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Downtown businesses begin holiday marketing blitz

As the holiday season quickly approaches downtown Columbus retailers and businesses are gearing up for what they hope to be a better season than last.

But retail analysts say the possibility retailers will lure shoppers downtown this season are slim.

Columbus City Center, COSI, BalletMet and a host of other downtown retailers and organizations are joining forces to bring Central Ohio shoppers and entertainment seekers back to the center of town.

The group is called the Downtown Holiday Collaborative and it has shelled out $175,000 to market downtown attractions to potential visitors.

Jill Rainey, marketing director for Columbus City Center, says window displays, theatre performances and museum visits are among the attractions that downtown offers.

It is no secret downtown Columbus is struggling. High office vacancy rates, a slow economy and the development of retail centers on the city's outskirts have hurt downtown.

Retail analyst Chris Boring, president of Boulevard Strategies, says Polaris Fashion Place and Easton Town Center are where people want to shop.

Steve Speiwak, economist at Retail Forward---a retail consulting firm also in Columbus, says consumers want convenience and value - two things with which downtown malls are unable to compete.

Cleve Reiksecker,executive director of Capital Crossroads, a participant in the downtown holiday marketing push, disagrees. He says downtown has several bonuses other areas do not, among them the arts, entertainment and a safe environment.