Several retailers — including restaurants and stores that sell clothing and groceries — have expressed interest in coming to Zachary after being approached by a recruitment firm. And those businesses could potentially draw customers from a trade area that is home to nearly 95,000 people.
City council members heard the news Feb. 22, during a “webinar” presentation by Retail Strategies, the Birmingham, Alabama-based firm the city hired a few months ago to help it attract more businesses.
The firm, which has worked in about 130 other cities, has a three-year contract with Zachary. It has assigned a “core team” of four people to the project.
“We’re very happy with them so far,” Mayor David Amrhein said.
Retail Strategies has identified several prospects for Zachary, including at least 11 full-service restaurants, seven apparel and shoe stores, four pet supply stores and four grocery stores.
John Jackson, a retail development coordinator with the firm, said he could not disclose the names of the companies considering coming to Zachary.
Some of the businesses may be located next to Walmart on Main Street. Scott VonCannon, the chief operating officer of Retail Strategies, described a piece of property just west of Walmart as “potentially in play” for a shopping center that would feature national retailers.
Other properties are showing potential for retail development, too.
“We’ve been actively reaching out to retailers for a couple of months now. … We’re very pleased with the responses we’ve been receiving,” VonCannon said.
He and his team are targeting companies that data indicate would do well in Zachary.
Retailers that come to the city could potentially reach about 95,000 customers who live in a trade area that stretches from north Baton Rouge to the south and East Feliciana Parish to the north, said Jeff Sommer, a Retail Strategies portfolio director. That figure is based on mobile tracking data gathered from the cellphones of people who visit the busy Zachary Walmart.
“This is a much better number to be telling retailers” than the population inside city limits, which is only about 17,000, Sommer said.
The majority — 74 percent — of trade area residents live in households with family members, he said, which is a demographic sought by grocery and home improvement stores.
Sommer said about 40 percent of residents fall in the category of “family foundations,” a term used in software called Tapestry Segmentation that describes people who value faith and family.
With a median age of 38.8 and a median income of $40,000, “family foundations” consumers tend to work in health care and government. They shop at stores like Sam’s Club and T.J. Maxx and they often purchase children’s products and entertainment goods such as televisions, Sommer said.
That kind of information is helpful because “retailers have done a phenomenal job of identifying who their consumers are, where they live, what they do, what their habits are,” VonCannon said.
“If we can prove that their target audience exists here in Zachary … it really helps our case to try to attract them to this market,” he added.
Bringing more retailers to Zachary not only would give residents of the growing city more shopping options. It also would increase tax revenue and create good-paying jobs, Sommer said.
Though online commerce will continue to grow, “brick and mortar is still very important to cities,” he said.
He and VonCannon both urged patience with the process of recruiting new businesses, especially larger ones, to town.
“A lot of times, the national name brands such as Lowe’s or Home Depot or Target wait to enter a market until they see other brands have already gone there, set up operations and have been successful,” Sommer said.