FINDING A GREAT LOCATION
The issue of regional access is also key to the site selection process. Considerations here include whether or not the subject site is located on a highway or other road that is part of a network that connects to a very large trade area. If it does, is the trade area within a 15-minute drive of the site or does the road service a local neighborhood? Do other highways connect nearby into the highway, making it easy for customers to come from all directions?
In fact, regional shopping centers are usually located where two or more major highways intersect, and regional shopping hubs typically form around them. Today, site analysts can utilize advanced computer software to delineate drive-time polygons that let them estimate the population that exists within designated drive times.
Along with travel considerations, parking adequacy is important. An analyst should consider the number of parking spaces convenient to the front door of the subject premises, and determine if other tenants adversely impact them. Some other questions would include: does the shopping center have five spaces per thousand square feet of retail space; and how far away will employees have to park?
The overall condition of the subject premises and adjacent premises will also significantly impact the decision-making process. The storefront and façade should be attractive, the sidewalk should be in good condition and common areas should be well maintained. Ceilings should be measured to see if they can accommodate a company’s needs, and the overall layout should be reviewed to determine if loading would be a problem. Other interior delivery specification conditions are usually just a matter of money, but the site selector should assume he would not pursue a space unless it can be renovated to suit his company’s needs.
The condition of adjacent premises should not be overlooked, since a nearby eyesore may detract from the subject; even if the eyesore is not a part of the same shopping center. Look at adjacent storefronts and see if they are attractive, well kept and complementary to the subject site.
Retailers also need to know who their customers are, in order to determine what co-tenants are important. From category masters such as Borders Books, who complement casual restaurants, to the dry cleaner that depends on the supermarket, appropriate co-tenancy can make the difference between a great site and a fair one. The most successful shopping centers often have mixes that are made up of complementary tenants.
During the site selection process, be careful not to overlook competitors. While direct competition may be great for some retailers, like auto dealers or furniture stores, it may be detrimental to others, like supermarkets. Key issues include the quality of the competition, and whether the competition will be “out-positioned” by the subject location. Also, proposed competition can relegate an “excellent location” to “also ran” if a retailer’s most feared competition out-positions the subject location at a new, proposed center a mile away. Checking competitive leasing plans may be difficult, but it is research that is worthwhile.
Perhaps the litmus test of site selection revolves around demographics. In some cases, a site-selector may refuse to even inspect a location if it does not meet certain minimum population or income standards within a given radius or drive-time. At one time, demographic characteristics were limited to such simple population estimates, like the way magazine subscriptions in a given zip code related to the spending behaviors of consumers in various product categories.