Getting out there and meeting business owners is one of the most important elements of retail attraction. For many of the districts that we work in, attracting national chains is not really a priority. Rather, the focus is on keeping it local and attracting interesting regional independent and/or mom and pop stores to a district. When the focus on the smaller tenants, it’s important to keep in mind that these retailers are not typically out scouting for new store locations, so it’s often critical that you find them. And while e-mail blasts and social media are a good thing to do, nothing replaces the impact of an actual visit and a one-on-one conversation with an owner.

Are you struggling to find tenants
for vacancies in your district?

How do the experts do it? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Buy something on the way out the door, this will make you a customer and someone that the owner is more willing to talk to.

2. Stay up to date on who is expanding and who is contracting. Local business media and TV sometimes provide leads, so keep on top of the news.

3. Don’t rely too much on technology. Drive and walk a district and visit business owners personally. Cultivate a personal relationship over time, don’t just go when you have a space you want to market.

4. Stay active with the local Chamber and business groups. You never know who is hoping to expand and this is a good way to keep your finger on the pulse of potential new tenants.

5. Consider local business plan competition winners and partner with your City’s small business services division to help identify businesses who are seeking support and potentially looking for spaces.

6. Attend ICSC Deal-making – the representatives for many retailers change over time, so you will need to keep up with who the new representatives are.

7. Once you’ve started a conversation with a business owner, try to get a sense of when leases are up. A business may be looking to relocate and this will give you an opportunity to sell the story of why your site offers more visibility, foot traffic, etc. than where they are currently at.

8. If you know a vacancy is coming, visit nearby stores and chat with the owners. They often know about other businesses are are looking to expand.

9. Mailings are a good alternative to social media – direct-mail pieces can be a good way to get directly in front of an owner. Many owners still don’t use email, especially in local markets, so mail can be a good way to ensure they hear about opportunities in your district.

10. With a prospect you really like, do your homework about their business in advance. One way is to show them maps showing that your market has voids that their business can fill.

Brokers will say this again and again, nothing replaces pounding the pavement – so get out there and do it!

Credit: This post was developed in part an article in this month’s SCT (“Prospect to Prosper”, Sept. 2014).