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Study helps identify potential businesses for Lawrence County

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com · 340-2443

MOULTON — You may soon be able to enjoy a shrimp basket from Long John Silver’s, grab a Frosty from Wendy’s for dessert, and then chase it down with a diet pill from GNC — all without leaving Moulton.

Those are just three of the businesses that match the demographics of Moulton and other areas in Lawrence County, according to a study conducted this year by market researcher Buxton Co.

The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce is using the study to lure retailers, and officials hope to reel some in this year.

This is the second time the chamber has used Buxton’s services.

The information the
company provided in 2003 helped Executive Director Vicki Morese recruit Cato clothing store, Family Dollar and a
Sonic Drive-in to Moulton, she said.

“It was so successful that we decided to repeat it,” she said. “It identifies businesses for us to actually market.”

Buxton’s Small City ID Program does that by matching a potential site’s demographics with the demographics of an existing store location.

For example, Wendy’s fast food restaurants have proven to be successful in smaller towns with demographics similar to Moulton’s.

“I can take that information and say to (the franchisers), ‘These cities’ demographics are very similar to Moulton’s. You did well there; you could do well here,’ ” said Morese.

Besides population, she said, the study also factors in average household income, property values, traffic flow and leakage — the amount of money residents are spending and what items they are buying outside the county.

Buxton researchers break leakage down into several categories, like household goods or clothing, giving county officials and retailers a better idea of what types of stores the county is lacking.

They get most leakage information from individual stores that obtain ZIP codes or phone numbers at the register or by tracking credit card use.

While Morese has access to much of the same data — such as traffic counts and population growth — the researchers get information from a variety of sources.

“They can tell you how many people subscribe to Readers’ Digest or how many wear Nike shoes,” said Morese.

“It’s more product-specific. They can tell you whether or not a product would sell to this market.”

Charming developers

After compiling the data and narrowing the county’s prospects, Buxton handed the list to Morese, who immediately began charming developers.

The list has saved her time by letting her focus on those most likely to add a store in Lawrence County, she said.

Morese declined to name all the retailers on the list because she didn’t want to risk losing any prospects.

She has sent information
to Wendy’s, GNC and Long
John Silver’s, but officials from those retailers have not responded.

“There are others, but they may have something in the works, so I’d rather not say,” said Morese.

She also did not say how much the study cost the county but said it was less than the $63,000 Hartselle paid for the same marketing analysis plan this year.

“I can say that the return on our investment has far exceeded the investment we’ve made,” said Morese.

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