The City (with a lot of input from City Council, business leaders in the community, and readers of this blog) created a list of some 20 grocers and then we proceeded to do a phone and mail blitz to everyone on the list.
In many respects it’s like playing the role of a real estate agent. Except we don’t own the land, we don’t own the buildings, and we don’t represent either the owners or the grocers — but we’ll do anything we can to help make a deal.
As you might imagine it can be a bit frustrating to make cold call after cold call to the grocery stores only to be politely passed off. The eternal optimist in me hopes that their decline is not necessarily a dismissal of Kent, but rather it’s just their way to research the Kent market on their own terms, rather than involving the city government which makes it a very public process.
The grocery business has unbelievably tight margins and every penny counts, so I supsect that many of the grocers want to keep their business plans as discreet as possible in order prevent any inflation in land or lease prices which could kill a deal.
I also felt better after I saw a statistic stating that the cold calling pro’s figure they’re lucky if they get a 1 to 3% hit rate. That doesn’t mean they land 1 to 3% of the cold calls as clients, it just means that they at least get a chance to have a good discussion with the right person 1 to 3% of the time.
With that statistic in mind, we’d need to contact close to 100 grocers to find the one who would give us a legitmate look. I’m not sure they’re are even 100 grocers around, so I feel a little better about the fact that we have already contacted one that seems to be seriously considering the Kent market.
That grocer is trying to work a deal with the owners of the Kent property but both the property owner and the prospective grocer have requested the city basically stay out of the way and let them do what they do best — close the deal. Then they’ll let us know so we can let everyone in the community know.
Obviously the last thing we want to do as a city is to jeopardize any deal making, so we’re keeping our distance with occassional calls just to be sure there’s nothing we can do to help.
Until then, we’ll keep making the cold calls and maybe we’ll beat the odds and find a second grocer who might want to join us here in Kent.