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In the Know: The changing dynamics of retail development



One of the most frequently asked questions we receive at the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission (AAEDC) office is, “When will Kohl’s, Best Buy and Lowe’s (the three most popular requested retailers besides restaurants) build in Alexandria?” The reality is they may never build in the community.

Although I firmly believe the market and regional draw is strong enough to support the addition of other large retailers, local retail development is changing how rural regional centers attract and grow retail development.

Our organization had the opportunity to host Mr. John Griffith, recently retired executive vice president of property development for Target Corporation, to discuss retail and commercial real estate development. Mr. Griffith shared his experience and insights with the AAEDC and community leaders regarding the changing dynamics of retail and commercial development. A few takeaways from our dialogue with Mr. Griffith were:

1. Technology and consumer buying habits are changing commercial development for the retail industry.

2. Don’t chase big retailers. Let them develop naturally in your community.

3. Continue to attract tourism through niche retail and entrepreneurial opportunities.

4. Keep the Alexandria downtown vibrant with special events and activities.

Technology and consumer buying habits have altered the retail landscape. With everything a click away, consumers now demand more innovation, unique products and value than ever before. The growth in Internet and special apps shopping has confronted the retail sector with the need to reinvent the physical store space, changing the size, investment, and product delivery to meet the customer demands.

Ian Geddes, Partner at Deloitte, states, “In the new multi-channel reality, the boundaries between virtual and physical space are becoming blurred and retailers are being forced to question the role and function of stores in the environment where their relevance to the connected consumer is increasingly subject to challenge.”

The days of the big box stores are drastically changing.

The market has shifted away from “super stores,” toward smaller neighborhood stores. With a few recent developments, Alexandria has already experienced this movement to smaller stores through both franchise retailers and locally-owned stores. They are developing and building as close to the downtown core as possible because the downtown retail district is attracting the consumer through convenience, while also continuing to lure tourism dollars.

Tourism contributes profoundly to the area’s economic strength and quality of life by supporting the retail shops, area restaurants, museums, festivals, and lodging facilities. This includes significant support for Alexandria’s downtown retail and entertainment district, which is enjoyed by local residents but is also supported significantly by the visitors to this community.

While our downtown area has many shopping options, we have witnessed this past summer that it also has the opportunity to host a range of events, most recently hosting the street dance. The AAEDC and other community organizations must continue to support activities that help our downtown stay vibrant and economically competitive.

In closing, I ask two questions of you: 1) What niche retail opportunities is our community currently missing that would help bolster our downtown district? 2) What unique events are we missing to continue to draw people to the downtown corridor? Share your ideas and feedback at

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“In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.