(For more retail coverage, click GlobeSt.com/RETAIL.)

ORANGE, CA-As often as people in the real estate world like to say that location is the key to success, the oft-quoted “location, location, location” maxim leaves out one key element.

Just how do you find these great locations?

Retailers have been refining the answer to that question for years, sometimes by trial and error, sometimes by the seat of their pants, and lately with the use of ever more sophisticated analyses that take into account population shifts, demographics, traffic patterns, planned new residential developments and a host of other factors.

One of the creators of such sophisticated analyses is SRC, a company based here that develops and markets an Internet-based software system designed to help retailers to evaluate prospective store sites. Among the company’s customers are the Chipotle restaurant chain, Cingular wireless, Arby’s, VFCorp. and British Petroleum.

Many retailers have their own systems for evaluating potential sites, of course, and some of the largest of them have created highly sophisticated software of their own. But Olivia Duane-Adams, EVP and co-founder of SRC, points out that relatively few retailers can afford the staff time to build these systems and to provide a Web-based platform that can be scaled up or down as required.

And besides, Duane-Adams tells GlobeSt.com, one of the selling points of SRC’s system is that her firm does what it does best—technology—so that retailers, real estate developers and investors can do what they do best and leave the driving, so to speak, to SRC.

Duane-Adams’ almost-10-year-old firm has always provided what she calls “business intelligence solutions where geography is a key component.” But SRC is now introducing three refinements to its system that are designed to work in concert with the geographic information and analyses of the existing SRC platform. The trade names for the new refinements are DemographicsNow, Portfolio Guzzler and Financial Analysis from REI Wise.

DemographicsNow, developed in partnership with geographic intelligence provider MetaCarta and retail industry publisher Lebhar-Friedman, enables SRC customers to “analyze the demographic and market potential of any geography in the US,” according to an SRC announcement scheduled for this year’s ICSC meeting. Duane-Adams tells GlobeSt.com that SRC developed the DemographicsNow after its research showed that retailers and real estate companies were spending hours upon hours performing Google searches and wading through piles of trade publications in quest of the kinds of information that the DemographicsNow can provide in minutes.

An SRC survey showed that companies in its customer base typically were spending four hours per project to complete this research, Duane-Adams says. SRC’s new enhancement cuts that four hours down to a minute, she says.

The second enahncement, Portfolio Guzzler, refines the drive-time analysis by actually driving the street network to calculate real drive times. Duane-Adams says this is an important difference because many if not most drive-time analyses simply measure the distance as the crow flies from one point to another without taking into account lakes, streams, rivers and other obstacles that can make a big difference in actual drive times.

The third refinement, the financial analysis component, analyzes an array of financial metrics including rates of return, present value and net present value, return on invested capital, operating and reimbursable expenses.

Today’s software systems enable retailers, developers and investors to very quickly collect mountains of data that might previously have taken days or weeks to assemble, if it could be assembled at all. But Duane-Adams points out that the vast quantity of information that is readily available on the Web and from other sources today represents another problem in and of itself: sifting and sorting it to find the data that is relevant to a specific project, then packaging that data in a format that is useful and can be understood by anyone in the organization who needs it.

SRC addresses that problem via a Web-based system that standardizes formats and is accessible by as many or as few people in a company who need access to it, Duane-Adams says.There is ever more demand for this information today because of ambitious expansion by retailers and real estate developers, but Duane-Adams notes that SRC’s customers also include corporations that use the system to analyze potential new sites for offices, warehouses or other facilities—and in a number of other scenarios.

SRC is itself an example of how much the site-selection process has changed just since the company was founded in 1997. “The old way of doing things was that somebody would walk down the hall or send a fax to one of their associates in another office to request an analysis,” Duane-Adams recalls. That process could take anywhere from hours to weeks.

But with the emergence of the Internet, along with the proliferation of data that was becoming available electronically, “We saw that the Web was the future for this type of analysis,” Duane-Adams says.

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