Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Leslie Bridgers firstname.lastname@example.org
Windham retailers have the potential to do $1 billion in sales annually, but existing shops and restaurants are capturing less than a third of that business, according to a retail analysis commissioned by the town.
Tim Seavey, who owns Seavey’s appliance store on Roosevelt Trail in Windham, says he is thinking of expanding his business.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
If retailers expand their offerings and new businesses open to fill in the gaps, residents in the region might start doing more of their shopping in Windham, said Aaron Farmer, vice-president of The Retail Coach, which conducted the study.
"There's a gap between what we're selling here and what we could be selling," said Tom Bartell, Windham's economic development director.
The question is, he said, "How do you take advantage of that market?"
Farmer plans to meet with local retailers at 7 a.m. Thursday at the town office to explain how to use the study's findings to improve sales.
The Retail Coach, a Texas-based consulting firm, took the average spending by residents of Windham and surrounding towns, based on demographics, and compared that to the annual sales of local retailers to determine how much business Windham was losing in each sector.
Gas stations are the only type of business that exceed the region's sales potential, which makes sense, considering the number of tourists coming through town, Farmer said.
He said potential restaurant sales not realized -- about $95 million annually -- struck him the most. Having more options for casual, sit-down dining was also the most common request Farmer said he heard in talking with local shoppers.
The Retail Coach has identified more than 30 national businesses that the firm will try to bring to Windham, Farmer said, though he wouldn't name them.
Reaching out to those companies will be part of The Retail Coach's role in the next year, as well as working with local businesses. In total, the firm's services cost the town $38,500.
Within two or three years, Farmer said, he expects Windham businesses to capture about 10 percent of the $700 million in sales annually that it's not capturing now.
Although the study doesn't indicate where local residents are choosing to shop instead of Windham, Farmer said he suspects it's mostly South Portland.
Tex Haeuser, director of planning and development for South Portland, said he's familiar with the effect of the Maine Mall's one-stop shopping draw. He's seen stores in other parts of the city, such as Mill Creek, suffer because of it.
He said South Portland has an anti-poaching policy, meaning it will not try to steal a business that has expressed interest in a nearby community.
"Certainly, we're interested in maintaining the success of the Maine Mall retail area," Haeuser said. But, he added, "It's the strength of the region that's important."
For Windham, more important than bringing in new companies, Farmer said, will be encouraging local businesspeople to add to their product lines, expand the size of their stores or open new ones.
"If we can capture the leakage from within, that's the ultimate goal," he said. "More of the money is recirculated in the area."
Tim Seavey, owner of Seavey's appliance store on Roosevelt Trail in Windham, said he's thought about starting to sell hot tubs and home-heating systems, along with the refrigerators, laundry machines and other items his family's store has sold for decades.
He plans to attend the meeting with Farmer on Thursday to hear about other ways he might be able to keep local shoppers in his store.
"You've got to think outside the box," he said.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at