Retail recruiter pitches plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

AHOSKIE – Shop at home.

That’s the idea behind a pitch made by a Fort Worth, Texas firm that wishes to partner with the town of Ahoskie to attract more retail businesses.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Ahoskie Town Council, Chip Rogers, assistant vice-president of The Buxton Group, spent nearly an hour discussing the strengths of his firm as well as answering a bevy of questions from a group of local business owners, economic development officials and other interested parties.

Rogers informed his audience that The Buxton Group has experienced enormous success in attracting retail businesses to its client towns/cities. Working with over 1,300 retailers, Rogers said his firm has recruited over 15 million square feet of retail space for the 300 municipalities stretched over 36 states that use The Buxton Group’s services. Those retailers have generated $4 billion annually in retail sales within those client cities/towns.

“We speak retail and we are very good at what we do,” Rogers said. “We know that retailers must open new stores and we know the markets where they can succeed.”

Rogers said his firm’s “Small City ID Program” would be a perfect fit for Ahoskie.

Building an in-depth demographics model, including retail shopping habits, Rogers said his firm would place that information in front of retailers looking to expand into new markets.

“We identify the retailers and then help you pick the ones that will make the most impact,” Rogers said.

One of the most desirable results of attracting new retail business to a market is the “Shop at Home” factor.

“People are driving to other markets to shop, we want to recruit businesses to the Ahoskie market that will keep those local shoppers at home,” Rogers noted.

Another key, according to Rogers, in recruiting new businesses is for the town to “sell its trade area, not the community.” Rogers said the demographics report built on Ahoskie would include up to a 30-mile radius of the town. Those numbers would include total population, population growth, number of households, property values and personal/family income.

“We have the largest database of retail information in the world,” Rogers said. “We employ the use of retail surveys, credit card and rewards card histories and other tools to build a consumer needs list.”

One local concern was attracting businesses to Ahoskie’s downtown shopping district. Rogers fielded a question in regards to that issue, saying that “big box” stores will not fit in a downtown area, but there are other options.

“We just don’t look at the retailers on our list, but with other retailers that may make a decision to use existing downtown retail space,” Rogers said.

The overall recruiting process evolves once The Buxton Group has a commitment from a retailer.

“Once we have a guaranteed interest from a retailer, we hand it off to the town to let the parties work out their deal,” Rogers said.

He added that this scenario becomes a “win-win” situation when adding local real estate firms and developers into the deal.

While council members took no action on Tuesday in hiring the services of The Buxton Group, Rogers encouraged Ahoskie officials to begin building a wish list of the retail businesses they would like to see come to the town.