The Retail Coach’s 2019 Conference Recap
As Experienced by Caroline Hearnsberger
We come to the end of another year of conference attendance for The Retail Coach team. TRC comes away with lessons learned, new retailers met, and relationships with older retailers renewed. As the retail recruitment specialist, I particularly look forward to the many conferences in order to put faces with names, hear about expansion plans, and check in with old friends. November wrapped up our last retail-focused conference of 2019 and we’re already looking forward to the first 2020 conference the second week of January. The TRC staff has been busy applying the information we’ve gathered this year, to the markets where we are active.
We’ve noticed some trends this year. More communities are becoming proactive in recruiting retail. We are seeing more mayors, city managers, economic development boards, and city council members attend local, regional, and national conferences. It’s clear that city leaders are hearing from their communities they need growth, and city administrators are beginning to understand the potential of their own markets. The Retail Coach clients need to market their communities with an overall game plan, and need to be ready to respond when a retailer shows interest. The competitive advantage for a community will be how it reacts to a site visit from a retailer, or to zoning, parking, and licensing requests and requirements. Other communities are competing for these retailers’ attention and if you aren’t ready to listen when a retailer is ready to locate, they will go to the next closest community whose door is open.
Another trend we’ve seen this year is how many retailers are rolling out new prototypes to counteract changes in consumer shopping habits. For example, from the ICSC Atlanta event, three retailers specifically mentioned new prototypes. Walgreens has begun opening their smaller format store, and with initial success they are planning to grow this in many markets. Sprouts has recently announced a new CEO, and with that change comes a new prototype, which will also allow for growth in new and untapped markets. The Beall’s and Burke’s Outlet brand has rolled out a new store with their Home Centric format that expands their discounted shopping lines into the home goods markets. With this change, they are looking for spaces that accommodate both the newer Home Centric and the older Burke’s or Beall’s in the same center. These are very positive changes. Instead of slowing down due to internet shopping and changes in consumer habits, brick and mortar stores are shaking it up by looking for progressive-minded leadership and listening to consumer feedback to make changes that attract today’s consumers.
Finally, franchisees, franchisees, and more franchisees: The number one question we get from retailers (most days, at least) is do we have a potential franchisee for a specific market. Quick-service restaurants, fast-food and casual sit-down restaurants are growing, but they are still looking for investors willing to grow along with them. Our takeaway from this? City administrators know who the “right” people are in your markets. A retailer recently suggested to one of our clients to speak with their bank president about who may be looking for franchise/ investment opportunities. This is great, outside-the-box advice. Look around, think of who is investing in your community, who has already invested or who may be interested in forming a partnership. Let them know there are some franchises that would have opened doors in the market yesterday if the right person showed an interest. The Retail Coach can facilitate that franchisee relationship.
Retailers are growing and eager to cement their 2020, 2021, and 2022 growth plans. Now is the time to get your markets ready.