For the majority of my real estate career, I have been interested in redeveloping small-town downtowns.
I have taken the lead as the consultant in several.
It's a tricky business, especially if you are close-minded to learning the reasons one is as it is, rather than assuming that you intuitively know.
It's best to look for the opinions that go against the tide.
For an example, "Well, shopping malls came along with lots of stores, enclosed concourses and free parking," is often the reason given for a downtown's failure.
The problem with that is that it gives the failed downtown only two recourses: tear everything down and build in its place an enclosed shopping mall with free parking.
Or, figure out how to tinker with what is at that downtown, and make it appeal to a place of new ideas.
Properly done, it almost always works. Using what's there, with educated modifications, is the correct approach.
Target is a big box store, as you know, that has been seriously losing its market share. The same thing is happening at Wal-Mart.
At Target, upper management has decided that spending massive amounts of capital to redecorate their stores will bring the customers back. Maybe, but I haven't found that to be the problem.
Target's inventory is undependable. If I go there for, say, new underwear, in all likelihood, the store will not have my size in the "standard" kind I want. Or if they do, there will not be as many as six pairs on the rack.
Customers are not interested in making a special trip to a store, regardless of how its decorated, if they can't be assured from experience that the store will have in stock what they want to buy.
Pottery Barn was to be a Mickey Mouse cheap import store when it was first begun. In fact, it primarily depended on a mail order catalog rather than stand alone stores.
Meanwhile, back to Target. Target had hired a team to build a computer program that would track merchandise on hand in each store, so that each night, their nearby regional warehouses could accurately ship out accurately needed stock replacement to them the next day.
This change put Target on the map for the first time.
Pottery Barn hired the team that had built the Target program, and used it to move into retail, stand alone stores.
It became enormously successful.
Target, meanwhile, spent capital on investments that should have only come from surplus funds, not at the expense of adequate inventory.
Meanwhile, Staples has been loading its shelves with rolls of paper towels, coffee, and other like supplies.
That would be a wonderful approach, I suppose, if it didn't interfere with making certain that they have every computer printer ink cartridge in stock and, say, the matching envelopes for their Southworth office stationery.
In my case, I stopped driving to the nearby Staples store because I got tired of being disappointed. Instead, I order what I need from Amazon. They always have it.
And in the main, it is actually cheaper, and it is delivered to my door the next day, which is soon enough.
So here's the question: If your real estate business isn't doing as well as you would like, probably remodeling the office, changing your logo, doubling your avertising budget or increasing your staff size will not bring the results you hope for.
Instead, look for what potential clients feel is missing.
BILL CHERRY, REALTOR