Archive for Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Data mining proposed to lure retailers to city

November 7, 2007

A data-analyzing firm wants to break down the buying habits of area consumers to help lure more retailers to Tonganoxie. But the service comes with a $50,000 price tag.

Monday night, around 20 people, including members of the City Council, Planning Commission and members of the Chamber of Commerce listened to a presentation from Buxton, a Fort Worth, Texas, market research firm.

Buxton gathers data from the trail of electronic information the average American leaves when using everything from credit and debit cards, buying magazine subscriptions to using grocery discount cards. Buxton then examines the data to pair a specific area with one of Buxton's 1,500 business clients that best matches the buying needs of that area.

"What we do with that data is look at your consumers at a granular household level," said Lisa Hill, territory business manager for Buxton. "Who are they? What do they have a propensity to buy and where do they have a propensity to dine?"

The data gathered can tell big retailers what kind of consumers there are in Tonganoxie and if their store would be a good fit. The data could potentially help smaller mom and pop shops not partnered with Buxton in making a decision to come to the town.

The 45-minute presentation gave way to an hour-long discussion between the groups and members of the public about the future of Tonganoxie.

During the presentation Hill pointed out that one of the problems with retailers is their wanting to brand an image. Usually this image can only be maintained if all of the retailers' stores look similar, which usually means they won't be able to go inside an older downtown district.

The initial $50,000 cost for Buxton's services, divided the room between those who believed the city's data profile would only match Tonganoxie with retailers that would want to build along U.S. Highway 24-40 and not downtown, and those who believe the information could do both.

"I think they have a wealth of information and it would be great if we were 10 times our size," said Velda Roberts, a former council member. "For what we are trying to do in Tonganoxie ... do you think they will provide us with anybody that will go downtown?"

During the meeting it was suggested that instead of paying Buxton for its services, the $50,000 could go toward funds that would help businesses that want to set up shop downtown.

Council member Tom Putthoff said for 30 years he hated his commute to the Kansas City area for work and wanted to get more retail, big and small, to Tonganoxie.

"I would like to buy my jeans here. I would like to be able to go to a restaurant of my choice here," he said. "I want this town to grow, and I would like to see a lot of retail in this town. Sometimes the bad thing is when you bring in business somebody closes ... it's inevitable. I just don't want us to restrict this growth to just one area of the town. Yes we need some downtown business, but we need some highway business too."

Monday's presentation came during a work session, so the four council members in attendance -- Putthoff, Paula Crook, Steve Gumm and Jim Truesdell -- could not take any binding action.

The chamber, council and Planning Commission members in attendance indicated they would like to get together again before the end of the month to continue discussing retail possibilities.

Recently at a League of Kansas Municipalities meeting, City Administrator Mike Yanez asked Hill to speak to the city about the retail matching service Buxton provides.

"At least it will broaden our horizon to the types of services that are out there that might be able to assist the city of Tonganoxie to stop our retail bleeding," Yanez said.

He added Tuesday this was the first time since he became the city administrator that all three groups came together, and he was pleased with the result.

"The overall consensus was that the city needs to take some action, and certainly we need to keep talking and planning on how to move forward for retailer recruitment and retention," Yanez said.

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