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Consultant to help develop local retail

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Casey Kidd of NaviRetail leads efforts to gather and analyze data for current and future retail businesses in Roswell. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Roswell officials have contracted with a Tennessee company to help the city improve the local retail situation.

NaviRetail of Memphis, Tennessee will work with the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. and the city of Roswell for at least one year and up to three years to gather and analyze data about retail consumption and needs, develop marketing plans and help recruit new businesses.

“This is going to be a community-wide effort,” said John Mulcahy, president of the Economic Development Corp., who added that Roswell City Manager Joe Neeb gave impetus to the idea.

“We are including local retailers and local businesses and local people to get involved on this whole program,” Mulcahy said. “This is not us taking a look at our retail and saying, ‘Here is a new retailer,’ but instead saying, ‘Let’s all work together and see what we can do to grow everyone’s businesses.’”

A Retail Recruitment Workshop Monday at 4 p.m., at the Economic Development Corp. office on North Main Street, is part of the effort to share information with existing retailers — as well as others who play a role in retail recruitment and development, including real estate brokers and agents, city officials, economic developers and financing entities.

Mulcahy emphasized that part of the study involves “gap analysis” to determine what type of retail business not currently in the local market would be a good fit and help attract more people and businesses to the area.

“Retail is really important, honestly. It is important for population growth. It is important for companies to move here so their employees have places to shop,” he said. “It doesn’t really bring a lot of outside economic activity, but it is certainly important to draw companies and to improve our communities’ offerings to future residents.”

While Roswell attracts retail businesses on a regular basis, it also has seen several small and national retailers, including Sears, Payless Shoes and Kmart, close their local stores in recent years. Plenty of vacant retail space as well as undeveloped lots are available throughout the city, including at the Roswell Mall on North Main Street.

Casey Kidd of NaviRetail said his company, which was formed in January 2016 after Kidd worked for seven years for another firm, uses location information from cellphones as well as “thousands of other data points” to determine where shoppers at Roswell stores are coming from, where they go after they shop at a local store, how much they spend and other factors that can help determine what types of retailers would do well here.

He will share some of the aggregated data and non-personal information, at the workshop. The other part of his firm’s work is bringing in a site selector who works for an undisclosed national retail brand. That person will visit sites in Roswell to provide their feedback on the city, its current retail situation and available sites.

“To be frank, it is information we would not know unless we went to work for the retailers,” said Kidd. “And, even if we did, the retail industry changes on a daily basis, so hiring someone who used to work for a company might not give you up-to-date information.”

He said the information should help existing retail operations, as well as lay the groundwork for new stores and brands.

“One of the things we cover is how to market your business,” Kidd said, “so we are not entirely focused on new business.”

NaviRetail also will attend retail trade shows as the year progresses, sometimes in companionship with Economic Development Corp. staff, to talk to retailers about locating in Roswell, using the data and marketing plan that they will have developed.

“Those first in-person meetings are just so essential for getting the confidence of the retailer and showing them the market,” Kidd said.

According to the 2016 County Business Patterns report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the area had 416 retail employers with an annual payroll of about $82.64 million. Overall, the county had 4,423 employers with an annual payroll of about $562.66 million.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.