Organizations that constantly strive to "re-invent" themselves tend to be the most successful over the long haul. With that in mind, a recent retail committee brainstorming session was held with a view toward "shaking things up" a bit, with the hope of provoking fresh thoughts and ideas for the goals of the committee and future work of the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce.

Organizations that constantly strive to "re-invent" themselves tend to be the most successful over the long haul. With that in mind, a recent retail committee brainstorming session was held with a view toward "shaking things up" a bit, with the hope of provoking fresh thoughts and ideas for the goals of the committee and future work of the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce.

"The results exceeded my already high expectations," stated Jon Pugh, chamber retail committee chair and owner of Ship Print ESell at Kingsdale. "Participants were both thoughtful and engaged, and brought a wide range of experience to the event. Much of the credit for the success goes to the meeting facilitation team. Amy Schossler (UA Commission on Aging), James Gant (City of Upper Arlington) and Ruth McNeil (UA Library) all practitioners of the "Art of Hosting" kept the group focused, energized and on time in a relaxed settingamazing."

Emilie Smith of the Original Tremont Goodie Shop is a relatively new member of the Retail Committee, and it was this type of energy that got her excited about being part of the team's efforts. "Some key insights I took away with me from the meeting were the limitless potential of UA businesses cross-pollinating and ultimately working together to bring more consumer traffic to UA."

Charles Griffith of Move Your Mind Fitness put it best as the meeting got under way: "I'm addicted to brainstorming."


What could the Retail Committee be doing?
Ideas emerging from a general discussion included: build consensus with other retailers to ensure success; provide resources and training support; help recruit complementary retailers for empty spaces; provide networking and idea sharing opportunities; build community among retailers to grow a network of trust, respect and support; identify and promote what makes the UA service community special; build on the Live in UA? Shop in UA! brand.


Cafe Discussions Challenges
Participants split into smaller groups to identify and share the challenges they face as small business owners. Issues included: finding ways to cost effectively get word to potential customers; surviving construction projects; the need for branding both commercial districts and the UA business community as a whole.


Taking Action
Next, participants switched places and moved to a discussion of what steps they are taking or should be taking to address the challenges previously identified. Highlights included: we need to combine marketing efforts where appropriate; we should work to become the "North Face" of Central Ohio (i.e., the cool place to be); let's build relationships and build on the UA brand.


Open Space Discussions
Three key themes emerged from the earlier discussions that participants wished to explore in greater detail:
Branding. It was agreed it was time to revisit, rejuvenate and expand Live in UA? Shop in UA! to create a unique UA retail and service experience that evokes an emotional connection for existing and potential customers. External Influences (construction). This team agreed more should be done to help businesses challenged by external influences such as infrastructure or commercial district construction and renovation projects, including better communication, setting accurate expectations, and providing physical support such as expanded signage. Communication. Plain and simple, the team wants more communication in all its forms, from nurturing dynamic merchant groups at each business district to in-person and online relationship building.
A lot more emerged from this two-hour meeting than can be covered here, and a complete summary can be found at www.uachamber.org. Over the next few weeks, retail committee members will be using the data from the session to create direction and goals for the committee that are intended to benefit all Upper Arlington retailers, and especially those involved with the UA Chamber and its retail committee.

The Retail Committee wishes to thank the following participants: Candi Trifelos (Anthony-Thomas); Mary Perkins (Arlington Optical); Tom Downey (Eco-Tastic Clothing & Living); Bernie Craig (Fitness Together); Niels Hansen, Connie Hansen (Hansen Creative Services); Ryan Huffman (Huffman's Market); Brad Wheeler (Infinity Global Packaging); Kurt Yoder, Tammy Spring (K.D. Yoder & Associates); Paul Hall (Mastery Marketing Group); Charles Griffith (Move Your Mind Fitness); Jon Pugh (Ship Print e-Sell); Stephanie Berland (Stephanie's Salon); Dick Murphey (The Flower Galaxy); Emilie Smith (The Original Goodie Shop); Karen Hamilton, Becky Hajost (UA Chamber); Matthew Shad, Emma Speight (City of Upper Arlington).