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Study: Columbus losing $1B in retail revenue to other areas

 

Anthony Michelic, CEO of Brick + Mortar, a national market research company, presented findings of his study of the Columbus retail market during Wednesday's Columbus Lowndes Chamber of Commerce Annual Luncheon at Lion Hills Center. Michelic said his data shows the Columbus retail market is growing and has potential to grow even more.

Anthony Michelic, CEO of Brick + Mortar, a national market research company, presented findings of his study of the Columbus retail market during Wednesday's Columbus Lowndes Chamber of Commerce Annual Luncheon at Lion Hills Center. Michelic said his data shows the Columbus retail market is growing and has potential to grow even more. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce president Lisa James, far right, presented, from left, Germain McConnell, David Vega and Hope Harrington Oakes with outstanding volunteer of the year awards during the annual Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday at Lion Hills Center. Jeffrey Chase, not pictured, was also awarded an outstanding volunteer of the year award.

Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce president Lisa James, far right, presented, from left, Germain McConnell, David Vega and Hope Harrington Oakes with outstanding volunteer of the year awards during the annual Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday at Lion Hills Center. Jeffrey Chase, not pictured, was also awarded an outstanding volunteer of the year award.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

 

Slim Smith

 

 

According to his calculations, there is $1.1 billion in retail trade Columbus is losing to other areas, Anthony Michelic told the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce during its annual luncheon Wednesday at Lion Hills Center. 

 

Michelic is CEO of Brick + Mortar, a national market research company. That $1.1 billion in lost retail was part of a study of the Columbus retail market commissioned by the Chamber. 

 

While that much money slipping past the grasp of local businesses might be considered bad news, Michelic said it is quite the contrary. 

 

"What that says is there are a lot of potential sales out there to be captured that are going to other retail trade areas," Michelic said. "It means there's $1 billion in potential sales in your market." 

 

Michelic's study, which included cell phone data that helped identify where shoppers come from and where they shop, provided Chamber members with a clearer idea of the Columbus retail trade area. 

 

His study focused on four areas in the city where retail sales are strongest -- Belk, Downtown, Fairlane/Gateway and Leigh Mall. 

 

"So what we do, once we pull all the data, we have to do something with it," Michelic said. "We produce over 150 maps, then layer those maps over each other. From there, we produce a map that contains 85 percent of all the overlays and that's your retail trade area. 

 

"It's good for the business owner to have a good idea of where customers are coming from," he added. "But you also want to know what their shopping preferences are, what they like to buy, who they buy for. All of that is important to know, too." 

 

To achieve that, Michelic identified 67 distinct groups of shoppers, pulling out data on the five groups most represented in the Columbus area. 

 

"Those five make up 53 percent of the shoppers in your trade area," he said. 

 

The largest of those groups, making up 18 percent of the market, he identified as "Rural Bypasses." 

 

Michelic said that group tends to be older couples who own their home, are religious and shop at discount department stores. They subscribe to satellite TV. They watch CMT, TCM and sports programming. Their average household income is $29,000. 

 

Although that Rural Bypasses are the largest group in the Columbus trade area, Michelic said there is a lot of diversity in the market. 

 

"There are some real positives I see in the data," he said. "One of the big surprises I found is that your market is growing. That's not happening in most parts of the state. Also, your median age for your market (35.6 years) is healthy and the median income ($33,548) is high for this area. 

 

"There are a lot of good things going on in your retail trade area," he added. 

 

Michelic said the maps show the trade area includes approximately 187,000 households and extends to Amory in the north, Macon in the south, into Alabama as far as Tuscaloosa in the east and Starkville and Louisville in the west. 

 

"I was surprised to see how many people from Starkville shop in Columbus," Michelic said. "You're really strong there." 

 

Chamber President Lisa James said all of the data produced from the study is available to Chamber members. 

 

"You'll have access to it on the Chamber website," she said. "Also, we have thumb drives available at our office if you want to stop by and pick one up." 

 

Michelic said he believes the data shows there are retail opportunities in a broad range of areas, pointing out specifically furniture, home furnishing, general merchandise (department stores) and restaurants. 

 

"It's a pretty diverse market out there," he said. 

 

In addition to Michelic's presentation, the Chamber used Wednesday's luncheon to honor members in their annual awards program. 

 

Winners included: 

 

Volunteers of the Year -- Jeffrey Chase, Germain McConnell, Hope Herrington Oakes and David Vega; 

 

New member of the year -- Mugshots; 

 

Small Business of the Year -- Edward Jones; 

 

Medium Business of the Year -- Better Brands Distributing; and 

 

Large Business of the Year -- Steel Dynamics, Inc.

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is ssmith@cdispatch.com.

 

 

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