial photography is that we have extensive experience with the type of photography that’s best suited for city planning purposes. You need an aerial photographer that has experience working with cities if you want to get the most useful aerial survey shots. If you’re interested in our photography, or our other economic development services, visit our website for more information and contact us today for a price quote.

What Are Retailers Looking For?

One thing we see quite often is that communities marketing themselves for retail development don’t really know what retailers and restaurants are looking for. You might be prepared to “prove” your community is the best place for investment and have data ready, but that’s not the only thing developers are interested in. Knowing what you really need to focus on lets your community stop wasting time on ineffective marketing, and it makes securing a successful retail deal far more likely.

Reliable Data

Understanding a retail investor’s priorities and needs is a key step in forging a successful retail partnership. The first question they need to answer when looking at your community is, “Will we make a profit in this market?” Retail developers need a positive bottom line, and they won’t consider developing a market where it doesn’t look like they can make money.

You will need accurate data to present to potential retail investors, and it has to be in a format that they’ll recognize as reliable. Retail Attractions can help you with defining the trade area around your community, collecting demographic data, producing a market analysis, and presenting it all in a professional format. A third-party analysis shows retailers you take their time and money seriously, which in turn encourages them to take your community seriously.

Community Support

Even when the data indicates your community could be a profitable market, retailers also need to know they can count on your support to move the project forward efficiently. You might not even think about the regulations process when you first start marketing your community, but you can bet developers will be concerned about it. Developers don’t want to partner with a community where red-tape, delays, and fees are the norm when dealing with city administration. Streamline this process as much as possible before making retail development deals.

You can also show support for retail investors by getting infrastructure updates in place. New retail development means your city will need to expand the water and sewage systems, as well as plan for changes in traffic patterns. Showing you have a plan in place to do this is another way to show retailers that your community will support their development efforts.

Market Knowledge

Hiring a consultant who already has contacts within the retail development industry is a huge asset. Retail is a tight-knit community and having a known, respected professional like Rickey Hayes advocating for development in your community can make the difference in whether or not new retail development happens in your city.

Retail Attractions’ consulting services extend beyond just making initial contacts within retail. We’ll also help you put together the right kind of data on your community and take the external and internal steps necessary to prepare for successful retail growth. If you’d like to learn more, contact us to get your questions answered or to schedule a consultation.

Be An Opportunity, Not A Risk

Investing in retail development can be a risky proposition for a developer. If the deal succeeds, they’ve improved their bottom line and increased their customer base and market appeal. But if the deal falls through, they’ve lost a significant amount of money and time. When you’re marketing your community for retail development, you need to present developing in your location as an opportunity, not a risk. The more you understand a developer’s needs, streamline the building process, and commit being a supportive partner, the more likely retail development will be an all-around success.

Understand Developer’s Risks

Uncertainty is one of the key things that can turn a developer away from working with a community. Even if your community offers a good location that the developer is interested in, a high enough level of risk and uncertainty can still scare them away. Put yourself in the developer’s shoes. Would you invest in a community if you’re not certain it will support your retail development efforts or if the permits process sounds excessively confusing? Probably not – you’d look for a different location where you think the development deal would proceed more smoothly.

Minimize Uncertainty

Reducing the level of uncertainty a developer sees coming into your community can be a daunting prospect, especially if your community doesn’t have a history of negotiating retail development deals. Retail Attractions can help you understand what developers are looking for and provide guidance on making your community more attractive. You can start by streamlining the permit approval and document review processes before you even start talking with developers. The more simple and easy to understand your approval process, the more attractive working with your community will be. You can also assemble suitable sites for retail development and get infrastructure in place for your future partners.

Balance Community Interests

Another thing retail developers are looking for is support. They want to know the community leaders will be on their side if disputes arise regarding the new development project. Opposition to new development is fairly common, and you need to be ready to speak up and support your partner. That said, minimizing the risks and uncertainty for potential business partners shouldn’t mean sacrificing your community’s interests. You want to support your development partners and be honest with them, while still making sure the project benefits your community. One key to this is open and honest communication. Be up-front about what you will and will not do in this partnership, honor your commitments, and don’t surprise your partner with hidden costs and fees. Want help navigating the tricky world of retail development partnerships? Contact Retail Attractions today to learn more about how we will tailor our consulting process to your community’s individual needs and help you attract just the right developer for your project.

How Long Does Retail Development Take?

Successful retail deals require an abundant supply of patience. Even under optimal conditions, it can still take a long time for all the pieces to fall into place. Closing a retail deal that works for all parties often requires months of planning and negotiation, and it can take years for a community to realize their full retail development vision.

Months of Planning

Planning for retail development is a vital step, and it’s one that takes time. While trying to speed things up is tempting, you really don’t want to cut corners in the stage where you and the retailers work out a mutually beneficial partnership.

Take Enid, Oklahoma as an example. This is one of the towns where Retail Attractions is currently working. Talking about the retail deals going on in Enid, Rickey says, “We’re about to go to the International Council of Shopping Centers Convention in May … and we will be talking, out there, about 2017 retail deals. That’s the thing, the retailers that you’re seeing come … were deals that we’ve been working on for 24 to 36 months prior to you actually seeing them coming to town.”

The more complex a deal is, the longer it will take to work out. If you’re working with a consultant like Retail Attractions, we can be working on the deals for months before you have to sign contracts with the retailers. Without a consultant, your community will have to work all this out on your own.

Years in Development

Even with optimal conditions, it can still take several years after a deal is signed for the retail development to become a reality. When Rickey was working in Owasso, Oklahoma shortly after 2002, new retail was flooding the city and everything was perfect for retail growth. Even so, it took ten years to fully retail the market.

