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Retail Coach consultant pitches plan to spur economic growth

By John Howell Sr.
Batesville’s elected officials heard a proposal Tuesday for a comprehensive retail economic development plan.

Kelly Cofer, CEO of Tupelo’s The Retail Coach, presented the program to the mayor and aldermen.

Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons introduced Cofer and The Retail Coach Regional Project Director Joseph Koon.

“Y’all asked us to start looking at some consultants,” Simmons had said during the city board’s Jan. 21 meeting, “… that can put some materials together, help us market our area, identify potential retailers that would locate in an area our size with our demographics and our traffic zones.”

At the Jan. meeting Simmons had described the Partnership’s screening process that led to its recommending The Retail Coach to the city.

“What they did; … they’re breaking down Batesville into three separate sections; east of 55, west of 55 and the third being downtown Batesville,” Simmons told the mayor and aldermen.
During his presentation to city officials on Tuesday, Cofer said The Retail Coach would develop separate plans for each retail district.

Cofer said that his firm’s service would include Gap Analyses to determine the total amounts spent for various types of goods and services purchased by residents of the trade area and the amount to be compared to dollars spent for those goods and services with Batesville merchants. The differences will reveal gaps that local retailers can seek to fill, he said.

The Retail Coach CEO outlined an 18-step proposal during his firm’s first phase of engagement with Batesville surveys, interviews with retailers, trade area identification, community analyses, demographic studies among them.

“We tend to look at your community through the eyes of a retailer; your community shows very well,” Cofer said.

The consultant’s observations also included:
• “What jumps off the page at me is your medical center,” Cofer said, praising the appearance and location of the facility;
• Lowe’s and Tractor Supply are bellwethers to retail developers. “I know what they look for when they enter a market; that says they’ve done their homework,” Cofer said;
• “What McDonald’s is doing out on the southeast quadrant of 51 is very, very important,” Cofer said of the chain’s plans to build a new facility on property adjacent to the existing fast food restaurant. “McDonald’s sees that this is a very, very strong market.”
• The factory outlet center is under new owner Todd Daley of Nashville who plans to upgrade the facility.

“Retail has changed since the center was developed,” Cofer said. The Retail Coach will work with the new owner to locate suitable retailers for location at the center.

“We want to help those who we have already in our retail community,” Mayor Jerry Autrey said.
“It’s much easier to keep a retail business than it is to go out and get another one,” Cofer replied. “We’re going to be looking at how you can enhance and support your existing businesses,” Cofer continued. “To be successful, you need a healthy mix.”

City officials will make a decision based on The Retail Coach’s proposal at their Feb. 18 meeting. Cofer presented a three-year plan that includes seven phases for a price of $75,000 plus approximately $3,000 in expenses. A payment of $35,000 in the first year would be paid at contract benchmarks, with $20,000 each in years two and three paid in quarterly installments.



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