It was a scorching day outside, hot even for late summer in Ohio, and yet I was freezing. I had stepped inside the EB Ice Box, a meat-locker-like display at the Eddie Bauer store here that was cooled to 13 degrees Fahrenheit. The metal-sheathed room looked out onto the promenade of an upscale shopping mall, and featured a large block of ice for a bench. Even though I was wearing a down jacket (the room is meant to be a place where customers can test Eddie Bauer wear), the frigid air had gotten under my skin. The ice box was a gambit designed to attract the one thing so many stores like Eddie Bauer seem to be missing these days — customers. For shoppers, this city of 860,000 smack in the middle of a swing state, can feel like an alternate reality, a place where up is down and down is up. Frumpy department stores feature personal shopping services and boutique wellness amenities. Workaday grocery stores like Kroger offer exotic fruits and freshly baked artisan breads. Even the fast-food business is living in the future. McDonald’s is offering table service from friendly waiters. Robots are taking orders at Wendy’s. Chipotle started a chain that serves hamburgers. That kind of experimentation has long been a feature of the Columbus shopping scene, but these days it stems as much from desperation as from innovation. The physical retail market, crumbling in the face of competition from e-commerce sites, is in the midst of a transformation as fundamental as the one that shifted consumers to suburban shopping malls — and away from Main Street — half a century ago. Read more at The New York Times.