One of life’s most painful moments comes when we must admit that we didn’t do our homework, that we are not prepared.
Merlin Olsen, former football star
When helping clients choose a great location I often find that they get stuck on a particular place. It’s not always the best place, but for whatever reason they develop an emotional attachment to it very quickly. Rather than going straight for your first choice, here is an eight-step plan of action I suggest that you follow:
1. Buy a city map and drive to every shopping center in the area. Real estate agents very often only show you what they want to show you. Plus, by doing it yourself you will get a better feel for the area.
2. Write down the phone numbers of all the rentals in shopping centers that seem to meet your basic criteria for size, location, and visibility and circle them on your map. Give each a number and note one other key store in the center for reference. (After driving in circles for a few hours it’s easy to forget which is which.)
3. Always find at least three or four options before calling and getting prices. Remember to call centers you like that have no vacancies; they may well have a tenant on the way out. I have gotten many of my best locations from this simple tip.
4. Drive to each location at different times of the day and on weekends and note how busy the center is at each time. Some centers are day centers, some centers are night centers, some are weekend centers, and some are always busy. Which type is best suited for your particular business?
5. Watch the traffic flow of both people and cars. On more than one occasion I have seen business owners jump at a location because of a major anchor at one end of the shopping center, only to find people parking in front of the anchor and never even glancing at the far end of the center. Also important to consider, especially in a bigger center, is how the traffic flows. A store located right at the entrance to the parking lot will get far more attention and traffic. Best of all there is rarely a premium put on this space.
6. Perhaps the best test of all is to visit several individual businesses. Ask them how business is, how the landlord is, and whether traffic in the center is growing or shrinking. Ask how long the space has been for rent. This can be a big help in your negotiations with the landlord, especially if it’s been around a while. Empty space generates no money.
Always take what they have to say with a pinch of salt but listen to what they tell you. Often you will uncover information that will help you in making a decision. Is the anchor tenant about to leave? Is the city about to tear up the road? Or is the shopping center about to be sold?
7. Look at who your neighbors would be in the specific space. If they attract your types of customers, it’s a big plus. If they attract teenage boys, it may be a minus.
8. Finally gather all the data, pick the best one with a second as a backup and enter into the negotiation stage. Remember that you don’t have to accept anything currently on the market if they are not winners. Maybe you can sublease space in an existing store while you wait for the perfect place. This also reduces your costs.
Don’t get emotionally attached to a particular location. Follow this eight-step plan and you will choose a superior location.
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