Opinion: Support developers, others who invest in our community

Mary Ann Moon
Special to Texoma Marketing and Media Group
Mary Ann Moon

A rendering of the Gates of Prosper Phase 2 complex was recently posted on social media. It illustrates proposed businesses within the development. It was not released by developer Blue Star and is not entirely accurate. However, the center is the largest of its kind being built in Texas and will soon be the home to a wide array of retailers and restaurants.

During an unforeseen pandemic, which has thrown our economy and everyday lifestyle into chaos, it is no small wonder that Blue Star Land has continued this project.

In the first quarter of 2020, department stores lost 25 percent of sales with the second quarter seeing, in some instances, as much as 75 percent in lost revenue from in store shopping. Between March and June 2020, the use of e-commerce sites increased 125 percent. The purchases of office supplies and sporting goods were the two fastest growing groups. The average e-commerce buyer behavior increased 43 percent during the peak of COVID-19 and is expected to remain at a substantial increase as consumers have become accustomed to making purchases online.

What is equally if not more disturbing about this trend is that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a shift from in-person to online purchases by approximately five years. Those retailers that had hoped to ease into new approaches to shopping have now been forced to more quickly implement new customer purchasing strategies. While many companies - micro, macro, medium and large - struggle to develop attractive and effective online systems, e-commerce giant Amazon is perfecting and increasing its profile. Many businesses will not survive or will be entirely different from how we knew them. Brick-and-mortar, large box stores will be minimalized.

EMarketer has forecasted that Amazon's total 2020 U.S. retail e-commerce market share will rise to 37.3 percent by the end of 2020. The growth rate is expected to continue into 2021 when it will reach 39.7 percent market share of all online sales. This growth will result in projected sales of $346 billion. The number is staggering.

Have the days of shopping centers come to an end? No. Will they change? Yes. Auto dealers, gas stations, liquor stores, hobby supply establishments, grocery, Walmart and Target stores will continue to do well. To compete with online sales, retailers must adapt. They now are focusing on omnichanneling; seamless shopping experiences, providing customer reviews of merchandise coupled with mobile browsing and BOPIS (buy online pickup in store) options for shoppers.

With so many communities dependent upon sales tax to fund transportation and infrastructure projects, schools, recreation, parks, police and fire departments, medical and environmental projects, citizens demand sales tax generators.

What many citizens do not realize is that rooftops, disposable income, traffic counts, land prices, business environment, local costs for construction, permitting, licensing and the attitude of the community all drive retailers’ site decisions. The number one issue to which businesses are adverse is risk. They will not go where they cannot be profitable. While we may wish for exclusive shops, fine dining or unique entertainment venues, we must ask ourselves, “Can these businesses be sustained? Do we possess a demographic which can support our wish list while generating profit for the investors?”

Economic developers are responsible for targeted marketing. It is a process by which we list our community’s assets whether they be infrastructure, quality education, proximity to resources or a skilled workforce, then target those businesses or industries that will benefit from those assets.That, combined with the due diligence performed by investors and developers, helps to ensure success for all involved.

This information returns us to the Blue Star Development, Gates of Prosper and the other companies and individuals who have invested in our community. Tellus Group, Brown and Griffin, Michael Pettis, Robert Dorazil, John Harris and others have made incredibly significant financial contributions to Prosper. Do they expect to be profitable? You’re darn right, they do. It is what our country is built upon: creating opportunities through investment and hard work then capitalizing upon them.

Prosper is fortunate to have a wide array of partners. We should embrace them, support their efforts and celebrate their achievements from which we all benefit. Don’t be a Monday Morning Quarterback when you have no skin in the game. Rather, support the folks who have assumed the financial obligation to invest in our community. Educate yourself on the intricacies of this evolving world of retail. Shop local. Dine local. Thank a developer.

Mary Ann Moon, CEcD, FM, HLM, is executive director of the Prosper Economic Development Corporation. Submit feedback to maryann@prosperedc.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.