Site Selection Assumptions

BY joey valenti

Recently a trend has been emerging within the conversations I have with clients and prospective clients about sites for their restaurant and retail locations. They hear the buzz, look at the analytics, and then naturally make some assumptions about where they want to be. They see an up-and-coming neighborhood and assume they need to be in the heart of it. They see high traffic counts and want to be on that thoroughfare. It is here that tools and analytics meet the crucial piece, local expertise and knowledge. 

Let’s unpack some of these common assumptions and shed light on how I view site selection, my process for helping clients, and the new tool Centennial Retail Services has launched to help bridge the gap.

Assumption number one, the trendy new spot is my must have spot. Nashville is in a boom and neighborhoods and areas are growing at an exponential rate. The new hot neighborhoods are quickly gaining recognition and restraunteurs and retailers alike are standing up and taking notice. I had a conversation with a restaurant owner recently who had a concept with a higher priced menu and innovative cuisine who wanted a location in a new trending neighborhood. It is here that local knowledge and seasoned expertise come into play. The neighborhood they were looking at is an area with a younger population who are just starting their careers or still finishing school. Most of the demographic data is outdated for the area, and the new demographic lacks the type of disposable income to merit regular spending on higher end dining experiences. The concept doesn’t fit the current demographic. Now if it was a small taco joint with moderate pricing and a business model to support local delivery, then yes this trending spot might be a good fit. Ultimately, we were able to discuss 3 other locations that might be a better fit and from there we will take a tour of those areas.

Assumption number two, traffic counts and analytics are all you need to make a site selection decision. First and foremost, I will just address the big faux pas so many make when looking at traffic counts and that is the higher the better. To this I say, not necessarily. You see if vehicles per day counts were all that anyone looked at every restaurant and retailer would be off Interstate medians. Just because vehicles pass by, does not mean they are going to stop and shop or eat. Daily needs are still important and people still want to shop and eat closer to home. I’ll elaborate with an example, while the traffic counts are high in Murfreesboro off Old Fort Parkway, most people who drive that route are passing through on their way to the interstate. In contrast, Medical Center Parkway has counts that are about 5000 less VPD per day, but it offers a destination for shopping, dining, and necessary amenities. The people on Medical Center Parkway are interested in shopping closer to home, or are destination driven for a variety of reasons to the newer sexy retail.

Assumption number three, demographic data is the key decision-making factor. Let’s talk demographics for a minute. Demographics by nature are a set of data points from single moment in time. The data is not aggregating in live time, these are data points from some moment in the past. They are static and absolutely serve as a resource tool for making decisions, but they should not be the sole information for making leases or purchases. This is where we come back to local expertise and knowledge, and how the combination of good analytics and local knowledge make for well informed and more successful site selections.

Centennial Retail Services understand this tension and has created a tool to make the site selection process for clients simpler. We have amassed a huge collection of aerial imaging data which we utilized to create a mapping resource for our clients. This allows our clients to see a given market area, understand what retail and restaurants exist in that market and then have more informed discussions with us about their needs. These maps, demographics and our years of local expertise combine to give us a huge rate of success when it comes to site selection. We are excited to help clients in a new, more interactive way in our growing and ever-changing Nashville Market and beyond.



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