A Comprehensive Guide to Site Selection in 2023

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Introduction

In this comprehensive guide to site selection, we play the role of a small team inside a fictitious brick and mortar retail brand looking for a new store location near Raleigh, North Carolina. We call ourselves 100MileFashion. To conduct our site selection analysis, we’re working with Unacast Insights. All the data and screen shots we present here are from the app. 

The Site Selection Process

To derive our insights, we will use data from Q1 2019 through Q4 of 2022, a 48 month window. Geographically, we will focus on the area around Raleigh and look for three general indicators:

  1. A growing population with more affluent demographics;
  2. A shopping plaza already drawing our target consumer segments; and
  3. Competitive intelligence that indicates specific market gaps and opportunities.

To find those things, we will use the Counties, Zips and Venues tabs on Unacast Insights. The simple and easy-to-use interface provides map level views, one-click facts on any area, and detailed graphs and charts that express foot traffic trends for any location, as well as its detailed capture rate, return rate, dynamic trade area, and consumer segments, among other things.

To start, let’s define who 100MileFashion is, where we want to be, and the people we want to engage with.

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A Retail Example

100MileFashion is a fictional specialty clothing retailer featuring the work of independent designers within a 100 mile radius of any given store. It features upscale women’s fashion, it hires passionate and diverse people, and it invests in local communities. You might find the fictional store within nice shopping plazas.

100MileFashion’s ideal consumer profiles are similar to those of a tier 1 grocer or other top retailer in a near-urban or suburban environment. To that end, we will focus on addressing three consumer segments specifically: Upper Suburban Diverse Families, Wealthy Suburban Families, and Young Professionals. Here’s how each segment fleshes out:

Upper Suburban Diverse Families

Upper-middle-class suburbanites with parents aged 25-44, working white-collar jobs, from a range of ethnic backgrounds. 

Wealthy Suburban Families

Wealthy and diverse suburban families, with parents 35-44 years old, living children-driven lifestyles.

Young Professionals

Well-educated young professionals, 25-34 years old, starting their careers in white-collar or technical jobs. 

With our identity established and our consumer segments defined, 100MileFashion’s next step is to determine a specific community in the Raleigh area to target.

Examining Migration Trends

To start with, we want to identify areas in North Carolina that are growing with new people that match 100MileFashion’s ideal profiles. To do that, we’ll have a quick look at Unacast Insights, clicking on the zip code level view over the Raleigh area. Now we have a bird’s eye view of what’s hot and what’s not around Raleigh over the last four years.

site selection

Like many urban areas across the United States, the city center of Raleigh itself isn’t doing well — down about 7,700 people over four years entering 2023. As you move further away from the urban area, the story changes with the suburbs lighting up green, indicating a positive net growth trend. The zip code north of the city that we’ve highlighted on the map - 27587, aka Wake Forest - looks interesting. Let’s take a closer look.

Identifying Growing Zip Codes

Wake Forest and the 27587 are growing. The population here has increased more than 6,600 since before the start of Covid, which is a gain of nearly 8.5% — well ahead of even the NC state average.

The average person who moved here between 2019 and 2022 was about 35 years old with a median income of just over $71,000, which is above average for the state. That means there’s a decent chance they fall into one of our consumer segments. Let’s click on ‘View More Details’ and see what else we can learn.

site selection demographics

Right off the top, we can see that the average resident in this zip code is a little older and a little wealthier than the new people moving in. We interpret this as a good sign, as the young people moving here will likely have increasing means in the future, and perhaps transit from the Young Professional segment to become one of our Upper Suburban Diverse Families.

Identifying a Venue

So now that we know that our area is growing and the core demographics of the area are a decent match, we need to figure out which other brands and locations are already doing a good job of attracting our core consumer segments, then piggyback on the data they generate to inform our own decision-making.

Unacast Insights makes switching the lens easy. Just click on the Venue tab and now we have a map view of stores in the area. By clicking on any of these, we can see individual foot traffic trends and consumer segments for each venue. After a little inspection, The Shoppes at Wakefield Park jumps out for its location and visitor profile.

site selection venue
site selection analysis


Anchored by a 48,800 square foot Harris Teeter grocery store, The Shoppes at Wakefield Park is well-positioned at the intersection of Capital Boulevard and New Falls of Neuse Road, about eight miles northeast of downtown Raleigh, on the edge of the Wakefield Plantation area.  

site selection trade areas


First of all, by looking at the Dynamic Trade Area, Home origin tab, we can see that The Shoppes at Wakefield Park draws people from a broad geographic area including many suburban communities. That’s a good indicator for 100MileFashion given the consumer segments we want to address.

