Online shopping this holiday season could attract more Central Ohio residents, especially those who live in “shopping deserts” where businesses once thrived.
Recent store closings like Toys ‘R’ Us and Sears, and entire malls like Westland, left shoppers in some Central Ohio areas without much of a local retail choice.
“Shopping deserts are really about fragmented areas where access is limited,” says Ohio State University marketing and logistics professor Deborah Mitchell. “With shopping deserts in particular I think the name really stuck early on because they look like deserts often. They look like whole areas have been bombed out where once there was a thriving retail area.”
Mitchell says the increased offers of free shipping by retailers online, including Amazon and Target, may attract some buyers from those shopping deserts but not everyone.
“In today’s world, most people are not choosing whether or not to buy online based on shipping costs exclusively,” says Mitchell. “And the people who like go to bricks and mortar go there for other reasons, not just because they don’t have to pay for shipping.”
The University of Cincinnati's Economics Center projects positive sales growth in all Ohio metro areas. Toledo is expected to lead at 4.6 percent, while Columbus and Cincinnati will grow at a slower pace, at 1.9 percent each.
Mitchell says consumer confidence is high.
“For our state overall, we may be not quite as high in sales as the nationwide average, but we should still see with the consumer confidence being what it is and the economy, it should still be strong,” Mitchell says.
The Washington-based National Retail Federation trade group reports a nationwide survey found that consumers say they will spend an average of $1,007 during the holiday season. That’s up 4.1 percent from last year's survey findings.
In suburban Dublin, Mitchell says shoppers tend to spend more money outside of their area traveling to Easton Town Center or Polaris, even though Tuttle Mall is nearby.
“There is a strong effort going on right now to attract more retail development and to have more options for retail for Dublin residents,” says Mitchell.
While Black Friday has extended well beyond just one day, Mitchell says that Cyber Monday sales will still see quite a bump.
“Retailers still plan very attractive promotions that day,” Mitchell says. “And consumers still plan to buy that day even though, perhaps surprisingly, they still think it’s a special day, when they could be at home, anytime 24-7 shopping online.”
Mitchell says using a mobile device will increasingly help shoppers get the best deal anytime during the shopping season.
“I would recommend having an app or other way of tracking of what’s happening with prices, because we’re going to see a lot of volatility and changing it up by the retailers as they try to really excite people during this period,” Mitchell says.