As retail has evolved, in recent years we've seen video stores, book stores, banks and pizza parlors as the preferred locations for new urgent care centers. Regardless of what retail is on the market, an analytical approach to site selection can assure sufficient available visits for profitability and success.
When it comes to opening a new urgent care center, good real estate is increasingly difficult to come by. Urgent care in a pizza place? Urgent care in a bank? Find out more next, on Just Checking In.
Good evening! This is Alan Ayers and I am Just Checking In from central Pennsylvania. So as urgent care has grown and matured, finding good real estate for urgent care centers has become increasingly difficult, particularly in the suburbs of major cities. The prime retail locations have been taken by other urgent care competitors or the real estate is just very difficult to come by in the first place.
Over the last ten years we’ve noticed several trends. So, looking back about eight or ten years ago, we first started seeing video stores coming on the market. So, with the advent of Netflix, the advent of tablets, video stores like Blockbuster, Hollywood started becoming available as those chains eventually closed stores and eventually went out of business. For urgent care, these made great urgent care centers. They were a 10,000 square foot box. It was a pretty much an empty shell – could very easilybe built out to urgent care, had high visibility, high traffic counts, and were generally in very good demographic areas.
Well, once the video stores passed, then we started seeing bookstores on the market – so Walton Books, Crown Books, Books-a-Million, Borders – all victims of Amazon. Slightly larger boxes and in some cases, as large as 30,000 square feet, but they could be broken up into an urgent care center, and typically near your big box retail or your regional malls. Again, with high visibility, ample parking, and good signage.
Then after bookstores we started seeing banks come on the market. Banks are a little challenging. The actual square footage on a bank is often beneath what is required for urgent care. So for urgent care, if we’re typically targeting 3,000-3,500 square feet, some bank branches are as small as 2,500 square feet, you have a drive-through to contend with, but I would say probably the biggest challenge with banks – because banks do tend to be street-facing, they tend to be free-standing, they tend to have good signage, they tend to have good ingress and egress, particularly for their drive-through – so overall, the location of a bank is good, but there are actually some challenges with the configuration of the building. The way bank branches have been built - at least in the last twenty years - is that all of the traffic, all of the footsteps once you enter the front door of the bank are really focused towards the teller station or that main counter in the bank. So, one of the challenges with a layout of the bank is that you do tend to see large open spaces, they kind of lead to this teller station, and leads to a configuration that can be difficult to configure and build out for urgent care. The other challenge with banks is that there tends to be a lot of windows, a lot of glass, and that can be difficult in building out urgent care if you need to have a ring of exam rooms, and those exam rooms need to have privacy. But a part from those challenges, and the fact that there’s a drive-through that would either, for aesthetics, need to be torn down or filled in to avoid the building looking like a former bank branch, banks can be compelling locationsfor urgent care centers as well. And with all the bank mergers we’ve seen in recent years, there’s certainly an ample number of banks available on the market.
Now most recently, we’re starting to see a restaurant chain with stores available, which is Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut has transitioned from a dining room model to more of a take-out, carry-out model that’s located very small square footage, like 1,500 square feet. So they’re closing the restaurants, moving into 1,500 square feet in the strip center to offer carry-out and take-out services or delivery services, and they’re doing away with their historic free-standing buildings. Which again, on a square footage basis may be a little large for urgent care, but certainly visibility, signage, traffic access and parking make these Pizza Hut locations prime locations for urgent care.
What will come next? I would say we would just have to follow the retail trends and see what retailers are going out of business, what retail concepts have become dated, and then those should be the types of locations that are available on the market. As I named, from video stores, to bookstores, to banks, to Pizza Huts – there will always be some retail business that has matured or the market’s moved on and those slots will be available for urgent care to back-fill.
Now, the question comes to how do you find the best location? Or how do you know whether you’ll be successful in a certain location? Well at Practice Velocity and Urgent Care Consultants we are in the unique position of having built an algorithm based on the performance of nearly 1,000 urgent care centers, where basically any dot on the map we can look at and identify how many visits per day that center would see, assuming marketing in place, urgent care contracts, strong providers flow, and a range of services. So with that predictive algorithm we can look at entire markets – markets where you might previously have thought there’s no opportunity. We can identify underserved areas, areas that have no urgent care, areas that are prime for urgent care, and in many cases we’re finding that the opportunity zones are falling a little beyond where people have historically looked in the suburbs. We’re seeing more and more opportunity in secondary markets and rural areas.
So whether you’re planning a new urgent care, whether you’re an existing urgent care operator that’s looking to relocate or add additional centers – whatever your real estate needs – Urgent Care Consultants and Practice Velocity would be glad to help. Feel free to contact us using the information you see on your screen. Until next time, this is Alan Ayers Just Checking In.