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Building a Vibrant Community – smaller retailers add online shopping

Businesses must be able to adjust their business model as needed, but retail is one of the sectors that has gone through the most drastic and obvious changes as society went from shopping at locally owned “mom and pop” establishments, to patronizing shopping malls instead.

Shopping malls and big box retailers such as Kmart and Walmart dominated the retail landscape for decades, until the emergence of online shopping. Consumers have now watched shopping malls empty and older retailers like Kmart file bankruptcy and close their doors for good, as Walmart and online retailers like Amazon have established their dominance.

However, there has been a reemergence of the desire to frequent smaller shops in downtown shopping districts. Although shopping online or at a large retailer offers consumers many conveniences, shoppers now miss the “experience” of patronizing smaller, boutique shops. These places of business usually offer unique items and superior, more personal customer service.

Due to COVID19, many retail shops had to shut their doors, and some remain closed. Some state and federal aid has been available for business owners, but many cannot sit with their doors closed and continue to meet obligations like rent. Consequently, many retailers have turned to online sales for the first time. Ecommerce for retailers has become an important way of adapting to COVID19. When stores could not open for in-person shopping, it created a way for supporters of these small, most often locally owned, businesses to help generate some sales and cash flow.

As society endures the ebb and flow of case counts and shutdowns, maintaining online sales capabilities will be an important tool for retailers. Many consumers who want to support their community businesses do not feel safe shopping at them in person and will instead purchase online and opt for shipping.

Many individuals who have previously visited tourist destination towns, but cannot travel at this time, would still like to make a purchase from their favorite boutiques and gift shops, even if they can’t be there in person this year. Continuing to maintain an online presence allows retailers to meet their customers wherever they are, physically, mentally, and emotionally, in response to the pandemic. This will not only help maintain sales and cash flow, consumers will appreciate the businesses owners’ willingness to be flexible and sensitive to their needs.

This article is based on ideas from “Building a Vibrant Community” by Quint Studer. Compliments of Tygart Valley Orthopedics, the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber has free copies of the book available to those who are interested. For more information, or to join the Vibrant Community initiative, contact the Chamber on Facebook, at chamber@erccc.com, or (304) 636 – 2717.

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