Factors Affecting Retail Location Decisions – Macro and Micro Factors

Even though non store retailing is growing, most of the retailers are still selling  from retail store space. Some of these retailers are very small single-store  operators, and some are huge superstore discounters. Each location selected  resulted from an effort to satisfy the needs of the particular market each was  designed to serve. Whether it was the customer’s need for convenience, their  desire to do comparison shopping, the extent of the purchasing power in a market  area, of the transportation facilities available, many factors together led to the  development of different kinds of retail locations. There is an old saying that the  value of real estate is determined by three things: location, location, and location.  A wall street journal study looked at the largest store as measured by gross  sales of the twenty largest brands. Not surprisingly, in nearly every case, a unique  location was a major factor.

Retail stores should be located where market opportunities are best. After a  country, region city or trade area, and  neighborhood  have been identified as  satisfactory, a specific site must be chosen that will best serve the desired target market.  Site selection can be the difference between success and failure. A through study of  customers and their shopping  behavior  should be made before a location is chosen.  The finest store in the world will not live up to it potential if it is located where customers  cannot or will not travel to shop. The primary role of the retail store or center is to attract  the shopper to the location. Alternatively, retailers must take the store to where the  people are, either at home or in crowds. Examples of taking the store to where the  crowds are include airport location, theme parks and vending machines.

Every retail store strives for its competitive advantage. For some stores, it is  price. For others, it is promotional expertise of the special services that are offered.  Despite any differences among the various stores that may competing for the shopper’s penny  location offers a unique asset for all stores because once a site is selected, it  cannot be occupied by another store. This advantage, however, points to the importance  of location analysis and site selection. Once a facility is built, purchased, or leased, the  ability to relocate may be restricted for a number of years. In short, location and site  selection is one of the most important decisions made by a retail owner.

There are many factors, need to be considered in the retail location analysis. The key ones include:

Macro Factors Affecting Retail Location Decisions (Country and Regional Analysis)

There is a need to recognize that country analysis will be an increasingly  important aspect of the location strategy as merchants look for growth opportunities.  After the decision is made as to what country or countries are to be considered,  a regional analysis will need to be done. Most countries are not completely  homogeneous and need to be broken down into regions in order for a retailer to better  understand the market characteristics.  Regions may differ in many characteristics such as population demographics and  density, climate, cultures, and distribution infrastructure.  The importance of examining countries and regions by their macro  characteristics can be illustrated by the importance of today’s distribution infrastructure to  the concept of flow-through replenishment. This concept is based on having  information on consumer demand that allows the flow of goods to be regulated by actual  needs in the retail stores. Consumer demand is acquired at the point of sale terminal  when the UPC bar code is scanned for each product sold. Computers maintain  continuous records of product flow. Daily or weekly reorders go directly. To manufactures  so that exact quantity replacement can be shipped to each individual store or routed to  the retailers central distribution center. If this is a part of the firm’s competitive  advantage, the country or region must have the transportation, computer, and  warehousing infrastructure necessary to support the strategy.

1. Demographic  Characteristics

Demography is the study of population characteristics that are used to describe  consumers. Retailers can obtain information about the consumer’s age, gender, income,  education, family characteristics, occupation, and many other items. These  demographic variables may be used to select market segments, which become the  target markets for the retailer. Demographics aid retailers in identifying and targeting  potential customers in certain geographic locations. Retailers are able to track many  consumer trends by  analyzing  changes in demographics. Demographics provide retailers  with information to help locate and describe customers. Linking demographics to  behavioral  and lifestyle characteristics helps retailers find out exactly who their  consumers are. Retailers who target certain specific demographics characteristics should  make sure that those characteristics exist in enough abundance to justify locations in  new countries or regions.

2. Economic  Characteristics

Businesses operate in an economic environment and base many decisions on  economic analysis. Economic factors such as a country’s gross domestic product,  current interest rates, employment rates, and general economic conditions affect how  retailers in general perform financially. For example, employment rates can affect  the quantity and quality of the  labor  pool available for retailers as well as influence the  ability of customers to buy.  Normally, growth in a country’s gross domestic product indicates growth in retail  sales and disposable income. Retailers want to locate in countries or regions that have  steadily growing gross national products. As interest rate rise, the cost of carrying  inventory on credit rises for retailers and the cost of purchasing durable goods rises for  consumers. Countries that have projected significant increases in interest rates should  be evaluated very carefully by retailers. Retailers will also be affected by a rise in  employment rates ; this lowers the supply of available workers to staff and support retail  locations.

