As retailers look at opening new stores again, they are proceeding with more caution than ever in finding sites. To help them in the process, site selection firms provide an array of relevant information, from average household incomes to psychographic shopper profiles to the number of stores competing chains operate in a given trade area. Most of these metrics, however, focus on the full-time residential population, which makes up only one component of a retailer’s potential customer base. MapHome, a Rhinebeck, N.Y.-based information and data provider, has come up with a way to measure another potential customer pool: the daytime population of workers around a site.

Currently, it’s virtually impossible to find highly detailed data on the size and make-up of a daytime population in a given trade area because the U.S. Census Bureau tracks people by their residential addresses, says Theresa Clary, CEO of MapHome. Yet, daytime population is as important, or perhaps more important, in predicting a retailer’s potential success because people tend to shop close to where they work. The researchers at MapHome, building on a background in geography and workforce research, decided to combine existing demographic information and business summaries compiled from secondary sources, delivered through drive-time analysis, to calculate the size and professional breakdown of any daytime population. The data the firm produces includes wage distribution and the ratio of women to men.

For example, MapHome can use existing data to estimate what percentage of a given area’s workforce is made up of people in a particular occupation, and use the findings to draw conclusions about that group’s purchasing power and shopping habits.

“You can make some interesting assumptions when you start seeing, for example, the number of construction workers vs. the number of secretaries,” says Clary. “We know the gender breakdown of who would be in the trades and who would be in the office. You cross that with other socio-demographic and market data and you get a better handle on this population as local consumers, including the type of visitors in your stores and on your Web site during the 24-7 daytime business hours.”

In addition, MapHome also tracks the geographic distribution of customers shopping on a retailer’s Web site during daytime hours. People don’t separate the processes of online shopping and frequenting brick-and-mortar stores. Many consumers research a product on the Internet, then go to pick it up at a nearby shop. In fact, the peak time for retailers’ Web site traffic is in the middle of the day, when most workers are taking a lunch break, Clary notes. MapHome’s proprietary Web site analytics can locate approximately 95 percent of those daytime visitors and tie it to local consumer patterns, helping retailers figure out where their core customers are likely to shop during the course of the business day.

Alternately, MapHome’s data can also be used to examine the labor pool potential for the increasing number of retailers who base their site selection decisions not only on shopper demographics, but on the skill set of potential employees. The company can measure any number of skills sets for a given geographic location, including basic skills such as writing and math and social skills such as negotiation and service orientation. In all, it can measure up to 35 different skills that serve as an important predictor of success in the workforce.

“One of the largest battles facing retails is the turnover rate. It costs practically double a [leaving] person’s salary to hire somebody [new],” says Clary. “With this data, you can use it for more targeted recruitment that helps address the retention issues because it shows you the highest percentage of workers within an area with a particular occupation and skill. It focuses the recruitment dollar.”

MapHome’s daytime population patterns can be searched by exact address, zip code or designated market area. The data can be used both by retailers and retail real estate developers, who can show MapHome’s daytime population reports to prospective tenants.

Clients can purchase the firm’s products in various ways–by buying a database from MapHome and merging it with their own mapping software; through a subscription that gives them access to maps and reports generated online; and directly from MapHome. (the daytime Web site visitor data is available exclusively through the MapHome office). Some of the firms that have used MapHome data include Pyramid Brokerage Co., Halo Realty and Investments and Virginia Beach Economic Development, among others.

–Elaine Misonzhnik