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In The News
Jackson Remains Retail Mecca

April 15th, 2007

Provided by Canton Repository
Written by Fellicia Smith


JACKSON TWP. With its trendy national chain restaurants, its coveted clothing and big-box electronic stores, northern Jackson Township is a regional destination.

Because many of the national retail stores in Stark County are clustered between the Belden Village area and The Strip, finding national stores elsewhere in the county is tough.

J.C. Penney and Macy's department stores are at Canton Centre Mall. Massillon Marketplace has Wal-Mart and Lowe's, and a Home Depot is farther east in that city. But national chains beyond Jackson are often the exceptions, not the rule.

And it's been that way for decades.

Why?

"It's a destination experience," said Alison Holm, senior account executive at Knotice, an integrated marketing communications firm based in Akron, and a former employee of JoAnn Fabrics, which has a store in the Belden Village area. "That is why The Strip and Belden Village has grown. You can't compete ... with that."

Regardless of how densely populated Belden Village is, new stores and restaurants keep finding places to build. Chipolte found the slimmest slice of land on Dressler Road NW to make sure it had a presence in the county's busiest weekend destination area. Quaker Steak & Lube is planning to open a restaurant on Dressler Road. Then there are the new retailers coming to Westfield Belden Village mall as it expands.

Still, other places try to tap into the market.

The Jackson concentration "doesn't mean you can't attract retail districts in the community," said Massillon Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli Jr., who is developing the southern part of the city by trying to lure national and local independent stores.

FOLLOWING THE MONEY

Marketing research and demographics are key in where national retailers and restaurants will locate.

"They also look where their stores operate with the most profitability, not just what it costs to be there," said Daniel Butler, vice president of merchandise and retail operations at the National Retail Federation. "It's a complex set of numbers."

Profits are soaring in the Belden Village area, where there is little turnover when it comes to national chains. Some stores such as Best Buy have either expanded or moved to bigger locations in the same area.

"These large corporations do a lot of studying to make sure they know the type of stores or storefronts will do well in a community," Jackson Township Trustee Steve Meeks said. "The look at the economic value in a community."

Jackson Township has the highest medium household income in Stark County and the highest land valuations. The township is the second largest subdivision in the county, with an estimated 42,500 residents. The medium household income is $66,520 annually compared to $47,747 in the county.

Suburbs like Jackson Township weren't always home to national stores. At one time, it was cities like Canton and Massillon that had flourishing department stores downtown. But as county residents moved to the suburbs, national retailers followed.

"I think it's natural course of events over time as the population shifted to the suburbs," said Mike Gill, president of the Stark Development Board.

LOCATION, LOCATION

The mall now known as Westfield Belden Village was built in the late 1960s. The area surrounding it didn't morph into a shopping mecca overnight.

But its location just off Interstate 77 made the mall visible and accessible.

"It's all about location, location, location," Holm said. "Belden Village is much more accessible than other shopping areas."

Five interstate ramps north and south lead to the shopping area.

In Alliance, one off ramp leads to the State Street retail shopping plazas. Route 30 has exit ramps to the newly developed Massillon Marketplace.

But most Stark County retail areas aren't readily accessible from a major highway.

"I know that location is everything," Meeks said. "Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for other places."

CREATING NICHES

Belden Village is so established, it may be unrealistic for another area in the county to try to compete with it.

But Cicchinelli, who has watched the Belden Village area boom while other shopping districts in Stark County have diminished, is working against the tide.

"We think that south Massillon will be a shopping district attraction," Cicchinelli said. "It certainly won't be as big as Belden Village, but business follows other business."

On farmland annexed to southern Massillon, Lowe's and Wal-Mart are anchoring plazas.

Cicchinelli said for the longest time national stores wouldn't build in Massillon because it was so close to the Belden Village area. A few of those stores have been convinced that Massillon is a separate retail market by the sales numbers.

"There are a couple of developers looking at the portion of the city as we speak," Cicchinelli said. "We think that South Massillon will be a shopping district attraction. ... The retailers are finding out people tend to want to support local businesses in their own communities. It just takes time."

As the county's largest city, Canton is going about bringing shoppers to the city in a different manner. The city wants to combine a downtown residential area with independent shops and restaurants to attract diners and shoppers.

"We're never going to compete with the Belden Villages," Gill said. "We're more geared toward locally owned types of stores, eateries, fine dining and things like that."

The thought of never having a big-box retailer in the middle of downtown Canton doesn't worry Gill.

"I see more specialized retail coming downtown," he said. "National chains follow the demographic of your area. The bulk of people live in the suburbs."

Cicchinelli said he believes there is a market for each city and township in the county to tap into. Success, he says, means finding which is right for your location.

"I don't think everyone wants to go to Belden Village," he said. "If offered a choice with similar retailers, people will chose them."

Reach Repository writer Fellicia Smith at (330) 580-8312 or e-mail: fellicia.smith@cantonrep.com


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