Thursday, December 3, 2009

TVA Talks with Local Retailers about Improving Business

Using data, statistics and estimations, around 25 local business and community leaders came to the Lewisburg Recreation Center Tuesday night to discuss ways existing retailers can improve their customer base and increase their sales.
Chuck Marquis, Project Manager for Business Resources for the Tennessee Valley Authority, presented the data along with techniques for retailers looking to improve their bottom lines. Economic Development is part of what TVA does for its seven-state region and Marquis put together a program taken from other marketing gurus, such as Jon Schallert, and data collected by Claritas, a nationally recognized source of accurate, up-to-date demographic data and target marketing research information about the population, consumer behavior, consumer spending, market segments, households and businesses within any specific geographic target market area in the United States.
Marquis put together data from Claritas about Lewisburg using a drive-time of 16 miles that created a trade area for local retailers to examine and discuss. The trade area demonstrated the types of consumers that live within the region, their spending habits and their lifestyles. The information also showed the areas in which leakage, or money being spent on goods and services outside Marshall County, is occurring, as well as areas of surplus, or money being spent inside Marshall County from people who live outside the county.
For many people, pouring over data can be overwhelming and a perceived waste of time and energy. Marquis explained how such data can be important for not only those looking to start a business, but also for those already in business. By understanding the customers in a trade area, businesses can better develop strategies to market to those customers, from better marketing techniques to making changes in a stores appearance or items offered.
Looking at the data on Lewisburg’s trade area, a 16-mile radius around the intersection of Nashville Highway and Ellington Parkway, there is an estimated $169 million in potential retail sales not being realized. According to the Claritas data, there was an estimated $351 million in retail sales in the area in 2009 but there was a retail demand of $520 million. That means there is a great deal of money being spent by local residents shopping outside the county on items and services that are offered locally.
The top merchandise items in which retail leakage is occurring in Marshall County are cars, trucks and power transmissions, meals and snacks, groceries and other food, drugs, health and beauty aids, women’s juniors and misses’ wear, men’s wear and computer hardware/software supplies. Most if not all of the items in which leakage is occurring are offered by Lewisburg retailers and the items that are not offered create what is called a “retail gap.” Filling a retail gap means recruiting or encouraging businesses that offer goods or services not currently found in Lewisburg stores; but for those local businesses in which those goods and services are already offered, having leakage means figuring out why people are not buying locally and how to get them to start.
One area in which there is a surplus in Lewisburg is lawn/garden/farm equipment and supply. There is around $28 million in retail sales coming into Marshall County from outside the county and this in an area where Lewisburg may have found a niche on which to build more retail sales. By indentifying those out-of-county customers of lawn, garden and farm equipment supplies, a campaign to encourage them to shop for other items can be created. This idea is only one that came from the presentation Tuesday night.
The other idea came from a discussion on marketing and it is a buzzword called - networking. The internet and email marketing has proven an inexpensive and affective means of modern marketing. There are websites that offer free services to help market small businesses to a wider audience and sending out emails to consumers directly has also proven to be beneficial for many small businesses. The problem for most small business owners is time and a lack of knowledge on how to get it started. Marquis provided those local retailers at the meeting Tuesday night a few ideas on how to get such marketing campaigns up and running along with websites that can assist those less tech-savvy small business owners. By using the internet as a marketing tool, local small business owners can not only attract new customers, but they can also stay connected with existing customers, as well as other local businesses in the area. Trading ideas and information and collaborating on marketing can become a very valuable tool for small businesses looking to expand their customer base and annual sales.
If you would like to a copy of the presentation by Marquis, contact Greg Lowe at (931) 359-1544 and provide an email address. A copy of the power point presentation with data on the trade area in Lewisburg can be emailed to you.

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