A great piece in today’s Oregonian describes how a Portland, OR independent chain went about selecting a site  for its fourth location. The store, Foot Traffic, supplies runners and walkers with shoes, apparel & accessories. When looking to expand, they did what most retailers do – they looked at the data. Co-owner Sean Rivers “settled on a store in the Southeast Portland neighborhood after crunching the zip codes of runners who participate in Foot Traffic’s races and those it sponsors.” His analysis yielded some useful findings – a few neighborhoods came up pretty frequently. While most of these neighborhoods already had running stores, he was able to pinpoint an opportunity in  the Southeast Portland neighborhood of Sellwood. It had a decent concentration of potential customers…and no running store. As you might have guessed, the rest is history. This past Saturday was the grand opening of the 11-year old chain’s fourth location.

So, what do retailers want? The answer is actually quite simple…

  • Enough Customers. Retailers want to know that a community has enough of their target customers to be successful. specialty retailers like Foot Traffic knows their customer – and at the end of the day, they want a location that is convenient to their customer base. In this case, Foot Traffic did a great job of  collected zip code data over time through events and sponsorship. Without this data, it would have been much more difficult to pinpoint the location of their customers. While Foot Traffic may look for runners, did you know that Trader Joe’s looks for locations where the average income is $70k or above and a certain % of residents have higher education degrees? Are you looking to attract a toy store to your district? Sharing information about household size and number of children under the age of 10 might be the sweet spot there. The point is, every retailer will look to a different set of metrics depending on their customer base. 
  • No (or limited) Competition. Smaller specialty retailers want complementary retailers in the vicinity, but typically shy away from direct competition. In the case of Foot Traffic, Sellwood had no other running store – so it was a home run. If you are looking to attract a specialty retailer – consider mapping locations of competitors for your pitch to them. These days, Google Maps makes this work a piece of cake.

What the Foot Traffic story underscores is that you need to know your audience – just like retailers know their customers. If you are looking to attract a specialty retailer, be armed with quality data that quantifies the number of their potential customers that reside or work in your trade area. And be prepared to make the case that the retailer will fill a niche that is currently undeserved. These two key talking points should be part of any pitch you prepare – and it should be customized to the retail category you seek to fill.