Our View: A good start for The Retail Coach




It's still too early to tell just how effective The Retail Coach will be in reinvigorating Columbus' retail sector. 


Even Will Kline, project manager for the Tupelo firm, said Wednesday, "We're in the first inning of the first game of what we hope will be a seven-game series." 


Early signs, though, are very encouraging. 


On Wednesday, a little more than a month after The Retail Coach officially began its one-year contract with the city, Kline spent the day meeting with media, business owners and other community stakeholders in retail success -- a good-faith effort toward developing comprehensive goals that include all necessary voices. 


During those meetings, Kline emphasized the need to bolster Columbus' major retail corridors, along Highway 45 and in East Columbus, by recruiting big-box and mid-sized businesses. His team now is crunching numbers to develop a list of up to 30 such retailers that would be good candidates to come to the city. Then the firm will "aggressively recruit" from that list, landing as many prospects as possible. 


Kline's strategy, however, doesn't end there. 


He also vowed to be an ally to downtown development, and he seems to understand how recruiting for downtown is a much different process than trying to bring in chain stores to a highway corridor. 


Plus, The Retail Coach has worked successfully with other Mississippi communities, such as Vicksburg, Clinton and Ripley. Over the past 18 years, Kline said, 88 percent of the company's government clients renew their contract with The Retail Coach for at least a second year. 


The city is paying The Retail Coach $38,000 over the next 12 months to develop and execute a plan that will add both sales and ad valorem tax value, reduce consumer spending leakage to surrounding cities and stem the tide of retail shrinkage here at home. 


Many challenges lay ahead to get to that point, some of them more complex than others -- not the least of which is how to sustainably grow brick-and-mortar in an increasingly e-commerce landscape. 


But in this early stage of the process, we applaud Kline and his team for their thoughtful planning and willingness to communicate with the public so far. We hope that continues.



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