Columbus Culture and its Influence on Retail

It’s no secret that Columbus has become a hub for young professionals to establish their roots. With a booming job market and endless sources of entertainment and experience around every corner, the culture of this up-and-coming city has transitioned into a Millennial-based capital that Gen Z cannot get enough of. Columbus is considered one of the top test markets for restaurant commodities because of its diverse community, and the retail aspect is becoming just as unique.

E-commerce has taken over a large portion of the retail business. Big names like Macy’s and Bath & Body Works have closed their doors in various Columbus areas to turn towards an e-commerce-based model. These brands have developed a standard operation which has worked in the past. But, without generating a specific focus on the culture of the area each individual store is established, it is difficult for big brands to maintain customer loyalty.

There are numerous more specialized and localized businesses that serve as competition. Many retailers are trying to stay ahead of the game by tailoring services to local demand to ensure the business remains operational. Columbus is ranked as one of the top ten cities for Millennials (age 25 – 35) concentration, which plays a large part in the direction the city has been moving.

With various big-name entities closing shop, how can we explain the continuation of retail in areas such as Easton Town Center or the Short North? The answer is that these establishments follow the culture of their city and focus on the needs of their target markets.

Easton Town Center is preparing for a multi-million-dollar expansion. This expansion is aimed to be so successful because Easton has done an amazing job of strategically tailoring its attractions to the culture of the Columbus community.

Having events like Yoga on the Square and Sounds on the Town music nights, the culture of wanting to do something and experience life is carried over into the services Easton features. Easton has also experimented with offering temporary brick and mortar square footage to businesses.

The Shop Lab space is specifically intended for pop-up shops and e-commerce retailers to tangibly present consumers with products they otherwise would not be exposed to. With developing this sort of experience culture, retail stores have a prime opportunity to tailor their models in a way that parallels shoppers’ wants and needs.

The Short North is known as the ‘Art and Soul of Columbus’ and has been dedicated to providing localized retail and services to the Columbus community. Heavy focus on featuring locally-sourced products in this area contributes to the pride locals hold for supporting the hard work of community retailers and artisans. The Short North is a small hub of everything – good eats, fine arts, experience-based establishments, etc. Having various happenings within a walkable distance of each other attracts Millennials because there is always something to do.

In order to generate a successful model in the greater Columbus community, business owners must be willing to fit their mission into the Columbus culture. It is no longer enough to simply provide a boutique that displays random racks of clothing or establish a patio bar that serves the basics. Various events, like the Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s annual Retail Summit, give consumers and retail professionals the chance to learn about what is next in the retail world.

Columbus residents want the overall experience of going somewhere and taking part in a purpose. Stores and businesses that have taken the time to develop their story and brand themselves around the Columbus culture hold a more specialized place in the hearts of locals. When these sorts of relationships are developed, customer loyalty and brand focus will thrive.

— The Columbus Chamber of Commerce offers news, information and other resources that are free and available to all businesses at columbus.org. —