Finding the right real estate for the right retailor is a little like trying to match two people up – sometimes you need a matchmaker to move things along.
For the past three and a half years, Hermiston has been using a retail version of a dating app – Retail Strategies. The company works with cities to find the right location for the right business.
On Monday, the Hermiston City Council held a work session and heard from Scott vonCannon and Joe Strauss of Retail Strategies about the work they’ve been doing to attract new businesses to Hermiston.
The two outlined the analysis they are doing, the results they’ve had and the outlook for the near future.
Hermiston’s population stands at just over 18,000, but sees much more traffic coming through from outlying communities.
“We know consumers are driving from well outside of the city to shop in Hermiston,” vonCannon said. “When we’re talking to a company in Chicago or New York about why they might want to open a store in Hermiston, a quick glance might show them the population or income levels, but we want to tell a greater story to the retailor and show a larger geographic area that people are coming from.”
Data shows that Hermiston will have a “trade population” of nearly 68,000 people by 2022 with a projected growth rate over the next five years of 6.4 percent. That makes a much more attractive market than simply looking at the population within the city limits.
Retail Strategies also uses a company’s past record against them if they are initially reluctant to come to Hermiston. For example, they look at peer communities where a company has located – meaning cities with similar demographics and population.
“If we can prove to them that they have four, five or six locations in peer communities, it allows them to take a second look at your community,” vonCannon said.
The company also looked at “leakage,” or money leaving Hermiston and being spend elsewhere. vonCannon said Hermiston annually loses more than $80 million to retailors outside Hermiston.
“The goal is to identify some of the missing categories and begin to chip away at that number and keep the dollars local,” he said. He said the $80 million figure has come down in recent years due to Hermiston’s ability to attract new retailors such as Sherwin Williams, Panda Express and Grocery Outlet.
He told the council there are currently eight to nine retailors that want to be in Hermiston today but need to find the right site. Another company, a national apparel brand, has identified an existing space in town and vonCannon said he hopes a deal is struck before the end of the year. There are also a “handful” of restaurants looking at sites in town, he said.
vonCannon said evidence exists right now of a market ready for new business.
“You’re Walmart is overflowing,” he said. “It’s hard to find a parking spot. Retailors want to hear that. They want to know there is opportunity here.”