When Trader Joe’s wanted to increase their presence outside California, they didn’t just look for places with a healthy whole-foods vibe. “It’s a risky proposition to grow your brand and penetrate new markets,” Robb Miller, a principal in Buxton Marketing, said. “We showed them what their customer base would look like in Boston, what it would look like in Washington, D.C.” And the funky food chain increased its business all over the United States, Miller said.
Miller, a representative of the Texas-based firm, spent two days in Derry at the invitation of the Economic Development Committee. He made a presentation to the committee in its Monday, June 20 meeting, and followed up with a presentation to the Town Council in its June 21 meeting.
Miller was introduced by Economic Development Chair Terri Pastori. The firm had had “great success” in Rochester, a town with similar demographics, and when Buxton reached out to Planning Director George Sioras, the committee decided to invite them in for a talk.
Miller said that Rochester was similar to Derry, with 30,000 people, proximity to Boston and a “competitive retail market’ in the neighboring towns. Other communities were booming, and Rochester was suffering from what he called “retail leakage,” with residents going to other towns to shop.
“You have to prove your value,” Miller said. When Buxton partnered with Rochester, now a nine-year relationship, they found that every $1 spent on economic development returns $91 to the local economy.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Miller explained that Buxton began as a consumer analytics company working with retail firms on site selection. “It’s not location, location, location – it’s customer, customer, customer,” he said. They spent 20 years building up their client base before expanding to advising towns and cities, 12 years ago.
Buxton’s program for Derry would have three main objectives: increasing tax revenues, improving the quality of life and retaining local businesses. They have worked with 3,000 retailers and 700 municipalities, he said.
In Rochester, they have helped to fill 150,000 square feet of retail space, he said.
His programs are based on data and not just demographics, but “psychographics,” Miller told the Council. He gave an example of two different men, ages 35 to 50, in the same income bracket, but with different needs and priorities.
“We create a ‘thumbprint’ of matching retailers to the town,” he said.
This usually takes 30 to 45 days, according to Miller. Then it’s “pedal to the metal” as Buxton handles the initial outreach. “Then we will position you to sell your community to the retailer,” he said.
Selling the community is best done through Scout, a proprietary platform that is Google-based and allows users to make data-driven decisions.
“Let’s say you think Target would be a great fit,” Buxton proposed. “They are going to do a site visit. You can with a touch of a button pull up a map with the Target customers in the area, and in effect, tell your story to Target.”
His firm also works with local businesses to help them better market themselves, with access to the same data, he said.
The firm has also worked with Manchester, Miller said.
“You are in a competitive area,” he said. “But there are opportunities on the table to bring in the retailers you want.”
Councilor Josh Bourdon asked, “How quick is the ROI (return on investment)?”
Miller replied, “Retail growth is not an event, it’s a process.” It usually takes 8 to 10 months for a town to get into “serious conversations” with retailers.
Councilor David Fischer asked, “What are the specific details of the next step, should we decide to hire you?”
Miller said he would present a formal proposal and ask for an investment of $50,000 to partner with Buxton. He would provide references, he said.
“How long do your partnerships last?” Councilor Charles Foote asked.
“We like multi-year contracts,” Miller said. “The clients who stay with us longer are more successful.” In a multi-year contract the Buxton staff will provide an updated analysis every two years, he said.
And, he said, his firm gives towns the tools to do it on their own.
“We do not do the recruiting,” Miller said. “We put you in the driver’s seat and we ride shotgun.”
Pastori said that after the June 20 meeting, the committee voted to advise the Town Council to retain Buxton as its initial Economic Development consultant.