Big box stores. Large shopping center. What could the Putnam County Fairgrounds house once it is sold.
University of Tennessee Knoxville Consumer Science Assistant Professor Michelle Childs said the land has promise to join the popular non-conventional shopping center movement.
“More of those experienced based shopping centers where you can eat, where you can have some type of recreational event like a brewery or a restaurant or play some mini golf but also shop too.”
Lifestyle retail developments with combinations of apartments, restaurants and shopping are also popular. Childs said the saturation of the market and community population are two deciding factors companies will consider.
“If there is enough people in the community to support the development, then that is interesting,” Childs said. “If it is not over saturated yet in terms of retail space. We kind of think about as over saturated, kind of that happy medium and then under saturated. If it is that under saturated so that there really is not enough stores to fill that community need, then that would be really interesting for retail developers.”
The fairgrounds are set for auction this spring, but Childs said the future of COVID will decide how quickly retailers start developing.
“Some retailers are doing really well right now,” Childs said. “Target is doing really well. Walmart is doing really well. Those big box retailers are doing well, because consumers can go to the store and get everything they need. They do not really have to visit a lot of different stores, and there is also a lot of services they can utilize, so that curbside pick-up or free delivery and things like that. (…) It all depends how COVID is going to be managed throughout our state.”
Childs said she expects big box retail to remain interested in Tennessee once COVID subsides. On the other hand, department stores have struggled.
“They are still growing. They are still having quite a bit of sales. They are really competing with Amazon,” Childs said. “Retailers that are not doing well were not really doing well beforehand either. Those typical kind of department stores were more like apparel and shoes and home goods, where they did not have that grocery and home component. They were not doing well before.”
Childs said other smaller retailers have been focusing on renovations instead of developing. The 35 acres near Veterans Drive is appraised at $10.1 million.