SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The village needs to attract a better mix of retail stores, according to a survey conducted for the South Orange Village Center Alliance.
Preliminary results from the “Tell Us What You Want” online survey were presented to the South Orange Board of Trustees on Monday by Joe Getz of JGSC Group. According to Bob Zuckerman, executive director of SOVCA, more than 2,000 people participated in the survey, including 900 Seton Hall students.
He said that one in three businesses downtown was either a service business or a nonretail business. “That was a concern for us,” he said.
Getz said South Orange did well in capturing the dining business, but residents and students are “just not satisfied with shopping choices they have here.”
Based on population and average household income, South Orange should be able to attract “almost anything that you want,” he said. “We need to reconcile consumer preferences with our ability to host those stores.” The survey calculated that South Orange’s retail demand, based on consumer spending data, is $6.18 billion. “Those categories are as good as I’ve seen in 30 years of doing this work,” Getz said.
He said that if consumers cannot find what they want in town, they go elsewhere, which he referred to as retail leakage. “There’s a lot of retail leakage for you to capture,” he said. In addition, developments on South Orange Avenue and Valley Street will add retail space and boost retail demand.
One survey question asked which retail store participants would like to see in South Orange. Getz said the top answer was the retailer Anthropologie, which offers a mix of clothing and home décor merchandise.
Trustees had questions about the survey and responses. Zuckerman said the final report will be submitted in mid-July, and at that time SOVCA will be making recommendations about how to proceed. Getz said in addition to conducting the survey, the consulting firm interviewed retailers and studied documents such as the village’s Vision Plan.
Getz said some options would be to work with property owners to make sure their spaces are retail-ready, to work with developers to prelease space to retailers that would best contribute to the retail mix and to do more to promote the area. “There may be a lack of awareness for stores that do exist here,” he said.