Millsboro hopes to soon reap retail dividends in Buxton investment

MILLSBORO — Millsboro governmental leaders are hoping the town soon reaps dividends in its substantial investment with a retail matchmaker.

Town council in its current fiscal year budget allocated $50,000 for a one-year contractual partnership with Buxton, a Texas-based analytics/retail match-making firm, to help guide long-term retail recruitment and retention strategies in Millsboro.

The partnership began in late June.

“It has been a good partnership. They have been great to work with,” said Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson. “Certainly, I am eager to see more fruit over the next six months. I would anticipate that it may end up being a one-year arrangement, so we are obviously eager to get as much as we can between now and when the contract runs out this summer.”

Sheldon Hudson

Buxton has provided the town a list of approximately 20 retailers and restaurants they have identified as potential matches for the town.

Based on the consumers’ buying habits, lifestyle characteristics and the demand density in Millsboro’s trade area, Buxton identified specific retailers and restaurants that can succeed in the town.

“The types of retail and restaurants range from full-service restaurants, sports bars, coffee shops, fitness brands, apparel and craft stores,” said Cheyenne Robinson, Buxton accounts executive who is working with the town of Millsboro.

“I can tell you … and I don’t know the exact number, but I will say at least a few of those have expressed some level of interest in the town,” said Mr. Hudson. “That is certainly an encouraging development. In fact, we just had a conference call last week (in mid-


Mr. Hudson said the town is not at liberty to reveal any businesses or retailers that may be forthcoming through partnership with Buxton.

Cheyenne Robinson

“I wish I could. It’s kind of proprietary. We wouldn’t want some of the neighboring towns to get a hold of that list since the trade areas overlap,” Mr. Hudson said. “But I can tell you that we have had a few on that list that have formally expressed an interest. I think some of them would be very appealing to town residents and visitors. And the ones that have expressed an interest, they are both in the retail category as well as the restaurant category. So that’s a good thing.”

“As a result of our efforts, the town is in correspondence with multiple retail and restaurant brands and is currently seeking comparable tenants,” said Ms. Robinson. “Town leaders are now using insights from Buxton to target these brands that best match the shopping and dining habits for Millsboro’s consumer trade area.”

In a Jan. 2, 2018 presentation Buxton sales director Robb Miller and Buxton sales representative Chris Gracela shared with town council “the power of consumer analytics,” utilizing Buxton’s background and expertise in the retail industry for the past 25 years.

About 16 years ago, Buxton began offering its analytic service to municipalities.

“And Millsboro is the only town that we are currently working with in the state of Delaware,” said Mr. Gracela.

Mr. Hudson said he and Assistant Town Manager Jamie Burke have run several reports “using the data that we have access to through Buxton to promote the town to various developers that we have talked to — retailers, restaurateurs.”

Mr. Burke has been to at least one ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) event. “We have been able to use the data that Buxton has given us, and we have taken that data to these trade shows to kind of promote the town,” Mr. Hudson said.

In the past year or two, Millsboro has experienced substantial retail growth. Royal Farms is in business and Chick-fil-A has joined the fast-food staples Burger King, McDonald’s, Arby’s and Popeye’s along the growing DuPont Boulevard commercial district.

Plans for a Taco Bell are currently in the pipeline.

In addition, Lewes Dairy has relocated to Millsboro, Sherwin Williams and WSFS Bank are open for business, with a new Ashley HomeStore on the way with final site plan approval for an Avid Hotel looming on deck. Another hotel and possibly a restaurant are planned on land annexed into the town.

Social media feedback indicates many palettes are yearning for a sit-down type restaurant, preferably a steakhouse.

Mr. Hudson said he, Mr. Burke and Millsboro Mayor John Thoroughgood have worked very hard “to try to recruit specifically from sit-downs, but specifically some kind of a sub-category of steakhouses. I am hoping that bears fruit.”

“The challenge is a lot of these recruitment efforts span years. not just months but years,” Mr. Hudson added. “Certainly, we are trying to capitalize while the economy is doing well on that wave. Everything goes in cycles. We’re trying to make sure Millsboro gets as much as possible while things are booming.”

Mr. Hudson said the town has met with the Greater Millsboro Chamber of Commerce about a product Buxton offers: LSMx (local store marketing).

LSMx is a local store marketing tool for local retail stores looking to reach more customers through targeted marketing. In addition to demographic characteristics, LSMx uses psychographic profiles for specific business type that focuses efforts only on the households that are likely to be a business’ best retail customers.

“That is something for the existing businesses that Buxton has been able to bring to the table,” Mr. Hudson said.

Local store marketing (LSMx) will provide to up to 25 local businesses with the tools that aid with business retention and driving foot traffic to existing businesses.

Buxton’s mission is to help communities create and implement economic development strategies that are geared toward retail recruitment and retail retention as well as improving quality of life, generating new tax revenue and keeping local dollars local.

Buxton’s resume includes work with Fortune 500 companies like FedEx, all the way down to emerging concepts, Mr. Miller said. Marriott Hotels, Lowe’s, Trader Joe’s, Pier I Imports, Bojangles, Foot Locker, Regis and Aaron’s are among their approximate 3,000 clients.

“Frankly, it was a little bit of a risk even though they are certainly a well-established company,” said Mr. Hudson. “At city managers conventions they always have a large booth. I think their reputation precedes them. The market would have forced them I would assume a long time ago if they didn’t produce results for their clients.”

“And the neat thing is they work both sides of the equation. They work with retailers on site selection and they work with municipalities on recruitment. So, they have relationships pre-existing,” said Mr. Hudson.

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