Analyzing Foot Traffic and Consumer Segments

Things get even better when we scroll down to check out the profiles of the venue’s Top Consumer Segments. Remember, we are looking for Upper Suburban Diverse Families, Wealthy Suburban Families, and Young Professionals. It seems they already frequent The Shoppes at Wakefield Park as all three ping in the Top 5 visitor segments, along with a couple other pretty attractive audiences.

site selection consumer demographics


Upper Suburban Diverse Families are the #1 segment, accounting for 30% of visitation to The Shoppes at Wakefield Park since 2019. They’re followed by Ultra Wealthy Families (nice bonus), Young Professionals, Sunset Boomers (who have kids and grandkids to spend on), and our final target segment, Wealthy Suburban Families. 

Overall, traffic to this location has dropped down from its May 2022 peak of about 16,000 visitors. The capture rate in a 500-foot radius is about 10%, and about one in three visitors will return monthly. People visit during the daytime, and pretty consistently throughout the week.

The average visitor is 35 to 54 years old and holds a college degree of some kind. 40% of visitors earn a median income of $100,000 or more and 73% earn $50,000 or more. Those from the ‘family’ segments are about 80% likely to own their home, and are about 40% likely to have school-aged children living at home. 

So, as of now, we know and can prove that a) Wake Forest and Wake County, NC are quickly growing, b) Our ideal consumer segments are growing here and frequent the area and venue we have studied for shopping, and c) there are viable locations, including The Shoppes at Wakefield Park to consider.

Based on all of the above, this seems like a pretty decent location for a 100MileFashion, but we still have some work to do in order to understand the opportunity. In addition to the migration patterns, foot traffic trends, demographics and consumer segments we have studied, we must consider several other factors in selecting our ideal site, including:

  • Accessibility: We need to evaluate factors such as parking availability, proximity to public transportation, and ease of access for pedestrians. A convenient location encourages more customers to visit our store.
  • Infrastructure and Facilities: We must examine the infrastructure and facilities available to ensure that the location has appropriate utility services, including electricity, water, and internet connectivity. We will also need to assess the condition of any building or space, considering factors such as size, layout, and adaptability.
  • Costs and Financial Feasibility: We must evaluate the cost of acquiring or leasing the location, along with associated expenses such as maintenance, utilities and taxes, and assess the financial feasibility of the location in relation to revenue potential by conducting a cost-benefit analysis.
  • Zoning and Regulations: We need to understand the zoning regulations and local ordinances that may impact our retail store. That means checking for any restrictions or limitations that may affect business operations.
  • Future Development: We have to consider the potential for future growth and development in the area by evaluating upcoming infrastructure projects and economic forecasts.

Finally, we need to take a hard look at the competitive environment for women’s fashion retailers in the area. For our purposes, we’ll ignore the big box stores and focus on embedded local brands.

Retail Competitive Analysis

Unacast Insights lets us examine the exact foot traffic trends and consumer segments of our potential competitors, going back to 2019. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three other fashion retailers in the area we would be in competition with in this area. 

Cato Fashions - 12536 Capital Boulevard, 27587

Cato is a women’s clothing store, with over 1,000 locations in 30 states. We’ll focus on the location a few miles north of our possible site. This store averages 80 visits per day for an average duration of 37 minutes, and foot traffic to the store in 2022 is roughly flat to what it was in 2019. The 500-foot capture rate is 2% and about 3 in 10 visitors return each month, and that is declining. In other words, this store is not growing.

site selection choosing locations
site selection consumer segments


Cato’s Dynamic Trade Area is pretty decent, reaching down through Raleigh and up north and east of Wake Forest. Visitors prefer to frequent the store on weekends from late morning to early afternoon. From a consumer segments standpoint, our customer profile and Cato Fashions are pretty well-aligned: all three of our target groups are represented in the Top 5 segments. 

So, yes, this is a competitor, but this Cato store location is not as desirable as the one we have outlined above, which is more central, gets more traffic, and is in a finer plaza.

