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Shorewood officials mull contract agreement with retail recruiter, development consultant

To maximize the village’s prospects for drawing in new developers and retailers, the Shorewood Village Board of Trustees discussed the idea of approving a one-year contract extension with The Retail Coach.

Shorewood officials came to a consensus at their March 28 meeting that tabling the board’s vote on a contract agreement with this consulting firm is warranted. Trustee Daniel Warren was absent.

“We’ve been working on many things this year,” community development director Karen James said. “In consideration for the third year, this was budgeted in the current fiscal year that’s ending… March 31st. This was budgeted last year, so this would be the agreement for our third year, which would begin after we do this. The budget we just passed would actually be for our fourth year in the future if we decide to do that.”

The Retail Coach is seeking a one-year, $20,000 contract agreement to extend the timeframe for the services provided to the village.

The Retail Coach Senior Vice President Aaron Farmer said he, his staff and the village are always looking for new ways to get retailers interested in doing business in Shorewood.

“We have the capabilities now to do a cellphone analysis, and we actually did this at Shorewood Crossing, kind of [near] Marianos, that shopping center there,” he said. “As long as you go into a store and you make a phone call, you get an email or you get a text, we’re able to track your home address based off your cellphone. It’s obviously scary information from a retailer-developer’s point of view. Having that kind of information [and] knowing where your consumer is coming from, that’s extremely power to convince them to come to the store to know who their customer is.”

This technology does not allow the village or The Retail Coach to access messages or emails, but they’re able to track the region in which people are shopping.

That new technology has been accessible for the last four to five months.

Often retailers and developers will first seek information on what sites are available within the communities they’re considering.

Farmer said they’ve also worked on creating site profiles to ensure the village stays ahead of the curve.

“This speeds up the process,” he said. “Anytime we’re talking to a retailer, restaurant we can say, ‘look, here are the three sites that fit your criteria.’ That… helps speed up their process.”

Farmer recognizes that competition exists to bring retailers into town and said they’re working to get them.

To date, the village has created 20 site profiles.

“We all know that Which Wich [Sandwiches] is coming to the community,” Farmer said. “We developed a specific bargaining package for Which Wich that had their logo on it, … and it contained specific information to them. Do they look for a certain demographic? Do they look for certain trade area size? We built up these custom marketing packages with their logo on them, and that’s what helps convince these retailers, convince these restaurants, these developers they need to come in.”

Farmer added that the same goes for developers and the marketing packages they’re presented.

The Retail Coach is currently in the middle of talking with three developers about coming to Shorewood.

Farmer said they’re also working with a couple restaurants and retailers, with one likely development being a shoe store.

“They’ve narrowed it down to three sites,” he said of the shoe store. “Now, the step is get that site selector out here.”

James referenced interest by a large entertainment-type developer in doing business in Shorewood and said they’ve been working hard to match them with a retailer in recent weeks.

Farmer said it’s a lot about marrying retailers with developers, developers with retailers and putting it all together.

“There are specific retailers—large retailers—and a couple of developers that are pretty close on deals,” Farmer said. “Karen referenced them already. They’re pretty close to happening.”

Trustee Anthony Luciano questioned what happens to these deals if the village ends its agreement with The Retail Coach.

“If we didn’t continue on with the program, would we still be able to develop those or are they going away?” he asked.

Farmer said though Karen could surely do a nice job, he thinks The Retail Coach brings a lot to the table to assist the village in its pursuits also.

Trustee Daniel Anderson wants to see more face-to-face recruitment occurring to help convince developers and retailers to come into town.

Farmer explained that it is not unusual for contact to be made virtually or by phone.

Luciano said his concern is that he wants to see greater results.

“I’m kind of confused that why we have to keep doing all this marketing to keep it up to date when if someone’s interested they should be interested based on what they already saw, not on what’s going to be the future,” he said. “They have to project that themselves with their own marketing department I would suspect.”

Farmer tried to explain

“I can see that side of things, but it works a little bit differently,” he said. “I’d ask you to then realize retail recruitment is a process. So, there’s a bunch of communities out there that… are very similar to Shorewood. So, you’re competing with those in the greater Chicagoland area, which are also competing with others maybe in downstate [Illinois], maybe you’re competing with some in Missouri. What’s going to make Shorewood stand out from these other communities?”

Trustee Edmund Murphy motioned for the contract agreement to be tabled. This matter is to be reviewed by the board in April, at which point officials will look to vote.

The contract agreement, if approved, is to be budgeted for in the village’s budget under economic development.

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