Vicksburg shakes up its approach to marketing for retail growth

Published 5:49 pm Thursday, March 5, 2020

A delegation from the city of Vicksburg will no longer be going to Las Vegas to promote the city to national retailers.

For the past three years, a group of city and economic development officials have traveled to Las Vegas for the annual International Council of Shopping Centers, which is considered the largest retail show in the country, to meet with officials and try to get them to bring their businesses to Vicksburg.

But Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said this week the trip is moving off the city’s calendar.

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“The last three years, we have spent $57,379.38 in travel,” he said during Monday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “For $57,379.38, we’d be better off hiring a person to represent us in trying to seek retail instead of all of us traveling to Las Vegas and Atlanta and coming back with nothing.

Flaggs said the city spent $14,000 in 2017, $19,000 in 2018 and “$20-something thousand dollars we spent in another year (for the trip). That is absolutely too much money to come back with nothing.”

“If I go this time, this is my last time going to ‘Vegas. There’s nothing in ’Vegas that I like more than Vicksburg,” he said. “The time is out for us traveling to ’Vegas as a team, sightseeing, enjoying and no retail.”

Flaggs said the city would be better served by having Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, targeting retail and working through the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce rather than have a delegation going to Las Vegas.

“If I’m going to hold the people accountable for shopping in Vicksburg, then we’re going to hold the city accountable, so the traveling to ’Vegas is over,” he said.

The trips to Las Vegas may not be the only change regarding the city’s pursuit of retail business.

South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said he was concerned about the effectiveness of the city’s retail consultant, Tupelo-based Retail Coach.

The board in 2016 hired Retail Coach, a national retail consulting, market research and development firm, to help draw retail business to Vicksburg.

Under the agreement, the company would consult as well as actively help bring business to town with a retail recruitment coordinator who would contact retailers they think would fit in Vicksburg.

Besides attracting business to town, the company would also work with existing shops to keep them here and reinforce their business.

Monsour said he was disappointed with the firm’s representation during the last Las Vegas trip.

“While I sat at the table (with a retailer) I heard things mentioned about Vicksburg and they never mentioned that we had just built a $25 million sports complex,” he said. “It’s like they weren’t up to date on what we did, so that didn’t maximize our effort at all.”

When he told the Retail Coach consultant about the complex, Monsour said, she responded, “Oh, really?”

“They’re not from here and they market a lot of different people,” he said. “We need somebody who knows Vicksburg, who’s here and knows what we have, because that is a key part of business.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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