Last month’s news that Big Lots is opening its fourth store in the Roanoke Valley, at the former Food Lion building on U.S. 220 in Roanoke, ignited a heated debate among Storefront blog readers.
The debate boiled down to one question: Why isn’t Roanoke attracting retailers such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Banana Republic, J.Crew or Crate and Barrel?
The answer isn’t easy.
A lot of it comes down to numbers, such as population, projected population growth, average and median income and even the number of residents with a college education, according to local commercial real estate agents and economic development officials.
Every retailer has minimum requirements in those categories that a new market must meet in order to be considered.
Also in play is the availability of desirable real estate. Retailers are looking for spaces that fit their store layout and have specifications that range from street visibility to ceiling heights.
Other factors, such as competition and the retailers’ expansion plans, also affect decisions about opening stores in new markets.
Just because Roanoke isn’t attracting certain retailers now does not mean that consumers here will be without them forever.
Job growth in the valley has the potential to change the valley’s population and income levels.
“Job growth is the root of all retail in our market and beyond,” said Matt Huff, a commercial real estate agent with Poe and Cronk Real
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