3. Cultural  Characteristics

Cultural characteristics impact how consumers shop and what goods they  purchased. The values, standards, and language that a person is exposed to while  growing up are indicates of future consumption  behavior.  Consumers want to  feel comfortable in the environment in which they shop. To accomplish this,  retailers must understand the culture and language of their customers. In a  bilingual area, a retailer may need to hire employees who are capable of speaking  both of the languages spoken by the customers.  Some retailers have found it useful to market to the cultural heritage of their  consumers, while other retailers seek to market cross-culturally. Normally larger  cultures are made of many distinct subcultures. Retailers need to be aware of the  different aspects of culture that will affect the location decision. For example, greeting  cards sold in the United States normally have verses on the inside, while greeting cards  sold in Europe normally do not.

4. Demand

The demand for a retailer’s goods and services will influence where the  retailer will locate its stores. Not only must consumers want to purchase the  goods, but they must have the ability or money to do so as well. Demand  characteristics are a function of the population and the buying power of the  population that the retailer is targeting.  Population and income statistics are available for most countries and regions  with developed economics. In developing countries the income data may be little more  than an informed guess. These statistics allow the comparisons of population and a  basic determination of who will be able to purchase the goods carried in the store. This is  of utmost importance for retailers, whether they carry higher-priced goods such as  durables, furniture, jewellery, and electronics or lower-priced goods-such as basic  apparels or toys.

5. Competition

Levels of competitions vary by nation and region. In some areas, retailers  will face much stiffer competition than in other areas. Normally, the more  industrialized a nation is, the higher the level of competition that exists between  its borders. One of the environmental influences on the success or failure of a  retail establishment is how the retailer is able to handle the competitive  advantages of its competition. A retailer must be knowledgeable concerning both  direct and indirect competitors in the marketplace, what goods and services they  provide, and their image in the mind of the consumer population. Sometimes a  retailer may decide to go head to head with a competitor when the reasons are not  entirely clear.

6. Infrastructure

Infrastructure characteristics deal with the basic framework that allows  business to operate. Retailers require some form of channel to deliver the goods  and services to their door. Depending on what type of transportation is involved,  distribution relies heavily on the existing infrastructure of highways, roads,  bridges, river ways, and railways. Legal infrastructures such as laws,  regulations and court rulings and technical infrastructures  such as level of  computerization, communication systems, and electrical power availability also  influence store location decisions.  Distributions play a key role in the location decision especially for  countries and regions. There is a significant variance in quantity and quality of  infrastructures across countries. A retailer whose operation depends on reliable  computerization and communications would not need to even consider a country  or a region that did not meet those criteria.  The legal environment is a part of the overall infrastructure a firm must  consider. For example, many countries require non-native businesses to have a  native partner before establishing retail locations. The legal requirements a  retailer operates under in one country will not be the same for another country or  region and may be different from state to state within the United States.

In conclusion, the demographic, demand, competition, cultural,  infrastructure and economic characteristics are important in  analyzing  a country  or region.

Micro Factors Affecting Retail Location Decisions (Trade Area Analysis)

It is important to define the market area of any potential location. You  know that a retail market is any group of individuals who possess the ability,  desire and willingness to buy retail goods or services. The residents of any  neighborhood, city, region, country, or group of countries may constitute a retail  market. The retail trade is defined as the geographic area within which the retail  customers for a particular kind of store live or work. The customer profile of a  segment of the people within the geographic area that the store decides to serve is  the target market.

1. Demographic Factors

We have said that perhaps no variables are more important to the retail  manager than the demographic dimensions of a market. Whether the retail trade  area is the central city, a growing suburb, or a quiet rural area, you must  understand the people who live and work there.  Once the basic characteristics are identified and a judgement is made as to  how far one of the customers would travel for the goods, the total market has  been determined.  Factors, such as current population, potential population, population  density, age, income, gender, occupation, race, proportion of home ownership,  average home value, and proportion of single versus multifamily dwellings are  important considerations.  Where consumers live, their commuting patterns, and whether their  numbers are increasing or decreasing are but a few of the dynamic characteristics  of the trade area population that the retailer must consider. It may be quite helpful  to construct maps that display where certain types of customers reside.

As you learned, market segmentation is the process of grouping  individuals according to characteristics that help define their needs. Each of these  groups of similar individuals is called a market segment. No matter how many  different segments you may find within any given retail market, you may choose  to satisfy only one or just a few of them. Each segment that a retailer attempts to  satisfy is a target market.

2. Economic Factors

Economic characteristics have a significant impact on country and region  selection. The impact on trade area is even greater. The local unemployment rate  will effect the local  labor  pool and the amount of money that consumers have to  purchase products. The most important economic characteristics for the retailer
are per capita income and employment rates.

