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The Market Has Changed

February 2012

Multi-faceted Research Drives Development

By Thomas L. Fidler, Jr.
Senior Vice President/Principal,
Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, LLC

Who are we? What do we like to do? What do we spend on food? Do we have two or three children? Are we more likely to complete home repairs ourselves? Do we eat out twice a week? What do we make in salary? Do we save money? How far will we drive to see a doctor?

These are only a handful of the questions that yield the answers used to develop projects, create new communities and identify target markets of specific customer segments. Along Interstate 95, the vast difference in each area has been used to identify demand and supply for many of the new projects you see in Harford County. Given the significant demographic change over the past 15 to 20 years, the various retail, office and service projects are a product of this new era of technology and data collection. Harford County’s roots as a suburban, rural community of agricultural and equestrian farming have given way to a more modern, social county of communities and people. We’ve
changed the landscape.

Have you ever wondered why there is another Walgreens under construction? Do we really need another gas station on Route 40? Why won’t they build a national restaurant in Havre de Grace? Why is Wegmans so close to Interstate 95? We certainly have our own questions on the reasoning behind some the area’s more prominent projects or uses. The answers come from our own behaviors.

Most demographic research and data was completed by the U.S Census of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. This information was rather basic and lacked the level of sophistication that current market demands have created. This data was used to calculate the number of people, their average age, their family makeup and their incomes, usually within a dedicated ring radius. A report could be generated that would be used to evaluate a market area for opportunity, growth or maturity. Today, that same need is met with an unbelievable library of very specific and focused data based not just on the census card we fill out every 10 years. The science of information gathering has dramatically altered how we categorize, segment and classify individuals, communities, areas and even entire markets. How do they get this data? It’s endless. Every time you use a credit card, every time you log onto the Internet, order online, buy groceries, enroll your kids in school, register your car or pay your taxes, these data exchanges are being collected.

Current industry buzzwords have gravitated toward “segmentation” of people, industries, communities and market areas. Industry leaders in the classification of this data have furthered how we define ourselves into lifestyles and life modes. Each specific term within these lifestyles provides traits and behaviors in our spending, wealth, family size and social preferences, just to name a few. “Tapestry Segmentation” (as created by ESRI, Inc.) takes this capability to a much more defined level by using such categories as High Society, Senior Styles, Traditional Living, Global Roots and Family Portrait, among several others.

Along Interstate 95, the Harford County market is dominated by three lifestyle types – Senior Styles, Family Portrait and Metropolis, as defined below: 

Senior Styles: With a median income of nearly $46,000, which is largely based on retirement and social security income, this market segment is comprised of more affluent seniors, freed of their child-rearing responsibilities, who travel multiple times a year, remain in their home for community activities, reside in mostly smaller single-family homes, eat out twice a week, read the newspaper daily, and their use of the Internet is nearly average. (Havre de Grace, Aberdeen areas)

Family Portrait: This is the fastest growing population of the life mode groups. Common characteristics include youth, family life, dual incomes, prefer to own their home versus rent, attend public schools, participate in local sports programs, eat out more than 30 percent of the week, travel at least 40 minutes to their workplace, average more than 3.1 persons per household, and are often ethnically diverse. (Bel Air, Churchville, Fallston areas)

Metropolis: With an average home value of nearly $200,000, this segment represents the most broad and diverse for age, income, housing and ethnicity. They live in older, single-family homes, own only the vehicles they need, travel short distances for goods and services, and vary from well educated to unemployed. They would rather see movies than read books. Their median income tends to be lower than more dominate market segments. (Abingdon, Joppa, Edgewood)

Knowing this level of information can be the basis for most of the analysis on the area’s commercial and residential developments. It’s a very powerful tool that is now demanded by industry developers, service providers and local leaders as the future of our communities is determined. No longer is it important to know how many people live in a specified area. Knowing who they are, what they like, how they spend and what services they require, is setting the stage for the next “coming soon” signs in our area. The way we have changed is changing our communities. The ability to quantify and identify certain traits, behaviors and characteristics is providing decision makers with the best possible data to make the right decisions for growth, investment and planning.

The next time you drive by another Walgreens, a McDonalds, another medical office building or another new housing development, be assured that there is a science to it. A method of analysis behind the scenes caused that bricks and mortar. And we caused it. I95