City renews contract with Retail Coach
The City of Minot is extending its contract with Retail Coach for another year after hearing from the consultant regarding its efforts the past year.
The Minot City Council voted Monday to use $27,500 in economic development sales tax dollars to continue contracting with Retail Coach in 2024.
In addition to retail recruitment, Retail Coach represents the city at conferences and provides consulting and data analysis specific to downtown and community demographics and data analysis that are displayed on an online dashboard posted to the city’s website.
“We’ve had some really good meetings with prospects,” Retail Coach President Aaron Farmer said in his remote presentation to the council.
Minot will be getting new fast-food Chinese and chicken restaurants, he said. Also interested are a discount retail chain, a Midwestern convenience store chain, two arts and crafts stores, a shoe store, a warehouse club, a Class A hotel, pet store, fast-food deli, frozen yogurt store, smoothie-deli restaurant and casual, sit-down restaurants.
“We’re doing some marketing and outreach to find franchisees for some of these casual, sit-down restaurants and others,” Farmer said. “Since we started, day one, there’s a lot more interest in the market. It’s just taken a little bit longer for some of these because of that distribution route issue that we deal with. But, we’re getting closer on that.”
He explained companies don’t want to have one store that’s very far off their distribution routes.
“There’s a lot of things you do well as far as acting as a regional hub. What the data showed us is you do pull people from long distances and when they’re here, they stay here for a long time,” Farmer said.
Using cell phone data to track where shoppers come from and how often they come, Minot’s 2023 numbers show a primary customer base of more than 180,000 people. More importantly, Farmer said, household incomes continue to grow, with the average at $95,000.
“We’ve got retailers and restaurants that are paying attention to that population growth and also that income growth,” he said.
Minot also draws from farther distances, producing a secondary market with a population of 227,000 and similar household incomes, Farmer said.
“Your retail market is growing or is expected to grow annually. It’s a compound annual growth rate of 2.2 percent yearly for the next five years,” he said. “We always hope that number is 1.5 or higher so the fact that you’re over two looks really good and you’ve got certain sectors that are much higher than that. Paint and wallpaper stores are at 4.7 percent. You’ve got optical goods stores that are at 4 percent. But most, if not all of your sectors, are growing.”
Retail Coach also has assembled site profiles for existing spaces that are available for new businesses. Another aspect of its consulting service is working with existing retail and hospitality businesses to interpret and apply marketing data to grow their operations.
The city hired Retail Coach in 2021 to recruit regional and national retailers. The two-year contract was for $47,500 the first year and $27,500 for each additional year.
City Manager Harold Stewart stressed the importance of growing the retail base and the sales taxes needed to finance city projects and relieve pressure from property taxes.
“Being proactive in this arena is going to be more and more critical to our future financial sustainability and accomplishing these projects and demands for services that we’re being asked to continue to meet for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Financial outlook positive near year end
The financial picture for the City of Minot is largely positive going into the final month of the year, Finance Director David Lakefield told the council Monday.
City records show sales tax collections through October were up about 6% from the same period a year ago. Lakefield said Hub City oil and gas tax collections haven’t been as strong as last year, but revenues have been consistent.
The budget is over-spent in a few areas, particularly overtime in departments that operate 24/7, Lakefield said. However, because departments are short-staffed, there also is a savings with vacant positions.
“This year, the council authorized the use of $3 million in reserves to balance our budget, and at this point, we’re optimistic and hopeful that we’ll come up with the savings to counteract that,” Lakefield said. “So it’s looking very positive at this point of the year.”