City considers retail solutions firms

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by A.C. Hall

The White Settlement City Council and Economic Development Corporation held a joint meeting last week to hear two presentations.  These were given by the Buxton Company and by The Retail Coach, two companies that partner with communities and assist in bringing in new businesses.  The recent rezoning around the Hawaiian Falls water and adventure park was mentioned, and council member Danny Anderson spoke about the importance of taking advantage of that and bringing in retailers as the opening of Hawaiian Falls gets closer.

“We need to start getting interest and start getting things on the table,” Anderson said.

The first presenter was Lisa Hill-McCay with the Buxton Company.  She spoke about data driven city management as she stated that Buxton has partnered with over 700 communities and brought in 35 million square feet of retail space in those communities.

“We’ve been empowering our communities for the last eight years with answers about who the citizens are, what the workforce looks like, what the resident population looks like, even what the visitor population looks like.  We know where those people are, we know what they require, and we know how their needs are changing over time,” Hill-McCay said.

She spoke about her company’s extensive partnerships and ways of getting data, including an exclusive partnership with Visa that sees Buxton receive transactional data about who is shopping in the city and what they’re buying.  They also use an individual’s mail as a data source.

“Reward card data, magazine subscriptions, whether you own or lease a vehicle, knowingly or not we’re constantly giving away this type of information and Buxton is the largest purchaser in the nation of consumer spending habits,” Hill-McCay said.

Hill-McCay continued to drive home the strength of Buxton when it comes to their data sources and the way it can be used to attract the right retailers to the area.

“Cities that are proactive are getting the retail today,” Hill-McCay said.

Mayor Jerry Burns spoke to Hill-McCay about how he would view a partnership between Buxton and the city.

“Our EDC people have been doing a good job, but I see you as a tool in their tool kit,” Burns said.

Buxton would also assist the city at business conferences, and would work with existing businesses in the city as well.  Their partnerships with surrounding cities like Fort Worth and North Richland Hills were also discussed.

Council member Elzie Clements asked how familiar Buxton was with White Settlement.  “I think we have a pretty good feel for where you guys are heading,” Hill-McCay said.

After a brief recess, the second presentation began.  This one was with The Retail Coach, and was given by their Vice President Aaron Farmer.

“We’re really focused on helping small to medium sized communities,” Farmer said.  “You’ve got to work just a little bit harder than some other communities to get retailers interested and to get restaurants interested and that’s what our company does.”

He gave examples of some successes The Retail Coach has had bringing retail to smaller cities.  In recent years they have brought 500,000 square feet of retail to the town of Bastrop, Texas, which boasts a population of just 6,000 people.

During his presentation, Farmer focused less on the data gathering aspect of the business and more on going out and making contact with retailers that would be a good fit for White Settlement.  He spoke about making connections and developing relationships with retailers and developers.

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know, and if you help a retailer open a successful store… they’re going to listen to you again,” Farmer said.

Another aspect of bringing in retailers that Farmer focused on was community development and the need for the city to ask itself what issues in the city or the community might be keeping retailers out.  He stated that The Retail Coach wasn’t shy about presenting ideas to the city about ways in can further develop and beautify the community that would in turn help bring in retail.

One style of data gathering The Retail Coach spoke highly of was license plate reading.  This is done by capturing license plate data of vehicles at retailers, which will then tell The Retail Coach where people are driving from to come shop at that particular business.

Unlike Buxton, Farmer stated that the Retail Coach doesn’t represent cities that are close together, as it could make for conflicting situations.

“We won’t work with any of your directly competing communities,” Farmer assured the council.

This meeting was for informational purposes only, and with no action items on the agenda there were no decisions made about which, if either, company the city will hire.  Discussions on this matter will likely continue at the February council meeting.