The City Council of Oxford (Alabama, US) has hired Birmingham-based r360, a boutique research and consultancy firm, to attract retailers to the city’s retail spaces. The deal is worth $35,000 in its first year and $28,000 annually in the two subsequent years.
Oxford is situated in the US state of Alabama. The city, with just over 20,000 residents, falls within the Calhoun and Talladega counties. The small city has in recent years been expanding its commercial attractiveness in the region, with the Quintard Mall the only enclosed shopping mall between Birmingham and Douglasville, Georgia. The area also boasts a number of other shopping centres, with the most recent development, the Oxford Exchange.
In a bid to, in the coming period, attract more retailers to the region, the Oxford City Council recently approved a three year contract with r360, a Birmingham-based retail research firm and consultancy set up earlier this year by Chuck Branch, a 20 year veteran in the retail industry and an alumni of the University of Alabama*. Since its launch in July the firm has grown to a team of five, consisting also of Amanda Beshears, Charles Branch, Jackie Bell and Peter Saab.
With the move, the City Council aims at attracting new retail blood, and at the end of the line growing the city’s attractiveness and prosperity. “We’re proud of what we’ve done retail-wise,” says Steven Waits of the Council, “but I think the council is in agreement that if we sit still, we’ll be passed.”
The deal is worth $35,000 in its first year, and a further $28,000 annually for two subsequent years, with a clause guaranteeing the income irrespective of whether the newly established firm delivers on its intentions. Commenting on the hiring, Councilman Mike Henderson acknowledges he is concerned about the contract form. “I want to give it a shot, but I’m concerned about the cost,” he said. “What if they don’t produce?” Waits responds however, that “You’ve got to spend a dollar to make ten”, adding: “I’ve got a reputation as being the guy who doesn’t want to spend money that doesn’t have a return. This has the potential to have a great return, it wouldn’t take more than a couple of new developments to make back the city’s investment.”
Branch, CEO of r360, says his firm will immediately start work to bring more retailers to the city. “They’ll decide where they go,” Branch says of prospective retailers, “and we’ll put the options in front of them.” Earlier this year Beshears, who serves as COO, said r360's team has a track record with “hundreds of municipalities and retailers”, and that the consultancy builds on a proven “360 degree approach to connecting retail opportunities for all parties involved in the retail development process.”
* Chuck Branch previously co-founded Retail Strategies. After he sold his interest to the other partners of the firm he established r360. Besides his role at r360 he is also Managing Partner of Decision Data Resources, a web-based GIS software subscription service.