Marketing Consultant: South Carolina Benefits From COVID-19 Population Shifts | Local News

A retail marketing consultant told attendees of the Aiken Chamber of Commerce’s First Friday event that population shifts following the COVID-19 pandemic are making it easier for the state and county to sell. ‘Aiken to retail stores.

Matt Jaeger of Retail Strategies, the retail marketing consultant for the city of Aiken, said there are two big effects of the pandemic that will last a long time: changes in population and changes in restaurant operations.

“There’s a population disbursement happening across the country,” Jaeger said Friday morning at Newberry Hall. “States like South Carolina and across the Sun Belt are experiencing substantial population growth – some of which are unique for the first time in their history.”

The Sun Belt is a term used to refer generally to the southeastern and southwestern states of the United States. Some definitions extend the Sun Belt as far north as Virginia while others begin in North Carolina. States typically included are South Carolina, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Later in his presentation, Jaeger showed a slide with an image of a map created by the Census Bureau to illustrate population changes from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021.

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The map shows that every state in the Sun Belt has gained population except California, New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Jaeger said major metropolitan statistical areas like Charleston, Columbia, Charlotte and Raleigh have seen significant growth that wasn’t really expected.

“We don’t see this as a trend that’s going to change,” Jaeger said. “I don’t think that’s going to reverse. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of people in 2021 and early 2022 who have taken over and moved all of their operations and businesses that are going to go back to d ‘where they come from.’

Jaeger said this means there are more opportunities for retailers in these markets. He added that population growth in Aiken has been fairly consistent for several censuses. Jaeger said retailers want to go where people already reside.

He said retail sales growth in South Carolina has outpaced retail sales growth in North Carolina for 2021.

Jaeger said the restaurants are all converting to Chick-fil-A, meaning they’ve expanded drive-thru, pickup options and an app that builds customer loyalty or they’re converting to offer an experience more formal culinary.