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ARCHIVED  November 1, 1995

Retailers take the bait, demographics sets hook

FORT COLLINS – Debbie Tamlin jokes that her knees are bloody from all the begging she’s done trying to attract national retail chains to her company’s mall properties in Fort Collins, Greeley and Cheyenne.

But the real weapon in ZTI Group’s leasing arsenal is information. And lots of it.

“You really gotta know your stuff,” Tamlin said. “You’ve got to understand what they’re trying to market.”

ZTI is a development partner in University Mall, where a massive facelift and reconfiguration project is under way, with the goal of attracting the national retailers that area shoppers say they just can’t live without. But a massive hue and cry from consumers isn’t enough to seal a deal.

Tamlin, who has 400 corporate tenants on her roster and represents a legion of hot fast-food markets looking to invade the Front Range, said demographics set the hook and allow her to reel in desirable tenants.

The company has a marketing research staff that matches sites to tenants. The links are made based on an in-depth understanding of the merchants and of surveys of the surrounding market that weight income and interests equally.

For example, fast-food restaurants want a high-visibility location to take advantage of the impulse diner, while companies such as Boston Market look for a higher-end location.

“But a parts store, like Checker Auto, wants to go into areas where people are do-it-yourselfers,” Tamlin said. “Retailers look where their customer shops.”

When the University Mall project is finished, every store space will have an exterior entrance. Tamlin said the project will be more like a community retail center than a mall, hoping to attract the destination shopper rather than the browser. She likened the updated university Mall to the West Lake Center on 35th Avenue in Greeley, where King Soopers anchors a group of smaller retail and service businesses, and has the statistics to prove that the concept will work.

She said the demographics show that the central location is ideal for business-type uses but also indicate a strong market for discount retailers, which could include soft goods, music or book stores. Tamlin seeks national names to fill the equation.

“University Mall did not keep up with the times, and it lost a lot of good national tenants, like Walgreen’s, Hallmark and Eakers,” Tamlin said. “The only way to attract national tenants is not to an enclosed mall that is outdated. This is going to be a different type of center, a neighborhood center with a large anchor to draw and help support the smaller tenants.”

Because Fort Collins has reached the magic population number of 100,000, Foothills Fashion Mall manager Jack Gillum said, he anticipates the job of getting the name-brand retailers to commit to the city will be easier.

“As the town continues to grow, we will be focused on by these other companies,” Gillum said. “Now that we fit the population number, it’s worthwhile to look at this market.”

A winning football team and a nearby outlet mall doesn’t hurt either, Tamlin observed.

As closely as Tamlin scours the trade journals to keep up with who’s moving where and who is doing what, real estate scouts for major retailers track who’s doing well in the marketplace, and might take a second look if a burgeoning market is showing up in the headlines, even if it is on the sports page.

“Once we made that 100,000 mark in population, we became more competitive with Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs,” Tamlin said. “Retailers didn’t used to look at Fort Collins because we weren’t big enough. Now, at least, companies are expanding their searches a little up north.

“The CSU Rams have done really well, and that has increased awareness. The outlets have really increased awareness for the national retailers because that outlet mall has done so well. Companies are paying a lot more attention” to Northern Colorado, she said.

FORT COLLINS – Debbie Tamlin jokes that her knees are bloody from all the begging she’s done trying to attract national retail chains to her company’s mall properties in Fort Collins, Greeley and Cheyenne.

But the real weapon in ZTI Group’s leasing arsenal is information. And lots of it.

“You really gotta know your stuff,” Tamlin said. “You’ve got to understand what they’re trying to market.”

ZTI is a development partner in University Mall, where a massive facelift and reconfiguration project is under way, with the goal of attracting the national retailers that area shoppers say they just can’t live without. But a…

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