Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How Do We Get Better Retail In Our City?

That question above all others cut to the heart of the matter in so many small to mid-size American towns.  When I am talking to city officials this is the question they really want answered.

On some rare occasions the fix is simple and clear as crystal, but most of the time it is a problem that requires a lot of effort to diagnose correctly. Once the cause of a cities retail woes can be laid out in black and white it usually becomes obvious how complicated most cities retail problems truly are.

These are some simple steps that city leaders can take to begin addressing a cities retail problems.

Step 1. Get a check up.

City leaders as a whole need to commit time and resources to checking out the health of your retail market.  Healthy people go to the Dr. on a regular basis just to get a professional opinion on their current health.

If you know the retail in your town is sick, dying or just being born then you really need to go to the Dr.  Just like actual healthcare it is probably going to be expensive. It’s probably going to be more expensive than you have the immediate ability to pay but it is too important to ignore. Find someone who will work with you.

Take the time to find a consultant who points out problems and suggests solutions, avoid the one telling you exactly what you want to hear.

Pay the one that fits best for your town to produce a plan of action and if it is a plan that the city can commit to then commit to an ongoing relationship with that consultant.

Step 2. Listen to the people you hire.

If you are going to pay a consultant to diagnose your problems, create and implement solutions to those problems then have the commitment to follow through with those solutions.

How often does a Dr. tell someone "If you do not stop smoking then you are going to die". Even then people keep doing what they have been doing because it is easier than change.

The leaders of a municipality will have to commit to the treatment plan and there will be times when it is uncomfortable but it will be worth it.

Step 3. Give the treatment time to work.

Retail development by nature is a painfully slow process and your consultant should have a general idea of how long it should take before you start seeing results but it will not be fast.

However, you should get a sense that things are changing and moving in the right direction.  If you are a long way into a relationship with a consultant and do not feel a positive difference it is important to communicate that with them.  Reevaluate the plan and the city goals and see what is working and what is not. Maybe it is time to try another consultant or maybe it is time to try a different plan with the consultant you already have but you have to give anything enough time.

As a city or economic development leader it is vital to realize that not having a retail consultant is just as bad as not having a Dr. or Lawyer.  Retail and restaurants play a major roll in the health, desirability and sustainability of a city. Take the time and spend the money to make sure it is healthy and growing.

Why Yes! Our Company does do retail consulting.  Why Yes! we would be thrilled to talk with any city or economic development association that might be interested in our services.

How do we get better retailers in our city?

If people in your town are asking that question then start taking the steps necessary to answer it.

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