NaviRetail CEO Casey Kidd tells councilmen about how his company recruits retailers for cities during Monday's Columbus City Council meeting at the Municipal Complex. Kidd said his company uses credit card and cell phone data to determine where residents are shopping, put the information in a report and market it at retail trade shows around the country. Photo by: Isabelle Altman/Dispatch Staff
August 21, 2018 11:04:59 AM
The Columbus City Council heard from the first of what could be several retail recruitment consulting firms at its meeting Monday.
Casey Kidd, chief executive officer of Memphis-based NaviRetail, which contracts with cities to recruit retailers, promised councilmen he would work with them and other stakeholders in the community to bring companies to Columbus.
"It's just as important for us to work with you guys as it is to work with a developer that we meet in Vegas," Kidd said. "I would definitely want all parties that we can get together to come to the table so we can work together in tandem to make this happen."
Working with NaviRetail would cost the city a little more than $36,000 annually. The council, however, did not vote Monday to hire the firm, instead indicating they might hear proposals from others.
Kidd said Memphis-based NaviRetail, which started three years ago and has about 50 clients mainly made up of small cities in the South, uses a mixture of cell phone data and credit card data to find where people are shopping frequently and what products they're purchasing when they get there. He said the company can even break the data down into specific sites and neighborhoods.
He also said his company can hire retail site selectors to visit Columbus sites and get their feedback.
That data shows retailers where the people who want their product are, Kidd said. He raised the example of an east Tennessee town whose citizens were driving 45 minutes away to eat at Olive Garden.
"They had, I think, 15,000 people every six months going to that Olive Garden from that area, driving 45 minutes away," he said. "Pretty incredible. But I've learned something in this business is that you can't keep people from spending money. If they want this or they want that, they're going to get it. All we can change is where they spend that money and making sure that it is spent in the city limits of Columbus."
Armed with that data, Kidd said, NaviRetail can then market the city to retailers at approximately 16 trade shows around the country each year.
"We take all this information and put it into comprehensive reports that we can take to trade shows and market the city using," he said. "This has some really specific information on it. We can go all the way down to showing you how many people have shopped at TJ Maxx in the past six months or three months or whatever it is we're trying to figure out. And then once we know that, we can take that to TJ Maxx and say, 'Hey, look, you've got this number of customers coming from this location.'"
The city has recently prioritized retail recruitment. The city council even pulled out of a deal with the Golden Triangle Development LINK at a work session last week after councilmen voted 3-2 not to contribute its normal $100,000 to the LINK's economic development services, like it has done for the last 10 years. Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box, who moved to reallocate that money at the work session, said he was concerned the LINK was not doing enough to recruit retail for the city.
Kidd took several questions from councilmen after his presentation, including how often he could report to the council if his firm is hired, what other cities in Mississippi he is working with and whether he would be willing to work with existing organizations in the city that already have a stake in retail recruitment, such as the Columbus Redevelopment Authority and Main Street Columbus.
Kidd said he'd worked with several other Mississippi cities, including his native Pontotoc. However, he said in response to a question from Box that he wasn't working with any cities within 45 minutes of Columbus and which could compete with Columbus for retail recruitment. He also told the council his firm would gladly work with local stakeholders and could report to the city as often as needed.
Mayor Robert Smith said he was impressed with Kidd's presentation.
"He's well versed even though he hasn't been in business a long time," Smith said. "They said they had about 50 customers. My concern was, how many customers did they have in the state of Mississippi, and he mentioned Pontotoc, Grenada, he's doing business with Oxford. He had a lot of business in other states."
Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones said he also was impressed by Kidd's presentation but said he wanted to know what retailers the company had already recruited where. When Jones asked Kidd that question following the presentation, Kidd said he'd had several "successes" but that he couldn't put a number on it because the deals were all at different stages of completion.
"I definitely want to look at his Facebook page and see what kind of track record they have as far as bringing things to people they already have," Jones said. "I think that (councilmen) definitely have to do their homework before I'm willing to say yes or no."
Both Smith and Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong said other retail development recruitment firms had reached out to the city, but it would be up to the council whether any of those groups would present before the council.
Smith said he thought the council would vote whether to hire NaviRetail or some other consulting firm within the next 30 days.
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