How Do I Find A Great Site?

Peter Buckingham | Managing Director | Spectrum Analysis

How Do I Find A Great Site?

How often does a business fail, not because the product is poor, but because the retail location planning has put the site in the wrong place? It is very difficult (almost impossible) to make every retail site perfect, but you can use some processes to improve the probability of success over failure.

Site selection is like a tug of war. On one side are all the good things you are looking for, and on the other side is the rent (or purchase price) being asked. We can all get great sites if we pay outrageous prices, and we can all get cheap sites, if we are prepared to compromise on the basic necessities we know we should have. Retail site and venue selection is all about being able to achieve the positives, without paying an exorbitant cost.

Areas to consider

By defining the areas you need to look at, you create a more structured approach to evaluating a location. What we are retailing will have a huge influence on our retail decisions, including that type of retail venue (s) are we seeking. If we are an oil company, then we are looking for free standing locations with great traffic and access. If we want to go into a shopping mall then we need to look at the Mall’s statistics, and if we want an Inline shop, then the power of the strip, and the passing pedestrian traffic is very relevant. Each type of site is different and has its pros and cons accordingly.

Demographics

Different countries have different levels of access to demographic information (and at different costs). Countries like Australia and the USA basically provide information via the Bureau of Statistics websites for free, information on who lives in any area, including population, age, income, ethnicity and many other pieces of relevant information to help you understand the local area.

Many countries only provide this information at State level, so it is hard to look at populations at 3 km or 5 km radius.

Ideally we like to have information so we can match up the potential customers with the resident population. What I mean by this is if we know who the potential customers are, we can look to where they live, and look to that area for locating our business.

For example if I was going to open a BMW dealership, I would be seeking a high socio-demographic area. If I was selling very cheap children’s clothes, I would be looking for a lower socio economic area, with a high % of children, or a lower than normal average age cohort.

Physical Location

Once we have at least drawn conclusions on what areas best suit what we are retailing, how do we look for the retail site? Try and think in terms of whether your product is Impulse or Destination, and that will give you some ideas on where to look.

Impulse products are those things people buy at a whim, and need them on a regular basis. Think cigarettes, milk and other items from a convenience store.

Destination is much larger purchases, where you will make a conscious decision to seek out that product, and go to the destination where it is at. Think in terms of a new car, a high priced restaurant for your birthday or anniversary, or renovating your house.

The more you are at the impulse end of the line, the more you need to pay high rent for a top site with lots of passing traffic. The more you are destination, the more you can be off the main course/road, and pay less for a quality place that suits your needs.

What we are normally weighing up (along with the rent) are the following factors:

  • Traffic – road, pedestrian and bicycles

  • Visibility

  • Access and parking

  • Space (square meters)

  • Suitability of the physical facility

  • Who are our neighbours

Building a process to make better decisions

If we are only opening one store (as per a normal franchisee), then this decision is normally a one-off, or not something being done on a regular basis. If we are a Franchisor or a large company with many retail outlets, then this is a regular event, and we should have a process to make the best possible decisions.

If you are only opening 1 or 2 stores, you have to make the best call you can. If we are opening your 21st or 22nd store, you should have learnt off the previous stores, and have some idea which stores work best for you, and which stores perform poorly. If you are opening the 101st and 102nd stores, then you really should have sales prediction modelling, or a process so you can predict what the new store will sell, and use that in your economic justification whether to proceed or not.

I am always amazed at how much effort goes into screwing down the rental, or cutting the staffing levels to a bare minimal, because a store is not performing well, but look at how little effort has gone into the sales prediction modelling to predict what the store should or could be selling!

My recommendation for Franchisees and Franchisors alike is to think of site selection and retail site analytics in the development of a proper process as an investment in your business. Stop thinking of this as an expense, because these are normally the most important decisions in your retail business, for you long term survival.

Note – Peter is running workshops on Retail Site and Venue Selection and Territory Planning in conjunction with Franchise Advisory Centre in April/May 2019 in Sydney and Melbourne.

Peter Buckingham is the Managing Director of Spectrum Analysis Australia Pty Ltd, a Geodemographic and statistical consultancy. Peter is both a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and a Certified Franchise Executive (CFE).

To contact Peter email peterb@spectrumanalysis.com.au or visit www.spectrumanalysis.com.au