The Retail  Coach comes to downtown

Aaron Farmer, president of the Retail Coach, presented tips to a group of downtown Kerrville business owners and some of their staff members last week in a virtual education effort.

Farmer’s presentation was half of the offered workshop hosted by the City of Kerrville and its Main Street Program, in partnership with the Retail Coach.

The second workshop also was presented virtually to a Kerrville audience at an after-hours time for their convenience.

Farmer told his audience he would discuss how to capitalize on the “draw” of downtown Kerrville. He said his “retail market analysis” could tell the local business people who’s shopping downtown, and give the owners ideas for how to capture more of an audience.

He said the first questions are, who is the downtown consumer and how often are they traveling and what distance?

Almost everybody has a cell phone, he said, and the Retail Coach uses available tracking of people’s cell phone use.

“Consumers are being tracked especially between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. We drew a polygon around downtown Kerrville and tracked that for one year,” Farmer said.

On a map of central Kerrville, Farmer displayed the marked sites where anyone made one or more visits in the last 12 months. And the tracking information also showed where they came from – a lot from San Antonio and Fredericksburg, but also from Austin, Houston and the Dallas area.

“Many of these people made multiple visits around Kerrville and sometimes into San Antonio,” he said. “Your core/primary consumer makes two-plus visits per month.”

He also said the core downtown retail trade area serves Hunt, Center Point and out State Highway 16 to Morris Ranch.

Farmer said 70 percent of the downtown customers come from that area, that now has an estimated population of 49,280. By 2025, that number is estimated to be 51,600.

As for “Income,” Farmer said the “average median income” per capita is now listed at $73,518, based on the number of residents and their educational attainment, and retirement income status for many of them.

He said residents’ ages are driving most of his statistics, especially those 25-34 years of age, the “millennials.” He said his statistics tracked groups starting 0-9 years up through 65 and up; and the median age here is 48.

“Cell phone data tells us in the last 12 months, 157,000 people (customers) visited downtown, making 708,400 visits,” he said.

Farmer said when he compared pre-COVID shopping to the present, customer visits are “almost back to normal.”

Tracking by zip codes, he said 28 percent came from 78028, with 78624 the source for 4.3 percent of visitors, and 78025 the home of 3.2 percent.

“You have opportunities for ‘targeting’ some customers,” he said. “About 50 percent came to downtown from home and returned there; and about 12 percent from work.”

He showed bar graphs for customers, defined by days of the week, with Tuesday and Friday-Saturday the busiest days of the week.

“The Tuesday results surprised me,” Farmer said.

Steps and tips for downtown

Farmer said he and some associates spent time in Kerrville, walking the downtown area, and doing “mystery shopping.”

“All the retailers must commit to operating their businesses to make a profit; not as a hobby. It’s important what operating hours you choose. You have to be open when people are not working. In Texas, about 65 percent of retail transactions happen between 4 and 9 p.m.”

He showed a bar graph of how busy the hours in a day are for retail; and it was a stair-stepped pyramid showing the highest number of customers between 12 noon and 1 p.m. Farmer said 60 percent business happens in that hour.

One business owner joined the audio of the virtual meeting to say most businesses in downtown Kerrville are not open after 5 p.m.

What customers demand

Farmer said local owners and managers need to look around their whole layout, and goods and services offered, and consider what consumers are demanding now.

“They want an ‘experience,’ that you will carry multiple categories of items or services to sell; and they aren’t necessarily complimentary things,” Farmer said. “Look at the national brands. ‘Shinola’ is an example, and so is ‘Patagonia’.”

He showed illustrations and videos of such examples as an art gallery that also offers a community gathering space. So some customers visit for the art; and some because their group or meeting is there; and once in a while someone from the second kind of customers also is enticed to buy artwork. He talked about a chiropractor who turned some of his office space into a coffee shop; and said some of his patients became consumers.

“Ikea started hosting in-store sleepovers in some of their stores and added restaurants. Living Spaces also has a restaurant,” he said.

Farmer said Core Cycle & Outdoors is an outdoor lifestyle shop that added a climbing wall, while being a one-stop shop for everything outdoors.

He described one store in Dripping Springs that calls itself a “modern-day department store” because it offers monthly events, beverages while shopping, an outdoor area for kids and dads, yoga classes and space for community meetings.

“All this creates an ‘experience’,” he said.

Steps for improvement

Every business must have a website, Farmer said, and suggested starting small and simple.

“At least once a week, 47 percent of people look for a local business online. And 97 percent use the internet to find local businesses.”

He said mobile devices are the top choice for shopping. And 53 percent of customers will leave a mobile site if it doesn’t operate within seconds.

Some businesses do “price-matching,” he said.

Farmer told the participating business representatives that “social media” is important to those millennials and the Gen-Z’ers. For example, a business can post an item or service on social media, such as Instagram and Facebook. And those posted items can be targeted to a specific area.

“You could paint a mural somewhere that would encourage people to take photos there, and share those photos with others.”

He said people are not taking “normal” vacations now, as much as they are taking day trips.

“Social media will pay off. Two stores could collaborate and shoppers could share a discount at both places,” he said.

Farmer said the keys to success are to understand trends, plus using safety measures as customers find their local destinations with convenience driving customer purchases.

“Businesses must have their data current, accurate and relevant,” he said. “Businesses should take steps now for community development that manages expectations and gets customers online by promoting with social media and safety.”

Owners’ questions/

observations

Clint Morris, who helps area businesses with social media campaigns, told Farmer sometimes there’s a dry pipeline for posts coming in from area businesses. Farmer told him the key is the content; and said a social media post can be only five or six well-chosen words.

Farmer said he is working on a list of regional and national retailers that can be discussed for downtown.

Will he share a list of possible new businesses with existing ones? Yes, he wants to see downtown grow from the inside.

Does his data about cell phones downtown show exactly where they are? Yes, within 3 to 5 feet, and he can get that information to them.

Farmer wants to do this again in three to five months, especially to try out ideas for holiday shopping Black Friday and Thanksgiving.

The City of Kerrville hired Farmer about two months ago to do this, and his data is available to any downtown business.

City Manager Mark McDaniel joined the virtual meeting at the end, saying this is a Main Street Board initiative, to continue for the next 9-10 months, and available for all who are focused on the central business district.

Farmer said Kerrville’s downtown business owners can contact him at afarmer@theretailcoach. net with questions.

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