Good Outlook for Growth in Nolensville


Nolensville is in the midst of incredible growth with plenty of opportunity to grow its economy, according to data provided by tracking cell phones throughout the Nolensville retail trade area.

Scott Emison

The Retail Coach can pull some very telling information from your cell phone, the company’s Vice President of Operations Scott Emison said on Thursday at the Nolensville Business Luncheon. In fact, it’s partially why the company gets hired by municipalities, although the company’s main job is recruiting businesses. By utilizing records of the IP addresses of phones from a third-party source, The Retail Coach can build a virtual map of who comes into a city, where they shop in that city and where they go home at night.

Last year, the city of Nolensville hired the company to map its “retail trade area.” Emison discussed the results, as well as future ideas about growth in the city, at a luncheon organized by Williamson Inc.

As different as the methods of determining this information may be, the results showed a city in the midst of incredible growth with plenty of opportunity to grow its economy.

“My first question to Scott was gonna be, ‘What number am I thinking of?’” Matt Largen, the president and CEO of Williamson Inc., joked as he kicked off a Q&A that followed Emison’s presentation.

Emison had produced such detailed demographic information about shoppers and residents in Nolensville’s retail trade area, that the joke immediately made sense. What didn’t this guy know?

Some of the most eye-popping numbers Emison presented had to do with growth in the city’s retail trade area. In 2000, there were 27,978 people in Nolensville’s RTA. By 2016, that number had grown to 70,309 people, The Retail Coach concluded, an increase of some 240%. The company estimated that in 2021, the number would be up to 78,704.

“This is what every retailer wants to see, whether I’m an independent person who has one store…or if I’m a big box guy,” Emison said. “They want to see these population trends.”

Other numbers calculated by The Retail Coach included a median household income within the RTA of $98,370 and an average age within the RTA of 34.2. Emison said both of those numbers would be attractive to retailers. That high income “puts us in a different category for some different brands and retailers that we can recruit here,” he said. And the average age of residents tells a story that “we are young and up and coming” and full of families.

The research conducted by The Retail Coach did more than just measure demographic information, though. It also figured out how much potential economic growth there is in Nolensville’s RTA. It did this by determining how much money people in Nolensville’s RTA spent money outside of the city.

“When we compare the actual sales of what’s being spent inside the town of Nolensville’s trade area to what its potential trade area is, our firm calculated about $1.238 billion that gets in their cars and drives back into Nashville and spends that money, and then comes back home to Nolensville,” Emison said.

That’s where the opportunity for retail development in Nolensville lays, and that was the other main subject of Emison’s presentation.

“Who is it we’re going after and what is the market we want to be here?” Emison asked the 60 or so people in attendance.

The Retail Coach’s data concluded that the largest segment of Nolensville’s RTA, 37.4 percent of it, fell into the “professional” category. These people were likely to be on the younger side and, as Emison’s incredibly specific classification Emison pointed out, were more likely to “watch movies and TV with Video on Demand and HDTV over a high-speed connection” and feel that “convenience is key.”

“These are and should be our target of who we’re going after,” Emison said.

Part of the way to make Nolensville a more appealing destination for people in this demographic, Emison said, was to take a page from newer, “experiential” retailers who offered more than just a straightforward, old-fashioned shopping environment in their stores. He mentioned the 365 by Whole Foods Market concept, where customers can come into a smaller space than a traditional Whole Foods store and maybe buy clothes and records as well as food, as an example of this type of retailer.

Emison also mentioned independent shops like those in 12 South in Nashville as potential models for Nolensville. Those unique stores, he said, bring in visitors from all around since those visitors may not have anything else like them in their hometown.

“We’re looking for complementary businesses and then also things that will draw people here,” Emison said. “So not just the goods and services that we need on a day to day basis that Franklin, Brentwood, Murfreesboro, that all those places have, but who are those individualized [businesses] that will get folks driving in to spend a Saturday shopping here or want to move here instead of Franklin.”

Nolensville Administrator Ken McLawhon joined in the discussion during the Q&A and hit some of the same points Emison did.

“We want unique boutique and special offerings, not just the typical retail list,” he said.

As positive examples of retail growth in Nolensville, McLawhon drew attention to the Market Square development that the city approved last year, as well as the Burkitt Commons development. He also brought up Martin’s BBQ’s plans to expand into a Loveless Café-style property with several different retail buildings surrounding it as a welcome addition to Nolensville’s business landscape.

“It’s gonna be pretty unique,” McLawhon said. “We think that’ll add a lot of flavor and flair, no pun intended, to the central part [of the city].”

As another point in Nolensville’s favor, Emison also talked about how the city’s distinctive and desirable layout and appearance, especially its historic district, would play well with retail developers.

“You have sort of an urban core development along Nolensville Road, then you have this really unique interesting section of town that has some character about it that other towns around the country would die for,” he said.

Of course, there are some challenges ahead. As much as many Nolensville residents may want a Trader Joe’s or a Sprouts Farmers Market to open in the town next week or next month, it’s not that easy, Emison said.

“You gotta realize with somebody like Trader Joe’s or Sprouts, when I go tell them that we have a trade area of maybe 70,000, well they’re looking for more than that so we have to be telling the story about, ‘There’s all these other projects going on, residential developments are going like crazy, there’s three new schools’…We have to go tell that side of the story so they’ll realize their investment is secure.”

Attendees were excited about what they learned at the luncheon.

Kasi Haire is the manager of the Nolensville Farmers Market. She said she planned to put some of the information she gleaned from the presentation to use running her business.

“It was great to learn more information about Nolensville,” she said. “I think we’re gonna use some of the statistics to recruit new vendors at the Farmers Market—to show that there’s a lot of people here and a lot of growth.”

Williamson Inc.’s Nolensville Area Business Council organizes business luncheons quarterly at the Providence Baptist Fellowship Church on Sunset Road. The next one is scheduled for April 20 and the topic of that presentation is making connections and networking.