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Sierra Madre to Attract Downtown Business with Marketing Study

By Wonder

Sierra Madre to attract downtown business with marketing studySierra Madre, like most cities in this Post-Redevelopment Era, must go to creative lengths to attract new downtown business to fuel economic growth.

At its Tuesday meeting, the City Council gave staff direction to implement a downtown market demand study that would not only help recruit new business, but invigorate current businesses to help the city compete with neighboring market areas.

Prepared by Fort Worth, Texas marketing firm Buxton, the study identifies Sierra Madre’s retail strengths and weaknesses to assist the city in recruiting specific retailers that would best compliment the area’s consumers. The study was also intended to assist current businesses with making strategic merchandising and marketing decisions, according to City Manager Elaine Aguilar.

The first step in implementing the market demand study is to focus on business retention, said Aguilar. The idea is to inform local merchants with the study’s consumer propensity reports, which list retail items that local consumers purchase most frequently in Sierra Madre’s trade area.

“We could prepare these reports for current businesses to help them figure out if there is something they should be carrying in order to capture some of the sales that are being lost to our neighboring communities,” said Aguilar.

She told the council that staff would like to provide these study findings to local business owners by setting up two forums this month. Staff would then survey participants to know whether or not business owners find this information to be useful. Staff also proposed that members of the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce help get the word out to local merchants, while also generating enthusiasm toward the market demand study.

Bill Coburn, Executive Director at the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce and editor of Sierra Madre News Net, told the council that the Chamber had discussed the Buxton study at previous meetings and was excited to make it work for Sierra Madre as it has for other communities.

“I have seen it implemented in other cities where businesses benefit directly from specific items that nobody in the town is carrying,” said Coburn. “Once they saw that, they started carrying them – now all of a sudden they’re selling them.”

According to Aguilar, the next phase for the study would be business recruitment. She said that staff has already been provided a list of specific retail businesses that match Sierra Madre’s market demand area.

“Once that list is narrowed down to two or three businesses, Buxton actually prepares what they call pursuit packages, and that is information tailored to that specific business showing why Sierra Madre has the customers that will support their businesses,” Aguilar reported.

As part of the recruitment plan, staff suggested that the city offer potential businesses special incentives to setup shop in Sierra Madre. Aguilar said that staff had brainstormed some ideas such as reduced building and safety permit fees, expediting permit processing at no extra cost, relaxed parking standards, or reduced business fees. She noted that the City Council would need to discuss this idea in greater detail at future meetings.

“We’re just throwing this at you as a way to generate ideas,” said Aguilar. “We could do none of these, or we could do one or two things that you might think are interesting.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Nancy Walsh did not hold back her enthusiasm for putting the study to use. She said local merchants would need to be inspired by the prospects of increased economic activity for the study forums to be truly productive.

“It’s going to take all of us talking to business owners,” she said. “And I think it’s going to be very interesting that we are going to have to sell it to the business owners because they have a lot on their hands, and they’re not going to want to go to these meetings if they think it’s going to be a waste of time.”

After finding a consensus with fellow council members, Mayor Josh Moran gave staff the go ahead to schedule the business survey forums as soon as possible for this month. At the staff’s recommendation, the City Council also created two subcommittees that would report their results on recruitment and marketing to the council throughout the process.

The council appointed Walsh and Councilmember John Harabedian to the Business Recruitment Subcommittee and Walsh and Councilmember Chris Koerber to the Marketing Subcommittee. Both subcommittees would also include members from staff and the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce.

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