Part #1 – Retail Site Selection & Convenience Stores

  • September 1, 2018
  • Retail

Written by Collier Thornton of SVN, GLL Commercial Real Estate – Baton Rouge, LA

Proximity & Accessibility of Retailers

Since the beginning of time, retailers have positioned themselves in a manner where they could capitalize on the disposable dollars their target market spends.  While technology advancements have changed methods by which a portion of retailers now position themselves within a market, two (2) constants have remained: Proximity and accessibility to their customers.  Let me explain

I started in the Commercial Real Estate market in 1996.  At that time, “portable” phones were in a bag that had to be plugged into a cigarette lighter (yes, both of those used to exist) and the internet had yet to be invented.  Life was more simple and relationships involved verbal communication.

For the last 25 years, three (3) major demographic criteria have remained a constant for retailers, traffic patterns/counts, population and access.  All retailers capitalize on customers driving past their location, on their commute to and from home, with ease of access in and out of their location.  However, consumer studies have caused certain retailers to apply more weight to two (2) of the three (3) of these sectors (traffic patterns and population), when evaluating a market.

This blog will expound on the evaluation criteria of several major retail sectors, including Convenience Store (“C-Stores”), Fast Food Restaurants (Quick Serve Restaurants or “QSR’s”), Drug Stores, Grocery Stores, Soft Good Retailers (Dollar Stores, Apparel Retailers, etc).  The information discussed in these blogs by J. Collier Thornton, comes from 20+ years of exclusive, tenant representation relationships within in each retail sector.

Part #1: Convenience Stores (C-stores)

C-Stores rely mostly on traffic counts.  Furthermore, C-Stores position themselves to take advantage of the P.M. traffic patterns.  A mentor of mine used to say “if you think about it, most 

retail site selection

people only have enough time in the morning to put enough gas in their tank, to get them through carpool and to work.  On the other hand, P.M. customers have enough time to fill up their tank while they go inside and buy a 12-pack of beer or a carton of milk.  P.M. customers generate higher ticket sales and therefore will always be the most sought after customer.”

Years ago, I was sent to a market, by a regional C-store I had an exclusive tenant rep relationship with.   Despite being provided the sales of a competitor, the trade area was a mystery to me.

The area was sparse at best, the trade area to choose from was on the “A.M.” side of the road (but there was a Railroad Track that limited growth on the “P.M.” side of the road), yet the store had the 2nd highest sales out of 65 corporate locations.

I spent the better part of the next week, sitting across the street from the competitor’s C-store and driving the trade area, trying to determine who their customer base was.

I went the first day at 5:00am and left at 8:00am.  The 2nd day I arrived at 10:30am and remained until 1:30 p.m.  The 3rd day I arrived at 4:00pm and left at 7:00 p.m.  The 4th day I played the role of an “A.M. Commuter”, the 5th Day I played the role of a “P.M. Commuter”.

I came to understand that natural barriers eliminated the opportunity for any homeowner living as far as 10-12 miles south, to circumvent the site, by using an alternate route.  So while the area around the trade area was sparse at best, the competitors store was had record sales based solely on traffic count alone.

Stay Tuned… Part #2 – Fast Food Restaurants or QSR’s

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