C h a p t e r 5 R e ta i l S t r at eg i e s
What role should the Town be playing in such an initiative? First, it can work to streamline the permitting and approval process for RMUs. Second, it can help to market the format(s) to the kinds of micro- entrepreneurs likely to be interested in them. Third, it can offer financial assistance to these often under-capitalized businesses, perhaps by drawing on Façade Improvement Grant funding for “Special Projects” or the Futures Fund.
due to a lack of available inventory, the generation of additional tenant leads is not going to provide a solution. If property owners are not interested in helping, those leads could be lost and the initiative’s credibility tarnished. For these reasons, the Town of Wake Forest should also consider other ways of supporting downtown retail that consume fewer staff resources and would ultimately be more constructive. With this in mind, it should convene the relevant stakeholders — landlords, brokers and existing merchants — in a consensus-building exercise focused exclusively on how the Town might help. For example, instead of trying to recruit specific tenants, the Town could focus on marketing downtown Wake Forest more broadly to retail entrepreneurs and investors from across the region who might not be aware of its presence, its vitality and its potential. The goal would be to generate the kind of “buzz” about the opportunity that puts (and keeps) it on the proverbial radar screen. As part of this initiative, the Town might consider the development of a brochure that pitches downtown Wake Forest as a retail location. Leasing collateral that advertises available space in suburban strips like those along Capital Boulevard/US 1 typically offers the same basic information — demographics within a given radius, traffic counts on adjacent arterials and nearby co-tenancies. A similar element for downtown Wake Forest would have to be fundamentally different, because the “sell” is not necessarily a conventional one. Rather than telling the story that downtown Wake Forest meets all of the standard criteria, this brochure would present a more qualitative case, framing the opportunity in terms of the recommended positioning (i.e. “this is what we are, this is
5.4.2 Marketing and Branding
Many municipalities and quasi-public/non- profit entities across North America have chosen to play a direct role in attracting new retailers to specific business districts that they are trying to revitalize and/or reposition. Often this involves an in-house or outsourced “recruiter” who works to identify and pursue tenant prospects on behalf of property owners. A number of them, however, grossly underestimate the level of internal capacity needed to play such a role effectively. The position of recruiter is ideally a full-time one. Retail leasing can be a fast-moving business and opportunities are easily lost if not seized instantly. At the very least, the given staffer must be able to devote at least half of their time to the enterprise. Such an effort also requires coordinated action among relevant stakeholders, with each fully understanding and accepting its specific charge within the larger division of labor. Internal conflict or sloppy execution on this front does not inspire confidence, especially given the industry’s widely-held assumption that the public/non-profit sector does not grasp the realities and imperatives of retail leasing and development. Another common mistake is to rush headlong into recruitment before even assessing whether such a function is even necessary or desired. If a downtown cannot attract new retailers
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