3. Subculture

Subculture have more of an impact on market and trade area selection  than on country or region selection. One must normally be at the market or trade  level in order to accurately gauge the location and characteristics of a subculture.  An ethnic subculture creates market segments for goods ranging from food and  cosmetics to clothing and entertainment. At the same time religion, language, and  family structure create both opportunities and problems.

4. Demand

The economy of an area under consideration for location should provide a  general indicator of the long —range retail opportunities present within an area.  The number, type, trends, and stability of industries that might affect business in  the market area need to considered. Employment rates, total retail sales, segment  retail sales, household income, and household expenditures all provide  information from which the economic stability of the area can be ascertained. The  buying power index (BPI) indicates the relative ability of consumers to make  purchases. The BPI for most metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in U.S. is published yearly by Sales and Marketing Management in their survey of buying power. The BPI for potential markets can be directly compared to help make a choice of  market area.

5. Market Potential

Once the retail trade area has been identified and the relative segmenting  variables applied, certain quantitative factors must be considered to decide if the  area is suitable. These factors include the retail market potential of a retail trade  area and the retail ales potential. Retail market potential is the total dollar sale  that can be obtained by all stores selling a particular retail product, product line,  or group of services within the retail trade area if everything was maximized.  Therefore, retail sales potential is a part of retail market potential. A retail sales  forecast is the specific estimate of sales volume that a retailer expects. Because  the retailer is new in the area or because of the entry of a new competitor, the  sales forecast may be less than the estimate of retail sales potential.  There are two major determinants of the market potential for a trade area:  the number of potential customers within the area and the amount of money  consumers spend for the product or product line in question. For example, a  retailer can estimate the market potential by multiplying the number of potential  consumers in the trade area by the average amount they spend for the product.  Generally, market potential figures are based on yearly estimates. Suppose, for  example, that 50,000 potential customers reside in the trade area. If it is known  that each potential customer spends approximately $79 per year on gifts, the retail  market potential for gift sales in that retail trade area would be $3,900,000.  Population statistics are commonly used in arriving at market potential  and are expressed on a per capita, a per household, or a per family basis. The  other factor is per capita expenditure.

A retail trade area may have little relationship to these political  boundaries. The merchant may be able to get a more detailed breakdown of  population by checking with :

  • The local chamber of commerce for any detailed studies it any have made.
  • The local newspaper for circulation statistics
  • The local post office for the number of box holders on delivery routes
  • The local public utilities office for information on the number of  residential electric or gas meters
  • The city planning office, fire department, and police department for  information on the number of residents within a specific retail trade area.

Regardless of the sources used, however, the merchant will probably find  it necessary to adjust population information for a retail trade area by using the  data collected in combination with individual judgement about the area.  In addition to population information, the retailer must collect data on the  number of dollars being spent by consumers for the product or product line in  question.

6. Sales Potential

You learned that the retail sales potential for a firm is the estimated dollar  sales that a retailer expects to obtain in a particular retail trade area over a given  period. An accurate appraisal of sales is important, because it will dictate the  amount of inventory that will be purchased, the number of employees that will be  needed, the dollars that can be spent for expenses, and the amount to debt capital  the business can comfortably afford. To arrive at such a figure, one must  consider.

  • The competitive strengths in the market
  • The amount of business that can be drawn from substitute products
  • Management’s own expertise

To assess the competitive strengths in the market, the retailer can start with an  assessment of the total market potential. If the retailer assumes that the business  will obtain at least average amount of sales being realized by the competitive  business in the trade area, an estimate of the sales potential can be made. If there  are five business (the new retail establishment makes six), each business might be  expected to have one-sixth of the business available in the trade area.  Although this approach may not seem as sound as that used in measuring  market potential, it does provide an analysis of competitive strength, and the  figure derived is usually conservative. This approach can be useful in particular  situations.

7. Index of Retail Saturation

Competition exists when more than one store compete for the same  market segment or target market. In some situations, a firm might like to be only  one of its type in a given market area. This is particularly the case for specialty or  convenience goods. On other occasions, however, good strong competition will  enhance the overall business potential of a given area because it will draw  shoppers from a greater distance to compare prices or stores. This is particularly  the case with goods for which people often make shopping comparisons. Maps  may be developed to show retail locations of competitors by relative size and  merchandise mix.

8. Infrastructure

We have talked about how the infrastructure including roads and  highways, distribution warehouses, communications facilities, and labour pool must  be adequate for a country or region. The same is even more true for trade  area analysis. The legal infrastructure can also impact the trade area selected for  your store. State and local laws vary concerning advertising, zoning, and sign  restrictions for retailers.

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