< Back To News

Small Town Retail Centers Attracting Big Brands

By:  Jennifer LeClaire, GlobeSt.com ATLANTA—As the economy improves in smaller towns around the Southeast, many major retailers are deciding to rejuvenate dated stores as a way to stay ahead of the competition. Atlanta-based Halpern Enterprises, which owns 33 retail properties in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, has seen this trend in a number of smaller metro areas. Two examples are Belk in Griffin, Ga. and Kroger in Carrollton, Ga. Both recently underwent major renovations.These smaller towns are also attractive for redevelopment of vacant retail spaces as a way to attract new retailers. Case in point: Milledgeville, Ga. a Halpern-owned shopping center, recently attracted a Hobby Lobby by expanding and renovating a space previously occupied by Kroger.GlobeSt.com caught up with Bill Brown, president of Halpern, to discuss about why retailers are looking beyond bigger cities to spend their renovation dollars. We also asked him why this is a move they expect to pay off. Be sure to return to the Southeast edition this afternoon for part two of this exclusive interview.

GlobeSt.com: Why are these smaller-town locations attractive to retailers?

Brown: Expanding into a smaller town can provide a retail chain with an increased chance to dominate the market. They’re big fish in a small pond, so to speak.

More and more retailers are reinvesting in stores because it’s more cost effective to renovate rather than starting from scratch. And they’re finding a good bump in sales by doing so, from what we’ve seen in our centers.

GlobeSt.com: Is this just another function of the improving economy?

Brown: Yes, in some ways it is. The economy is improving both in cities and in smaller towns. For most of these retailers with stores in small towns, they’ve operated there for a long time and have been thriving, but they want to maintain their continued success. Doing a renovation also provides a retailer, such as Belk in the North Griffin Square shopping center in Griffin, the opportunity to enhance the look of the store, whether that is with a new coat of paint or new floor coverings.

GlobeSt.com: Are retailers also expanding into these small-town markets?

Brown: We have indeed seen more opportunities attracting new retailers to small towns. Hobby Lobby recently opened a location in Milledgeville at the Heritage Walk shopping center. The area was a good fit for the chain, bringing in business from Georgia College and State University, Lake Oconee, Lake Sinclair and the surrounding counties. The previous retailer in the space, Kroger, was successful but had to relocate due to a need for expansion.

Part II of the Exclusive: How Halpern Helped Kroger Compete With Walmart

ATLANTA—How can a shopping center owner help a retailer make a renovation project happen? Are these retailers renovating and redeveloping due to an increase in competition? Answers to questions like these are helping landlords attract and retain tenants.

GlobeSt.com caught up with Bill Brown, president of Atlanta-based Halpern Enteprises, to get some answers to these and other questions in part two of this exclusive interview. In part one, Small Town Retailers Attracting Big Brands, we discussed why retailers are looking beyond bigger cities to spend their renovation dollars—and why this is a move they expect to see pay off.

GlobeSt.com: How can a shopping center owner help a retailer make a renovation project happen?

Brown: As an owner, you can do your part to improve the common areas, which could in turn help prompt the retailer to improve the inside. This can be upgrading a parking lot, painting a storefront or adding landscaping to a shopping center.

GlobeSt.com: Are these retailers renovating and redeveloping due to an increase in competition?

Brown: We’re not seeing a whole lot of new development of centers, so anchor retailers have to get creative when it comes to battling the competition. Take Kroger, for example. With a Publix and Super Walmart near the Kroger store in Carrollton, the chain knew it needed to do something to better compete.

The best way they felt to accomplish this was to keep their prime location but do a major expansion. The additional space more than doubled the store’s size. Now called a Kroger Marketplace, the store offers a wider variety of services, including a jewelry store, furniture, Starbucks and full pharmacy, better competing with Walmart.

GlobeSt.com: Why is it important for smaller-town retailers to stay current, even if there is no obvious competition in an area?

Brown: Even if retailers don’t have brick and mortar competition nearby, staying current can further solidify their position in the market. As an example, Belk has been in the Griffin area for several decades with no malls or traditional department stores as competitors. But even though Belk is the only opportunity in the area for people to buy quality labels, the retailer decided to add new merchandise to better meet the changing needs of its customers.

Also, retailers are always in competition with the Internet. If they aren’t up-to-date with their products, consumers can go online. Retailers need to appeal to customers with fresh, updated stores so they will want to shop in person, as opposed to going online.

GlobeSt.com: Why is it important for smaller-town retailers to stay current, even if there is no obvious competition in an area?

Brown: Even if retailers don’t have brick and mortar competition nearby, staying current can further solidify their position in the market. As an example, Belk has been in the Griffin area for several decades with no malls or traditional department stores as competitors. But even though Belk is the only opportunity in the area for people to buy quality labels, the retailer decided to add new merchandise to better meet the changing needs of its customers.

Also, retailers are always in competition with the Internet. If they aren’t up-to-date with their products, consumers can go online. Retailers need to appeal to customers with fresh, updated stores so they will want to shop in person, as opposed to going online.