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Business mix analysis recruitment tool presented

By David Hohendorf

An analysis of the business mix in the downtown area of Birmingham, as part of an effort to provide a tool for brokers and building owners in their retail recruitment efforts, was presented to the governing board of the Birmingham Shopping District (BSD) on Thursday, May 4.

The draft version of the 19-page document represents the culmination of work over the past year by the BSD Business Development Committee, co-chaired by Sam Surnow of The Surnow Company and Mike McKenzie, a resident representative member on the BSD governing board.

While the analysis contains an abundance of information on the business mix in Birmingham, the bottom line on the report is the conclusion that most apparel categories are in need of future recruitment efforts while the categories of furniture and home, along with jewelry and watch retailers, are probably overly represented.

The report made three recommendations, among them: recruiting businesses that will appeal to office workers and residents to drive daily foot traffic, such as healthy fast casual restaurants; identifying and recruiting regional small businesses to fill gaps in product segments not currently available; and influencing national retailer attraction, especially in the apparel categories, by developing retail attraction assets and building landlord/broker relationships to rebalance the business mix to higher-end, sophisticated and experiential retailers who have a higher pull-factor when it comes to drawing shoppers to the district.

In presenting the report to the BSD board, McKenzie said the analysis shows there is an opportunity to “fine tune” the business mix to increase, as the report noted, the “community's vibrancy, sense of place and attract world-class retailers.”

As a comparative exercise, the analysis positioned Birmingham with downtown Naperville, Illinois, Greenwich Connecticut and the Somerset Collection.

The analysis shows that as of early March of this year, service businesses, when including the second stories of most buildings, occupied 67 percent of the business mix. Retail accounts for 19 percent of the business community, while restaurants account for 12 percent and entertainment only one percent.

In terms of restaurants, the analysis showed that full service restaurants account for 56 percent of this category and 45 percent of those will have a “luxury” price point. Quick serve eateries account for 32 percent while bars account for 12 percent.

The report also shows that 71 percent of the business in Birmingham would be classified as local while national retailers account for 29 percent of the business mix, leading McKenzie to note that the city should “still be comfortable with pursuing” more national retailers while at the same time recruiting regional businesses looking to add new locations.

In terms of business segments not present in Birmingham, the report noted that the BSD does “not currently have an retailers in the books and entertainment, electronics and technology or toys and hobbies categories.

Committee co-chair Surnow noted that this report was a “fact-based analysis” but there is “only so much we can do to control” the business mix so the report will serve as a suggested guide for building owners and brokers when attempting to fill empty storefronts.

Board members discussed that initially the business mix report would be updated every six months, while the goal was to move to quarterly updates and eventually monthly adjustments.


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