How to improve your existing retail network

Bill Tome (President, Mark Oil Company) has been successfully navigating the market in Charlotte, NC since the early 1990s. However, his company has been in the area for over a hundred years. His stable growth and success in a market that has changed significantly and continues to fluctuate and diverge into different trends has been determined by his consistency in a few best practices.

You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you are

Bill stands by this simple, yet profound nugget of wisdom as a cornerstone to his strategy and his success. To make business decisions in your market that will help you grow and improve, those decisions need to be backed by more than a hunch.

Current and historical assessments of your market give you the metrics and the specific insight to see how each site is succeeding. To start compiling historical data on your success in a market, you need to start compiling data at the present. That’s what Bill did. He began using Kalibrate’s Single Site Analyses to evaluate new site opportunities in 1999. The Charlotte market was growing in new, unfamiliar areas, and Bill needed to understand the micro markets in greater detail.

He needed to get a sense of where he was in order to know how he could move forward and deal more effectively in the market in order to avoid market risks.

Understand the context of growth opportunities

Retail network planning and market data allow for your business to learn about itself in the context of growth opportunities in the market. What is unique about what you offer? What sets you apart from your competitors? Bill said this was a huge benefit of retail network analysis for them. “We learned who we were and, equally important, who we weren’t. We don’t need to be in a high throughput, interstate location. Our model was built and determined to be a destination stop. We didn’t know that was where we fit into the market until we had the information to prove it out.”

Knowing the way your sites fit into your market can allow you to pursue opportunities that optimize your success. It also allows your team to have a unified vision and a clear strategic plan, based on the identity you discovered because of your analysis. Bill found that communicating this identity and direction to his team fostered greater confidence and concurrence about what they could be doing to support this image and value proposition.

Follow and anticipate greater market trends

In 2002, Bill started to compile single site analyses for a few select locations he was curious about, but he also began an entire retail network planning effort. He sensed that the volume he was experiencing had the potential to grow, but it also had the potential to slip away at any time. Bill needed more than just a single site analysis; he needed something to give him the bigger picture, especially since planning an entire network represents such a large investment.

Since then, he has continued to do network-wide market analyses every two years to remain aware of where his retail network stands within the greater market. He has the data to back up market changes. If there exists suburban growth in a given geography, Bill will be aware that the market is shifting to keep up with the suburban customers’ needs and will be able to respond to those needs preemptively.

Implementing these market barometers and network check-ups ensures that Bill is not out of touch with the direction of the market and that his sites can shift strategy if need be, to keep up to date with their competitors and the market at large.

Analyze your competitors and your investments

Your competitors aren’t waiting around for you to decide your next move. They won’t let you ignore their positions and just create your own. Their positions matter to the overall state of the market, and to your retail network. Their business decisions impact your profitability and your growth opportunities.

The cost it requires to build, renovate or expand sites in your network is too high to not understand the value of that investment. Part of anticipating that value is including both competitor information and market trends in your analysis of a site’s potential. For every investment, you need total clarity. Access to historical and current data will help keep your hunches more in tune with the greater reality of your market.

Plan for the long term

Over the years, Bill has learned that retail network planning has a long-term impact. It isn’t a quick fix or a one-and-done exercise, but rather an investment in the continued opportunity for stable and consistent growth in a market that will undoubtedly shift and change. Being aware and flexible — and even anticipating these changes based on the data you have compiled over time and the projections wrought from this information — will better equip you for change and give you the insight to succeed among your competitors for the long haul.

This insight is even more important today given the structural challenges in our industry. You have to review where and who you are; there is a real premium into knowing yourself. Do you even have a position you can defend?

To learn more about Kalibrate’s location planning solutions, talk to a location strategist today.

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