The Windham Economic Development Corporation has enlisted a national retail consulting firm to help businesses better understand opportunities available locally and further their online and social media presences through a retail market analysis.

In 2012, the town of Windham began partnering with The Retail Coach, which provides customized analysis and strategies to local governments and economic development organizations. 

“(The program) is focused on identifying the opportunities from a retail and restaurant standpoint in Windham: Where are people coming from to shop and eat, what are the demand options, what retail sectors can do well there,” said Aaron Farmer, president of The Retail Coach and one of the project leads in Windham.

The analysis combines data to analyze consumer shopping habits in town and demographics in Windham.

“This focus is going to be on working with existing businesses and then also possibly with entrepreneurs. We’re working with a couple of existing businesses right now on building a website, social media presence and just trying to help them better their businesses all around,” Farmer said. 

The  economic development corporation will provide this counsel at no cost to businesses.

“The goal is really toward helping small and local businesses grow, and any new businesses that think they want to come to Windham, this would be a good opportunity for them to understand what we’re all about when it comes to the retail marketplace,” said Tom Bartell, executive director of the economic development organization. “It’s really about the approach we’re taking with small businesses to increase their knowledge of the market.”

Using the knowledge they have collected from their analysis, The Retail Coach provides industry-specific advice for different businesses in town. 

“We’re more focused on the small business aspect and revamping and helping local businesses get their name out there more on social media platforms and websites to hopefully bolster their business and take them into a new high,” said Kyle Cofer, one of The Retail Coach’s project managers.

The data collected from the Market Retail Analysis will, in turn, help businesses better market themselves toward consumers in the area.

“What we’ve found is that Windham is a regional shopping hub,” Farmer said. “You do pull people from the surrounding counties that shop and eat in Windham, and, really, even though there was a pandemic, (some business) seemed to do pretty well through that pandemic, a lot of retailers and restaurants were kind of forced to evolve and update their websites and update their online ordering and those sort of things. What we’re trying to do … is just help those businesses take it even to the next level.” 

One workshop recently offered businesses the opportunity to learn about the Downtown North Windham Sewer and Traffic Improvement projects and real estate commercial opportunities that resulted.

The town’s 21st Century Downtown plan aims to improve transportation in North Windham as well as wastewater collection and treatment. The North Windham Moves project aims to enhance the road system throughout the town, and the North Windham Wastewater Collection and Treatment project will create the district’s first public sewer system.

“There’s lots of things happening, and we just want to talk to folks, let them know what stages they’re in, what’s happening and what the potential is for additional commercial development in North Windham,” Bartell said.

“It all comes down to people and bringing more people to North Windham to shop,” ” Bartell said. “It’s about making it easier for people to move around. It’s about people coming to work in the downtown and people living in the downtown. It’s about the vision of the North Windham downtown that we have been working on since probably about 2015 or so. …We’re finally to the point where we can perhaps get some of those things, or all of that done. It’s not easy, but we can get a lot of it done in the coming few years.”

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