Retail Goes to College

Some major retailers are feeling right at home in college towns and the reasons aren’t as simple as back-to-school sales. Metro Commercial has recently worked with Target to locate store sites adjacent to the campuses at Penn State, University of Cincinnati and Ohio State. The appeal of these locations is multi-dimensional and not every college town will have the features a national retailer is looking for.

As always, it’s a matter of location, location, location. In general, national retail brands want locations close to campus, providing easy access for students, faculty and family; ideally students can walk to the store. But when the campus is sprawling, transportation in the form of campus shuttle buses or public transportation is a must. Especially when students return from the store with purchases such as groceries, apparel and home products for their campus housing.

Target  wanted locations that were dynamic—with a good mix of retail and possibly residential. In the case of Penn State, Target is part of a mixed-use Hyatt Place hotel complex that includes H&M, Federal Taphouse and 26 condominiums. The “downtown” location delivers excellent foot traffic and parking at two adjacent municipal parking structures and being part of a mixed-use property gives Target a built-in customer base.  In Columbus, Ohio, Target’s smaller flexible format footprint is on the ground floor of a six-story residential building. The Target store includes groceries, general merchandise as well as space for Starbucks and CVS to create a well-rounded destination for their customers. And again, the retailer will have a captive audience in the 165-unit residential complex.

In Cincinnati, Target’s flexible format store will be in the U Square development, another mixed-use complex with close proximity to the university campus. Like other Target locations the store will have a pick-up area for fulfillment, making it easy for Mom and Dad to buy a care package online. The student then goes to the store to pick up the goodies. Easy for everyone! See our related blog post on “fulfillment” to learn more about retailers carving out space for the fulfillment of online purchases.

The combination of Target, families and Gen Z college students isn’t a new one. The retailer is ubiquitous in America’s suburbs. But it’s new smaller format, urban locations and abundance of foot traffic have made it more readily available to a new cohort of shoppers. With its friendly college town locations, the retailer is building a relationship with Gen Z shoppers that it hopes will last a lifetime.

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