The study conducted by the consulting firm the Retail Coach was a multi-phase analysis of the area's retail trade area, spending habits of local residents, and the opportunity to improve local businesses and recruit new business to the area.
"About a year ago now, I asked the city council to support the approval of a Retail Advisory Committee," said Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes. "It was the Retail Advisory Committee that recommended the retention of the Retail Coach, and from there went we went to the chamber, the city and the EDC and entered into a agreement to retain the Retail Coach. I think you will see and agree after today's presentation that it was a great decision and the Retail Coach has done a fine job."
Haynes reiterated what he has said before about the reasoning behind hiring the retail consulting firm.
"It goes into more than just having more options," Haynes said. "Having more options (for shopping) is obviously a quality of life issue that all of our citizens want, but on top of that is a very important economic issue for the city. When you look at the potential revenue for the city and how we generate more revenue, we will be able to do more things for our citizens. One of the largest areas of income that the city has is to generate sales tax, and the only way to generate sales tax revenue of course is to have more retail establishments and to have more retail sales."
Haynes said that shopping locally is important, but officials are trying to offer more products and services in Brownwood to make the shop-at-home concept easier.
"It is one thing that we have done a great job of in the past, and the chamber has led the charge, in having a shop-at-home campaign, and that's a very important concept for us to learn; to keep our sales tax dollars local and not take them out of our community," Haynes said. "It's not a simple as saying 'shop at home' if we don't have every option or every availability that we may want or we may need. The objective here is to be able to have those options in Brownwood and be able to do all of our shopping here so we can keep all of our dollars local."
Retail Coach representative Aaron Farmer presented the retail study to a packed house Friday at the Brownwood Country Club. Farmer said that the information will be used for business retention, expansion and recruitment.
"We first want to fill those voids within local businesses and are also going out and bringing in some complementary retailers that will help strengthen everybody here," Farmer said.
Although the Retail Coach is in the middle of implementing their seven-step plan of analysis, retention and recruitment, Farmer said that they have already had some success in attracting attention of some developers.
"Something that's happened in the last couple of weeks is that we had a developer that's come in and made offers on some properties," Farmer said. "You're about to see some stuff happen in Brownwood which is going to benefit everybody here. It's going to be pretty awesome. A big-time developer out of East Texas is coming in to do some things. It's an exciting time - exciting times ahead for Brownwood. "
Members from Brownwood's Retail Advisory Committee will travel to San Antonio in two weeks to attend the International Council of Shopping Centers Convention where Brownwood representatives will talk to potential retailers about Brownwood using the information and marketing materials provided by the Retail Coach.
"This is a chance for us and the City of Brownwood to get in front of these retail site selectors, these major developers, and really tell them why they should come to Brownwood," Farmer said. "What we have done is equipped that group that will be going with the information that retailers, restaurants, and developers are going to want to see. I think we are on the right track."
The analysis that the Retail Coach has completed includes a retail trade area map that identifies where shoppers frequently travel from to spend money in the Brownwood. Farmer said that they calculated that Brownwood's retail trade area contains 82,225 shoppers in Brown County and parts of surrounding counties.
"This is a hand-drawn trade area; no computer models were used," Farmer said. "This comes from us talking to retailers, looking at your competition, and from license plates. Brownwood is a huge trade area and you've got a people coming in from a long ways away. 82,000 is a great number to have and a large number to have. As you bring in more national retailers and do some more development, that trade area will increase and will benefit you as local retailers as that trade area increases and increases your opportunity for new customers."
Another key component of the study is a retail gap analysis which identifies how much money Brownwood residents spend on goods and services in the city and how much is spent in other cities.
"What we did is we went in and looked at every person inside of that trade area to find what the average consumer in that trade area spends on retail goods and services every year," Farmer said. "What the analysis can do is identify specific retail sectors that are under served. That is its number one purpose."
According to the gap analysis, over $422 million is spent by Brownwood residents out of the area, mostly because those products and services are not available in the city. Farmer said that the analysis can help existing businesses identify possible inventory that shoppers are purchasing in other cities and begin making these items available locally.
"The goal is to try and reduce this leakage by 10% per year," Farmer said. "10% every couple of years, which is reasonable especially as we have these developers come in and do some things."
"If we were to capture 10% of that, the revenue to the city is over $800,000 per year," said Mayor Haynes. "I can pave a lot of roads with $800,000. We don't have to capture $422 million, we just need to capture a small percentage of that to make a big difference in our city."
Farmer said that in addition to helping existing retailers identify new products to carry, the analysis can help identify new retailers to recruit to help fill those gaps. The Retail Coach also produced a psychographic analysis which identifies behavioral trends for local residents to help predict what types of products and services they use.
The Retail Coach also produced a Howard Payne University Student Survey, and Downtown Analysis, and a Customer Propensity report to complete their study.
"We are hoping that today is the opportunity for anyone that has a retail business or desire to be in retail business to use this information," Haynes said. "You are getting the information before anyone on the outside gets it; we haven't met with anybody yet. We are hoping that you will take this information and use it. You have got in your hands a very sophisticated business analysis; you've got in your hand what most businesses would pay tens of thousands of dollars to get before they open their business. Please, please use it."