Kendra Scott - 4321 Lassiter At North Hills Ave, Ste F100, 27609

Kendra Scott is a fashion-lifestyle brand with stores across the country offering timeless jewelry, home décor, fashion and beauty styles. Located about 12 miles north and east of The Shoppes at Wakefield Park, this store averages just 40 visits per day, but a healthy average per visit duration of 53 minutes. Foot traffic is up perhaps 15% over the last four years but return rate is just 17% month over month. 

site selection find an area
site selection customer targets

The store’s Dynamic Trade Area is highly decentralized owing to its location further away from the downtown area. From a consumer segment standpoint, our customer profiles and Kendra Scott’s are highly aligned, i.e. all three of our target groups are represented in the Top 5 segments, along with Ultra Wealthy Families (rich people who live in the suburbs), and a small percentage of the Blue Collar Suburbs segment, which we are not specifically targeting.

Again, this is a competitor but it is a distant one. We will go head-to-head for some segments but our superior location means foot traffic should easily surpass Kendra Scott’s. We can certainly do a better job appealing to the near-urban demographic located south of us towards downtown Raleigh.

J.McLaughlin - 4209-121 Lassiter Mill Rd, 27609

Nestled amongst boutique shops in the North Raleigh area, this store at The Lassiter building offers neighbors and friends everything from classic casual to cocktail attire. Located well south of our proposed location on the edge of urban Raleigh, J.McLaughlin averages 260 visits per day. Foot traffic to the store in 2022 is about flat to what it was in 2019. The 500-foot capture rate is 5% and roughly 1 in 2 visitors will return each month; a healthy return rate. Let’s get into the Dynamic Trade Area and Consumer Segments and see what’s behind that.

site selection zip codes
site selection foot traffic


This store’s Dynamic Trade Area is dispersed but heavily reliant on visitors who reside in the north end of Raleigh; indeed, many come from the very same neighborhood that the store is located in. The answer as to why is in J.McLaughlin’s top Consumer Segment: Sunset Boomers, who account for a whopping 45% of all visits. These folks are pretty well-to-do, and qualify as near-urban, but the age difference between our key segments and this one is apparent. Our target segments do appear in the top five for this J.McLaughlin location, but they only account for 36% of all visits added together.

We don’t think this is really a direct competitor or a location that 100MileFashion would choose to locate in. Geographically, it’s just not as well-situated to our suburban demographic. The age difference of the embedded population vs our targeted segments is also not ideal. Could 100MileFashion lose some traffic to this J.McLaughlin store? Sure. But not to a degree that their presence in the market would negatively influence our own location decision.

Conclusion

100MileFashion may not be coming to a town near you soon, but a women’s fashion retailer of a similar ilk could apply the insights we’ve gleaned here. Based on all we’ve learned from studying population trends, foot traffic and dynamic trade area, and through gaining competitive intelligence, here’s how the site selection team at 100MileFashion sums-up the opportunity in the Raleigh area:

Local migration patterns in North Carolina, specifically focusing on the Wake Forest area (zip code 27587) near Raleigh indicates that the population in this area has been growing significantly, with a gain of over 6,600 people since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, representing an increase of nearly 8.5%. This is above area, state and national averages.

The Shoppes at Wakefield Park, located in this area, stands out as a potential site for 100MileFashion. It draws visitors from a broad geographic area, including suburban communities, and the top consumer segments frequenting this location align with 100MileFashion's target audiences, such as Upper Suburban Diverse Families, Wealthy Suburban Families, and Young Professionals.

Examining the foot traffic trends and consumer segments of potential competitors in the area, including Cato Fashions, Kendra Scott, and J.McLaughlin, indicates some overlap of target segments but The Shoppes at Wakefield Park location seems more desirable to our goals due to its central position to more suburbs, higher volume of foot traffic, and strong alignment with our target visitor audience.

Before finalizing any decision, other important factors must be considered. These include accessibility (parking, public transportation, pedestrian access), infrastructure and facilities (utilities, space suitability), costs and financial feasibility (acquisition/lease expenses, maintenance), zoning and regulations (compliance), and future development potential (economic forecasts, etc.).

This said, based on the migration patterns, demographics, consumer segments, and competitive analysis, the Wake Forest area, and specifically The Shoppes at Wakefield Park appear to be a potentially suitable location for our example retail store.

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