Suzette D. Barta and Mike D Woods
Oklahoma State University
Author’s Note: This article is about “sales gap analysis.” The article focuses on a project in Oklahoma in which small cities are trying to determine the health of their local economies. Particularly, the cities are trying to determine whether local buyers are spending their money within the local community or outside the community. Although this article is slightly off topic, the discussion on gap analysis does contain a couple nuggets of valuable insight.
The purpose of this article is to help community leaders understand that there are some tools available that can help local merchants better understand the weaknesses of their local retail market. Once the leaders understand the local market’s weaknesses, a competitive response plan can be drafted.
The Oklahoma projects aims to determine whether local markets have a retail surplus or a leakage of retail (Are local customers shopping within the local market? Are external customers shopping within the local market?) This determination of a retail surplus or leakage is called a sales gap analysis.
Gap analysis is a technique for identifying the strengths and weaknesses in a local retail market. In this situation, the analysis estimates how many shoppers are coming to a community to purchase retail items.
Local residents must decide for themselves whether a retail gap is acceptable, not acceptable, or even preferable. If it is deemed not acceptable, then community leaders should devise a competitive strategy to meet the needs of the community. A common misperception however, is to assume that if a gap exists, then it must be filled.
A gap analysis only indicates the possible areas of leakage. The analysis does not indicate why the leakage exists, whether or not the leakage is acceptable, or how to stop the leakage from occurring. Gap analysis is only a starting point. The information generated from a gap analysis is only valuable if it is used to stimulate further discussion and to devise an appropriate competitive strategy for action.