In Successfully Locating A Business, zoning and land use expert witness John J. Wallace writes on a retailer’s biggest challenge:
Spend time in the center, to take note of who is there during the day, in the evening and on the weekends. Pay attention to the clothes shoppers wear and to the cars they drive. Also read over the shopping center’s own surveys and studies. The sum of these impressions and data gathered should give you a reasonable idea of the trade area and the true shopper demographics.
In analyzing its trade area, shipping center managers often commission surveys. The typical result is a demographic profile indicating, for example, that the “average shopper” is a 44-year-old woman who lives within five miles of the center…and so on. Such a study may be of limited help in selecting a retail site. A more detailed view of a trade area reflects an understanding of lifestyles and how these change over time.
In evaluating a center, it is worth asking, “Who are the people shopping here?” Will they really be spending money at your store? It is only a starting point to know that a mall targets “households within a 10-mile radius, with an average income of $75,000 per year.” The fact is that all households earning $75,000 are not alike in their tastes and needs. Take a single young professional, a retired couple and a working couple with three children. These three households all may have identical incomes — but they will spend their money very differently!