Archived Story

City recruits for retailers

Published 9:14pm Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A spokesman for the consultant helping Washington recruit retailers to the city said by this time next year there “better be a ribbon-cutting or two” or his company will not have done its job.
Robert Jolly Jr., a spokesman for Retail Strategies, hired by the city for $30,000 to help it in retail recruitment and retention efforts, made that comment in response to Councilman Richard Brooks’ question about where Retail Strategies would have the city positioned next year. Brooks’ question and Jolly’s response came during the council’s Oct. 8 meeting.
During that meeting, Jolly gave a presentation on how Retail Strategies, based in Birmingham, Ala., is developing its plan for the city. Basically, Retail Strategies works with regional and national retailers, trying to find places where those retailers could successfully locate.
“It is becoming a commonly held principle within municipalities across the country that retail is the new industry relative to increasing a community’s economic tax base,” Jolly told the council. “Maximizing retail potential enhances a community’s vitality, creates a stable employment platform and improves the quality of life within a community.”
Jolly said Retail Strategies’ primary focus is on the recruitment of a full-service restaurant and national grocery chain to complement the existing mix of retailers in the Washington market. The secondary focus is on the development of a strategic plan to recruit a national clothing store.
Jolly’s presentation included a list of retail establishments — bookstores, clothing accessories stores, hardware stores and others — that would fill in the gaps in the existing Washington retail community.
“Retail Strategies will utilize the research to create and manage for Washington a retail recruitment strategic plan that will identify key retail categories and specific retailers that would be targeted to fill the spending gaps identified in the research,” Jolly said.
Many retailers are “starving to grow,” Jolly said, adding that if “you can get their attention with real information and real data that turns their head and makes sense to them … the ones that are still out there are actually looking for new deals and new opportunities to expand.”
“We’ve had success stories, some very small and some significant, in most every community we work for,” Jolly added.
“A year from now, we want to be sitting here with a renewal contract for y’all to approve because you’ve been pleased with the recruitment success we’ve had in the first year. Whether it’s one exciting announcement or a whole shopping center, we’re going to get after it as your recruitment partner to maximize the potential here in the market,” Jolly said.
City Manager Josh Kay said what Retail Strategies offers that other similar consultants don’t provide is flexibility and a developer-focused approach to retail recruitment. Kay also said the city plans to share the information developed by Retail Strategies with groups such as the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and Washington Harbor District Alliance to help grow and improve existing businesses.

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