Retail ‘leakage’ costs local businesses

Published 8:30 am Friday, December 14, 2012

WINTON – As the town of Ahoskie moves forward with attempting to attract new businesses, county officials are eager to learn of those efforts.

Two years ago, Hertford County local government partnered with Ahoskie officials, to include that town’s Chamber of Commerce, was well as the Mid-East Commission and the Northeast Commission to come up with $25,000 to pay for a retail marketing study performed by a Texas based firm.

The Buxton Group performed research of the Ahoskie/Hertford County retail trade/restaurant area, initially identifying the customer base, where they live and what is their value to the local market. After developing the trade area, Buxton used data gained through over 350 consumer information sources to match the best retailers to fit that area.

Buxton’s “retail snapshot” included two trade areas using the business appeal of Ahoskie’s Memorial Drive as the center point – one a 15-minute drive time to that area and a secondary area, potential customers that reside within a 30-minute drive time from Ahoskie.

What was learned from that study deals with what is termed as “retail leakage” – meaning the demand for products exceeds the supply, which translates into customers driving to other areas to satisfy their shopping/dining needs.

In the primary “drive-time” area, Buxton’s research revealed an annual retail leakage of a shade over $6 million (demand was $185,288,495 while supply came in at $179,268,773).

That leakage was higher in the secondary trade area. There, research showed an annual loss of just over $222 million (demand of $527,222,242 and supply of $305,058,697).

At their meeting last week, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners was given an executive summary of the Buxton report, as provided to the county by Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond.

“I spoke to Tony as to what they were doing as a result of the document that you have in front of you,” said Hertford County Manager Loria Williams to the commissioners. “This summary notes retail leakage, which reflects a retail demand in our county that’s not being supplied in the area that was studied.”

The Buxton Report included sample letters to be used by the town of Ahoskie/Hertford County to send out to prospective new retailers as well as instructions on how to approach certain retail companies.

“From talking with Tony, he is in close conversation with two new retailers,” Williams said. “I informed him that if there was any way the county could assist Ahoskie in this effort to just let us know.”

In January of this year, local leaders, business owners and interested citizens met to trim Ahoskie’s “wish list” of new businesses to ten. Those finalists were each mailed a copy of the Buxton Report and town officials followed up with phone calls in their continued effort to entice those businesses to invest in Ahoskie.

Restaurants dominated the top 10, to include Hardees, Huddle House, Shoney’s, Applebees, Sonic Drive In, Western Sizzlin Steakhouse, Zaxby’s and Denny’s. The remaining choices were Peebles Department Store and Tractor Supply Company.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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