Drive along East County Line Road and through downtown Jackson, and you’ll find plenty of vacant retail space.
The Jackson City Council hopes that two retail recruiters can help fill that and grow the amount of sales tax and property tax the city collects.
The City Council approved, at its January 5 meeting a, $31,000, 12-month contract with The Retail Coach, which is based in Austin, to recruit retailers for the city along U.S. Highway 80 and East County Line Road.
The council also approved a 12-month contract, not to exceed $20,000, with Memphis-based NaviRetail to target retailers for downtown Jackson. NaviRetail has worked with Clinton for four years and done work in Grenada and Pontotoc.
“We realize Jackson has had its challenges,” said Jhai Keeton, deputy director of planning and development for the city. “We’re not running away from that but we’re not going to sit around idle. We’re going to try something new.”
The retail recruitment firms will analyze the market, determine where shoppers are from, identify what the market is missing and inventory real estate that is available for potential retailers, he said.
The Retail Coach services will include targeting 30 retailers suitable for Highway 80 and County Line Road’s site selection data, custom marketing materials for both areas, a market analysis, real estate profile sheets and an interactive site map to be used as part of the city’s ongoing recruitment tools.
NaviRetail will target retailers suitable for downtown site selection data, perform a market analysis and provide custom marketing material for the area.
The data analysis should be done by May and the real estate inventory by July, he said.
East County Line, which has seen retailers move to centers in Madison and Flowood, includes Ridgewood Court, County Line Road Plaza, Pear Orchard Shopping Center and the center that once housed Academy Sports. Each center has vacancies, some brought on by national retailers that went out of business and others by retailers that moved to newer centers outside of Jackson.
Available space in downtown includes 200 Capitol Street where the Regions Bank building is located, and the Landmark Building at Capitol and Lamar streets.
“The interesting part about downtown real estate is historically it’s law firms and banking headquarters,” Keeton said. “When you think about the layout and floor plans, you have to get creative to think about other potential uses. Coming up with different uses will be part of the downtown real estate analysis.”
Data provided by NaviRetail is expected to be useful in developing a plan for vacant property on Pascagoula Street that is across the street from the Jackson Convention Complex, he said.
“There were several plans in the past to develop that site,” he said, “and we still plan to address that site.”
The retail recruiters will use data about the market and available real estate inventory and match it with the site selection criteria national retailers use when determining a location and reach out to retailers. “They already have existing relationships,” he said.
Securing one to two national retailers over the course of 18-24 months “would be a certain level of success for us,” Keeton said, and create traction.
The city plans to reach out to established retailers for a “wellness check” and learn what their challenges are and what would help them grow.
Nancy Lane, a commercial broker for Lane Harkins Commercial Real Estate, said the market is tough for retailers because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has given online shopping a boost.
“What I’m hearing others say is they’re expecting retail to take several years to come back,” she said. “We can expect smaller stores and lower rents because we’re going to have a lot of vacancies.”
Lane said she’s never worked with a retail recruiter but the work of commercial brokers work is similar. “We look at who needs to expand or grow or downsize and who’s not represented in the market,” she said.
Jackson City Council member Ashby Foote, who represents Ward 1, said he hopes the recruiters have success.
“We’ve got to be out there trying to get businesses to consider locating in Jackson,” he said. “This is a way to go about doing that. We have plenty of locations that need new businesses. It’s going to be a challenge but that’s sometimes when real opportunities are found.”