Small businesses see steady growth in online sales
The coronavirus challenge has divided retail businesses into two distinct groups. Those who work with e-commerce and those who are strictly brick and mortar. Unfortunately, the poor may not survive.
The pandemic has forced many retailers to downsize, switch to online sales and rethink their supply chains. Most retailers, even those with minimal online business, have joined the ranks of e-commerce just to survive.
Two St. Albert businesses seized the new opportunities and discovered that by embracing online shopping, their customer base was spreading across Canada and, in some cases, entering the United States.
The Makers Keep, a collective boutique located in four locations including Salisbury at the Enjoy Center, has built a reputation for offering local, handmade products that are typically not sold in big box stores.
“The concept of the store was to take what you see in a marketplace and put it in the store so that it would be available every day. You walk in, you touch it, you smell it and you try it. Originally we weren’t going online because we wanted people to come to the store. It worked very well, and at the time we couldn’t afford to go online. We were opening another store, ”said founder Katrina Petryshyn.
In January 2020, The Makers Keep recorded some very successful Christmas sales and nothing was done to go online. In April, all but two of Petryshyn’s 12 employees were laid off due to a pandemic lockdown.
While brick and mortar is The Makers Keep’s strength, they had to make ends meet. The trio built a website, loaded thousands of products, shipped orders, and delivered locally.
“We started to feature 10 different items every day and promote them for sale. We were getting income in the door. But people wanted to see all of our products. The push came from our customers. They loved seeing our products online and it was very convenient for them. So many places had closed, but people still wanted to buy gifts for family and friends.
Seeing the initial success of online shopping, Petryshyn relaunched a more user-friendly platform in November 2020. Currently, the option to purchase online accounts for 25% of in-store sales. Using online orders, Petryshyn has shipped products across Canada from British Columbia to Nova Scotia and to the Northwest Territories.
“I’m glad we had the push to do it. It has certainly helped to increase our audience. It’s incredible. We can continue to grow despite all the difficulties.
Saltwater Bay Boutique, a retailer of women’s clothing, accessories, shoes, jewelry and gifts, was another storefront hit just as hard by the public health measures. The brick and mortar operation opened in 2019 with an online website added.
“But our customers weren’t using it that much. They wanted to try stuff. They would pre-buy online and then come to the store and buy it from there, ”said Heather Landals, founder of the store.
The initial investment paid off. As the 2020 lockdown closed most non-essential stores and curbside service resumed, Saltwater’s online sales have increased. Currently, sales have increased 300% since the start of the pandemic, with shipments to British Columbia, Ontario, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and the United States.
“We wouldn’t have survived the second shutdown if we hadn’t had online sales. ”
Landals attributes the success to the store’s new website.
“We have rebuilt it so that it can compare to bigger chains. And we’ve spent more money on social media marketing because that’s where online sales are.
An online presence has given consumers the ability to purchase unique gift purchases typically offered by small independent businesses during the pandemic. Petryshyn and Landals don’t believe people’s habits will change after the pandemic. Consumers will continue to shop online at their convenience 24 hours a day.
But as Landals pointed out, “People always want to visit the staff. They want to talk, visit and touch the product.