The world’s largest retailer was operating a financially successful, yet small, outdated store at I-96 and Middlebelt Road in Livonia, Michigan. This 97,000 square foot location, a leased property, proved to be an outdated footprint for the leading retailer whose new stores averaged more than 180,000 square feet, making the current location obsolete. This resulted in complaints from residents, making this retailer an unpopular corporate citizen within the city of Livonia.
In mid-2005, the decision was made to build a new 210,000 square foot store at the site of a vacant mall at Plymouth and Middlebelt Roads, one mile south of the existing Livonia location. The mall, built in 1959, had sat empty for two years and was the target of vandals and an eyesore to the community. The new store would serve as the main anchor of this proposed development, which would also include two other big box stores, along with specialty retail shops and restaurants. It was made clear in community meetings that this project would not happen without this retailer on board. This was met with public outcry, including the formation of a highly organized labor and local opposition group to the project. The presence of this group, and many other angry residents, was felt at community meetings hosted by the developer and public meetings at Livonia City Hall.
Marx Layne & Company initiated a public awareness campaign focusing on the need to develop this important intersection in Livonia, and the economic benefits and shopping convenience it would bring to the city. This education initiative was implemented through a multi-faceted campaign, including the creation of a four-page, full-color newsletter distributed as an insert in the Livonia Observer newspaper, handed out at public meetings and as a bag stuffer at the existing Livonia store. Marx Layne also wrote and produced an eight-minute video, interviewing area business owners in support of the new store, along with elected officials from nearby communities where the world’s largest retailer operates. This video was shown at a Livonia Planning Commission meeting and broadcast simultaneously on local cable access throughout the city.
A database of supporters was gathered from shoppers as they exited the existing store. Additionally, a letter writing campaign was conceived, and we provided templates of letters of support to be sent to city council members and local newspapers by these supporters and store associates. Marx Layne positioned team members at the store to ensure these letters were written and sent to the proper recipients.
Marx Layne arranged editorial board meetings with company officials and influential editors of local newspapers, such as the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News and the Livonia Observer. These individualized, informational meetings resulted in positive editorial coverage supporting the construction of a new Livonia store.
Marx Layne also coordinated individual meetings with city council members and company officials, to explain in-depth and in-person the plans for the proposed store and the economic benefits it would bring to Livonia.
Despite a vocal, well-organized and union-backed opposition group to the proposed store, the Livonia Planning Commission and City Council approved the site plan and go-ahead for construction.
The store’s official Grand Opening was in August 2007 and was well attended by local media, including three major Detroit television stations. Pre-Grand Opening media tours were also arranged, resulting in prominent stories in the Detroit Free Press and the Livonia Observer.
Since its opening, the store has exceeded the company’s expectations in terms of sales and patronage. The store has become an integral part of the revitalization of the Plymouth Road/Middlebelt Road intersection. This is now a vibrant, destination location, generating much needed property tax dollars for the city and sales tax revenue for a cash-strapped Michigan.