Rickey says, “One of the most frustrating parts of my work is the job of educating city councilors about how long it takes. When you see a new retail deal under construction somewhere, you can know without a doubt that, even with an accelerated effort and timeline, some poor soul has been working hard to make that deal a reality for at least a couple of years in most cases.”

Deadlines and expectations for project development need to remain realistic. Working with a qualified company like Retail Attractions helps move things along as smoothly as possible, but it’s still not going to happen overnight.

Speeding Things Up

While you don’t have much control over how quickly your retail partners are able to move forward with development, you can at least make sure nothing on your end slows the process down. You’re already on our blog, and that’s a great place to get started. Here, you can learn about ways to market your community, get information about retail development incentives, and find other information you need to know about holding up the public side of a retail development partnership.

Retail Attractions can also help you work through the planning process and development stage of retail growth in your city. We’ll be there to consult with you every step of the way. With our experience and contacts in the retail development industry, we already have a head-start in moving your community through a successful retail development project. Contact us today to talk with Rickey about your community project or get more details about how we can help you.

Create A Shared Vision Before Entering Partnerships

Vision is the starting point for all successful projects. When you’re developing a vision that will carry your community into a public/private partnership to support retail development and economic growth, it’s essential that the vision is shared. Investors don’t want to partner with a community that can’t agree on their goals.

City Development Expert

If your community can’t generate a cohesive vision before heading into public/private partnerships, then there’s a good chance your retail development goals are doomed to failure. Recognizing this gives you an opportunity to impress potential partners by creating a shared vision from the very beginning of your city’s plans for growth and expansion.

Include Everyone

Ideally, your vision will involve everyone who has a stake in the positive outcome of this potential partnership. This includes residents, property owners, homeowners associations, media outlets, colleges, hospitals, churches, and other stakeholders.

Make sure you don’t leave out people and groups that are initially opposed to the community’s proposed vision. Building consensus and addressing concerns is a key step in the process of vision-building if that vision is to be shared by the entire community.

Use Media

Get the media on your side early in the vision-building process. An alliance with local media outlets makes it easier to get your message out and cultivate transparency during the planning stages. Media will continue to play a key role in publicizing the vision and keeping it fresh in people’s minds after your community has decided on a final version of your vision plan.

Future Planning

City visions often include long-term plans that can span several local political administrations. This means that establishing a collective vision and creating community buy-in for the project is essential for sustaining the vision long-term.

As your community develops a shared vision, remember to keep the practical side of things in mind. A vision by itself isn’t enough – you also need a plan for implementing your vision. This is where you can really start focusing on what your community hopes to get out of a public/private partnership and what you can offer your investors.

Provide Clarity

Use public hearings, news releases, visioning exercises and other tools to keep stakeholder and area residents in the loop about the vision you’re developing. Make sure you specify the scale of projects included in the vision and let people know exactly what’s going to happen. A shared vision will start to collapse if people feel blindsided or misinformed.

Retail Attractions can assist with generating an honest assessment of your city’s strengths and weaknesses. We know what investors are looking for and can help you with demographic analysis and strategic planning you’ll need to create an implementable vision before entering into a partnership to foster economic development.

Does E-commerce Leave Space For Retail Expansion?

It was only a few years ago that people like software guru and investor Marc Andreessen were announcing the impending end of retail brick-and-mortar stores. Now in 2016, we’re starting to see these predictions were mistaken. Retail stores are not dying. Yet even though retail stores are still around, there’s a concern that the rising popularity of e-commerce will negatively affect retail expansion in physical locations. As a community looking to attract new retail development, or an investor looking for a location to build next, how worried should you be about e-commerce?

Brick and Mortar Strategic Retail Planning

Percent of Sales Online

While e-commerce will affect physical retail stores, it is not going to do away with them. The percentage of retail sales that happens online is climbing, but not as quickly as you might think. In 2006, online stores accounted for about 3% of sales. In 2015, the adjusted figure was 7.5% according to recent figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. That still means well over 90% of sales are taking place in physical stores.

Really, webstores are replacing paper catalogs more than they are physical stores. People like the convenience of online shopping, but it can’t replace the experience of shopping in a physical store where they can try on clothing and see the quality of items in-person. Physical stores also offer the instant gratification of taking home your purchase immediately and you don’t have to pay for shipping.

Retail Expansion Continues

Further proof that retail is not dying can be found in the expansion plans of major retailers. According to a March report from CBRE, only 1% of surveyed retailers said they did not plan to open any new stores in 2016. More than half plan to open 11 or more new stores this year.

The expansion efforts are pretty evenly balanced between urban shops and shopping malls. 76% of executives described urban locations as key to their expansion plans, and 72% indicated they plan to expand into shopping malls. Both types of retail locations are still seen as valid and lucrative regardless of e-commerce’s popularity.

A Few Concerns

The CBRE report reveals that some of retail investors’ key concerns regarding retail expansion don’t relate to e-commerce at all. Rising real estate costs around the world are a major concern for 56% of survey responders, 42% express concern about the economy, and 37% are worried about the quality of retail spaces available. These responses call attention to the vital role communities must play in attracting new retail. There are investors looking for a location to build, but they need a situation that’s both economically feasible and offers quality retail space.

Whether you’re a community wanting to attract new retail development or a retail investor searching for the best location for your new project, Retail Attractions is here to help. We understand the needs of both investors and communities and are dedicated to helping you make the most of your partnership. Contact us today for more details.