City looks to grow retail businesses

Published 10:20 am Thursday, February 25, 2016

The city is working with a national company to help Vicksburg grow through retail business.

The Retail Coach, a national retail consulting, market research and development firm based out of Tupelo, was hired by the city earlier this year to help draw retail business to Vicksburg.

“Our retail strategy will make suggestions and recommendations as to how to make the retail environment better for Vicksburg,” regional project director Scott Emison said.

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The company will consult as well as actively help to bring business to town with a retail recruitment coordinator who will contact retailers they think will fit in Vicksburg. In addition to attracting business to town, the company will also work with existing shops to help keep them here and reinforce their business.

“We are excited to partner with the city of Vicksburg as we believe they represent a regional retail hub that already exhibits a great downtown, casino and military park tourism, as well as outlet mall shopping,” Emison said.

The work done by the company is divided into three phases: area and community research, community analysis and the retail recruitment plan, which will be submitted to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

“We’re still in the early stages,” Emison said.

The company will spend the first 120 days collecting data that will be submitted to the city. The data will assess the city’s strengths and weaknesses in retail business. Emison will also find out where Vicksburg’s customers are coming from and locations for new businesses.

“We’ll get demographics, psychographics. Our big thing is that we run a gap and that tells you where you are lacking in retail,” project coordinator Katherine Marlar said.

The gap data shows what stores the city doesn’t have but could benefit from having like shoe stores or grocery stores.

Once the data is collected, the firm will be able to create an action plan. Emison said the plan would cover the entire city and have an interstate, downtown, Outlets at Vicksburg and Vicksburg Mall component.

Community Development Director Victor Gray-Lewis is the chairman of the city retail committee that comprises Vicksburg Main Street Program executive director Kim Hopkins, Margaret Gilmer of the Outlets at Vicksburg and Mike Carlisle of Vicksburg Mall.

“The city is very conscientious in trying to improve the quality of life of our residences by strategically planning a way to increase the number of retail outlets and to retain the retail outlets that we have,” Gray-Lewis said.

Education is also a part of the contract with the firm. Representatives from the company will hold webinars and workshops to keep officials, business owners and committee members informed of the information the company learns through the analysis.

A kickoff meeting was held Feb. 1 and Emison said he’d give an update to the city in about a month.

“We look forward to partnering together to bring better retail and making Vicksburg a more desirable place to shop, eat and live,” Emison said.