StockBIZ: Business news in and around Stockbridge

Market retail analysis points to promising retail potential

by Mary Jo David

Early this year, the Stockbridge Downtown Development Authority (SDDA) commissioned with The Gibbs Planning Group for a retail market analysis. The study involved reviewing existing retail businesses and space in and around the village of Stockbridge to assess the potential for attracting new retail businesses and/or expanding existing businesses in downtown Stockbridge.

Geri Uihlein, who recently became chair of the SDDA, explained that one of the key reasons The Gibbs Planning Group (GPG) was selected had to do with the reputation of its founder, Bob Gibbs, and his passion for historic communities.

“We know there’s growth opportunity here in Stockbridge, but we wanted to hear it from someone who assesses these things for a living—someone who has a real affinity for both history and progress,” Uihlein said.

As founder and managing director of GPG, Bob Gibbs oversaw the analysis performed by his firm.

“I’ve visited Stockbridge several times in addition to visiting for the study. I’m intrigued by the Stockbridge town square. In my opinion, your square makes the town unique from so many other small towns and villages in Michigan,” Gibbs observed. NOTE: The square itself is part of Stockbridge Township, but the businesses surrounding the square are within the village of Stockbridge.

The study assesses median household income, age, home values, and occupancy of areas that fall within 1) five miles of the village center, 2) within a primary trade area that spans between 5 and 10 miles of the village center, and 3) within a secondary trade area that falls approximately 15 miles outside of the village center.

The study found that the 245 square miles and almost 25,000 residents comprising the primary trade area make up the consumer market that offers the most significant competitive advantage to retail shopping and restaurants in downtown Stockbridge. It went on to project that the secondary trade area will likely only account for a minimal amount of retail and restaurant commerce because of other more convenient commercial centers. The exception to this would be Stockbridge retail/restaurants offering unique and/or exceptional goods and services not offered in the outlying areas.

Key findings from the study

The Village of Stockbridge:

  • Can support up to 45,000 square feet of additional retail and restaurant development.
    • The additional development could generate as much as $18.0 million in new annual sales by 2026.

New commercial development could include:

  • 11 to 15 new retail stores totaling 40,000 square feet.
    • 3 to 4 new restaurants totaling 5,000 square feet.

The study provides a list of specific types of new businesses that would do well in Stockbridge with the right kind of marketing outreach. Surprised to find a pharmacy and hardware store on the list, Gibbs was asked how a town the size of Stockbridge could support two hardwares and two pharmacies. He explained that the study found the area could support more square footage of some existing businesses, like these, but not necessarily multiples of these particular businesses.

Of course, Stockbridge retailers and restauranteurs—existing or new—aren’t just going to wake up one day to long lines and business success. Gibbs explained that, while conducting the study, they had discussions with Stockbridge policymakers about what it takes to attract new business and new customers. “People need to get the word out about where Stockbridge is and what it is—promote Stockbridge brand awareness,” he said.

In addition, Gibbs suggested the town would benefit from developing a database of the commercial properties that are available, who owns them, how much space they have, and what the rent is. “Make it easy for commercial space shoppers to find out what’s available. Put it on the DDA’s website. If I’m considering opening a restaurant, make that basic information available to me easily,” Gibbs said.

He suggested the village should work with local real estate brokers to recruit businesses to the village. Gibbs also pointed out the success Chelsea and Dexter have had in attracting retail and restaurants. He credits that to the historical look and feel of these districts.

“Successful restaurants and businesses are attracted to well-maintained, historic-looking storefronts. They want to know that the buildings around them are going to retain that appearance,”  he said.

Gibbs compared Stockbridge to nearby Grass Lake, Mich., and Manchester, Mich., but again touted the benefits of having a town square as a Stockbridge differentiator. He’s also bullish on Stockbridge because of its proximity to both Lansing and Ann Arbor.

The Gibbs Planning Group has had a hand in analyzing and successfully helping to develop new and expand existing retail businesses in Michigan, around the U.S., and even internationally. In Michigan, Gibbs compares Stockbridge retail potential to towns like Dowagiac (conveniently centered between Kalamazoo, Mich., and Elkhart, Ind.) and the village of Walloon Lake (population about 300, near Petoskey, Mich.).

From the Stockbridge DDA perspective, what’s next with regard to the retail market analysis findings? According to Uihlein, the SDDA is hoping to develop a brochure that capitalizes on the GPG analysis of business opportunities in downtown Stockbridge.

Says Uihlein, “We’re looking at advertising and networking options for attracting businesses and investors, and now we have data to support our efforts. Considering the reasonable cost for the study, I consider The Gibbs Planning Group findings to be a gift that can help build the future success of retail businesses in Stockbridge.”

Village of Stockbridge business owners who wish to learn more about these market analysis findings should contact the SDDA at guihlein@stockbridgedda.org.

An SDDA-commissioned retail market analysis projects retail and restaurant growth potential in the village of Stockbridge. Photo credit: SDDA website (top), Mary Jo David (bottom left), GPG Retail Market Analysis Study (bottom right)

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