Working the retail scene
As you read this, a team of representatives from Oak Ridge is returning home from Las Vegas, Nev., where we attended the International Council of Shopping Centers annual ReCon convention. The convention is the largest gathering of representatives of national retailers and restaurants in the world.
Our team walked an average of about nine miles per day making sure we visited as many representatives as possible during our time here. We also exhibited in a pavilion that is set up specifically for cities around the nation. Several Tennessee communities were represented there. While there, we had 20 face-to-face meetings with representatives of national retailers and restaurants as well as representatives of Kroger Real Estate and Crosland Southeast, the company contracted to purchase the Oak Ridge City Center.
For the past several years, a group of Oak Ridgers, led by the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, has attended this event to meet with representatives of various retailers and restaurants. Members of the team include a staff member of the Chamber as well as volunteers who work our booth, meet with people who come by, meet with representatives we have set appointments with, and call on others at their own booths. All of this is a part of the continuing effort to grow the retail base here in Oak Ridge.
This year, there seems to be even more interest in the Oak Ridge market, fueled by the Westcott Center (the new Kroger Marketplace shopping center) and the Crosland SE contract on Oak Ridge Mall. In fact, when the announcements were made regarding these two retail centers over the past few months, contacts we have made at ReCon over the past few years called the Chamber to find out more about how to be a part of these new retail opportunities.
Getting Ready to Go
Over the past several months, as we prepared to go to ReCon, the Chamber attempted to contact the owners and/or Realtors for every available retail property—both those for sale and those for lease—in Oak Ridge. We asked for any marketing material the owners/Realtors wanted us to share with prospects.
Then, working with the Shopping Center Group, a national retail broker firm which also provides research services to communities, we developed maps, drive time data, and other relevant information to include with our marketing information for prospects.
All of the information we gathered from the properties in Oak Ridge and the demographic information was then compiled and put on a flash drive to be given to prospects at ReCon. We also used information the community has provided to us through answering surveys and posting on the Chamber’s Retail Recruitment Facebook group about where they would like to shop and eat.
A Successful Trip
Though we’re tired and glad to be coming home, it was worth it to be there and to continue the process of recruiting retail to Oak Ridge. The lack of retail and sales tax leakage have been huge issues to everyone who lives in Oak Ridge for quite some time. It’s exciting to see the work the community has been doing over the past several years begin to pay off. We firmly believe that the retail scene in Oak Ridge is about to change for the better.
President, Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce
Chairman, Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
Vice Chair of Retail/Commercial/Residential Development, Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce