Have you already decided in which part
of the country you're going to set up shop? If you're ready to pull up stakes and relocate, the hottest marketing areas are:
A. Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Here the local culture is an interesting mix of Cowboy, Indian and
Mountain Man. The area has a fast growing population and an enviable tourist trade summer and winter.
B. Branson, Missouri. Although not geographically in touch with what most people would consider Southwest, the town
has a lot of western culture due mainly to the influx of country music entertainment. The area has a continual turnover of visitors coming to hear the music.
C. Santa Fe, New Mexico or Phoenix, Arizona. Both cities
are in the heart of the action of all things Southwest. The weather is pleasant, the lifestyle marvelous and tourist traffic is built in year round. Because of these advantages you can expect shop rent and the cost of
living to be higher than normal.
The wonderful thing about a trading post is that it can prosper in hot towns like Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas, San Antonio or very popular regions such as Smokey Mountains, Branson,
North Florida, the Ozarks or the Indian country of the Southwest.
Stable tourist towns such as San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Nashville have lots of room for a good Southwest store or you may prefer the a small
town in rural Vermont, Oklahoma, Texas or Kansas. If you get a lot of merchandise and hustle, these can be good locations. A lot of midsize cities such as Abilene, Sacramento, and Pittsburgh are desirable because of
inexpensive downtown locations .
Also if there seem to be several Southwest stores in one area—GOOD--locate near them. The great thing about a Southwest trading post is the variation of merchandise, even if it is
another El Paso Saddle Blanket customer, chances are there won't be that much overlap.
Once you have chosen a particular city or town in which to headquarter, you need to start examining the area piece by piece. Towns
grow and change. Do lots of driving and exploring to make sure you discover where the action is. Every community has different levels of business activity centered in varied types of structures and settings.
examine the character of several distinctly different areas and consider the potential for a "Southwest" store.
1. Downtown. There are usually tall buildings occupied by financial institutions, utility
companies and government agencies. Extra office space is generally leased out to attorneys, consultants, accountants, secretarial services and a host of small support businesses. This is a concentration of relatively
high income wage earners.
A good visible street level location in the daily paths of these people can pay off. It is extra beneficial if hotels are close by. Out of town visitors will pass by your store front as they
venture out to restaurants, entertainment or business appointments. Carefully observe the pedestrian traffic in the downtown area to determine which shops are exposed to the most traffic. Only consider street level
2. Renovated Downtown Business District. Many cities have given a facelift to older sections of their original downtown to revitalize the area. What was warehouse and industrial space is turned into lively
restaurants, bars and entertainment centers. If you see a group of gift shops or galleries doing well in such an area, this holds potential for a "southwest" trading post.
Your shop should be vibrant and
have a lively atmosphere to capitalize on the patrons wh are obviously out for a good time. Festive music and bright lighting will lure in shoppers.
3. Old Town / Historical District. This is not necessarily the same
character as the above mentioned renovated downtown. These areas pay tribute to a particular place or event of historical significance. Because these monuments, structures or sites are written up in travel guides and
promoted by tourist bureaus, out of town visitors are apt to seek them out. If the district already has some good restaurants and gift shops, analyze its potential in terms of traffic daily and seasonally. Again, if
major hotels are within walking distance, it is a big plus.
4. Civic Center. Convention hall, special events auditorium, sports arena—the success of businesses in this area depends mainly on their proximity to large
hotels. Good pedestrian traffic is the key. One advantage to this situation is that you have a continual turnover of visitors. New potential shoppers arrive daily.
Get to know someone in your local convention and
tourism bureau. They will happily give you inside information on the schedule of events and possibly steer business your way.
5. The Mall. As intimidating as a large mall may be, this location does have distinct
a. Built in customer traffic 7 days a week, 11 hours per day.
b. Promotions and advertising provided to draw shoppers.
c. Covered walkways or fully enclosed-- all-weather shopping.
d. A pleasant, lively atmosphere.
e. Huge lighted parking lots.
f. Security guards day and night inside and out.
g. Building maintenance provided.
h. Provisions for janitorial service.
I. Possibly utilities furnished.
j. Possibly some or all liability insurance provided.
k. Special events and holiday promotions provided.
I. Small stores benefit from the advertising done by the large anchor stores.
6. Strip Center. This is a relatively new concept of retailing--six to twenty-some store fronts joined together by common walls and sharing
common walkways and parking space. These centers were constructed by developers on a "strip" of land fronting a busy street or roadway.
Being newer than most city buildings, strip centers generally have a
fresh, clean look; are in good repair as far as roof, heating, cooling, and plumbing; and have well-lighted and maintained parking lots. Most interiors and exteriors are basically vanilla, so you can ad your dash of
color as you plan your interior decor and displays.
The location of the strip center is crucial.
Major intersections on busy thoroughfares have exposure to the greatest number of passersby. A good flashy sign can
help call attention to your business. For advertising purposes, you need an address that is easy to find. Avoid little-known cross streets. Customers appreciate convenient parking and easy access from the street into
your parking lot, and, upon leaving, easy access back onto the main street.
The overall character of a strip center is also an important factor. Positioning your store next to other successful stores that sell goods
such as furniture, lighting or decorative accessories is apt to draw more traffic than a center that offers only services such as barber shops, insurance agencies and convenience stores.
7. Freestanding Building.
Found all over town, these come in all shapes and sizes and can offer unique opportunities for a new business. Chances are the landlord will be a local resident instead of a large leasing company. Many times an older
businessman will close down the family trade, but wish to keep the real estate as an investment. He doesn't want an empty building, so he considers renting out to a new business. This type of person will probably be
supportive of your venture, and fairly easy to deal with on lease negotiations and improvements.
Other distinct advantages of a freestanding building are:
a. A reserved parking lot just for your customers.
b. No association fees or common space maintenance agreements.
c. Your store is separated from competition.
d. The building exterior or lot may have great exposure for a large sign.
e. The shoppers who enter your
store are very likely to purchase because they were interested enough to drive to your location.
f. A unique business identity will be easier to establish because you're separate from the congestion of malls or strip
g. A private landlord may allow all sorts of creative decorating or structural changes that leasing companies would not approve.
h. The rent may be very negotiable. Some landlords are concerned about the
quality of the tenant and the care of the property far more than the amount of money received monthly.
To be a value, a freestanding building must be on a well known street in town, or on a major roadway outside of
town that carries heavy traffic from other towns.
(Stores outside the city limits are sometimes referred to as highway stores.)
8. Highway Stores. The advent of major freeways has unfortunately knocked out
some of the most interesting roadside enterprises, but some opportunity still exists on frontage roads or on highways that still have roadside access. If you should be tempted to set up in such an operation, nearby
billboards are the most effective way to get people to stop and shop. The most appropriate atmosphere for this type of business is to appear to be an old-time trading post. Customers will feel comfortable in a relaxed
down-home type of setting. Antiques and ranch collectibles sell extremely well and merchandise can be presented in such a way the customer feels he got a real bargain, or at least an honest deal.
Good old country hospitality is a key element in this type of marketing.
The nature of the traffic passing in front of a highway store is very important. Be sure that the passersby have potential. Routes that get
interstate travelers will provide better traffic than roads only catering to locals within a small radius.
9. The Old Gas Station. Nearly every town has at least one closed gas station that hasn't been converted to
another business. If it is still at a major intersection with traffic appropriate to your enterprise, check out the possibility of setting up shop there. As we already discussed in the section on freestanding buildings,
it is likely this type of location is being retained by the owner for real estate "land value" only. The owner might be happy to have the property looked after for the remaining years until a decision is made
One advantage of an old gas station building is that the overhead doors can be raised in nice weather to create an open-air market atmosphere. You can get away with some outrageous advertising by having
merchandise outside. In fact, being outright gaudy with signs and banners can really help draw people in.
Who are the customers for a "Southwest" store or trading post?
The following groups of people have proven to be good prospects:
College students decorating their dormitory
College students decorating their dormitory room
Young professionals furnishing their first apartment
Young couples furnishing a home or apartment
Secretaries buying office decoration
Executives decorating corporate suites
Middle class families who live nearby
Middle class families on vacation
Professionals who live nearby
Professionals in town for a seminar
Any attendee of an organized convention
Upper middle class couples traveling for business or pleasure
Upper middle class families decorating a home
Locals who make an event of family shopping
People from surrounding communities
who make a special trip to your town for shopping, dining or entertainment
Travelers searching out local color and unique shops
Collectors who have a special interest in specialized items
Anyone needing a nice gift for wedding, birthday, etc.
People just passing by who were attracted by the front of your store or something in the window.
The most sought-after location for a Southwest
store or trading post would be one that has the strongest potential for drawing people from all the above categories and more. You need the widest selection of merchandise that will appeal to the greatest number of
people in a location that is convenient for all to get to.
Knowing your market potential is very important
Most business manuals recommend costly surveys and market research by high-paid consultants but this is not
necessary if you use your eyes, ears and brain. There are dozens of ways to collect highly relevant data for free.
Consult your chamber of commerce for population statistics, income levels, hotel occupancy rates,
seasonal trends and hundreds of other interesting facts and figures. It would also be wise to find out the readership and number of paid subscriptions to local and regional newspapers. This will come in handy for
planning your advertising and marketing strategy.
f you're not aware of areas of future development and expansion, call the city zoning and planning department. They know well in advance where future business and
residential building will take place.
The state highway department often has statistics on the number of cars traveling major roadways. They may even know the daily traffic on city streets and major intersections.
This kind of information can be useful as you choose your location.
When you have narrowed down your field of potential sites for your business it might be useful to compare one against the other until one becomes the
obvious winner. Use this chart to indicate the favorable characteristics of your top four choices.
Good characteristics of locations
Has an attractive storefront
Has adequate parking
Has good security lighting
Easy access from major street
In a respectable part of town
Zoned correctly for retail
Has good roof
Good heating/cooling system
Surrounded by other successful stores
Has a known address—easy to find
Amiable (cooperative) landlord
Is in a high traffic area
Plumbing and electrical up to code
Has adequate display lighting
You'll have the opportunity to put up signs
Has long-term potential
Has a convenient shipping/ receiving door
Area attracts tourists and local~
Adequate square footage
Good window display in front
Not a high crime area
One criteria not to use in choosing a location is merely that it is close to where you live.
Choose the right business location and you will soon be able to afford an elegant townhouse or a
country estate. Remember, it's your business that generates income, not your house. Put your business first, and it will later reward you royally. During the formative years of your business you may want to sell your
current residence to opt for an apartment near your business. Some business locations even have an upstairs apartment or a residence in the back.
In our case, in the development of