Eastport shop closes storefront, stays online
Feb 10, 2013 (The Capital - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
For more than a year, Dana Billings balanced her retail business with a website that included blog posts and Internet sales.
But the online component produced more results and needed more attention. So Billings closed her Eastport kitchen consignment shop and moved everything online. Now, The Backburner's items are sold via the shop website, Etsy and various locations announced on Facebook.
"I'm doing more business online than I am in the shop, so it just made sense," said Billings, an Annapolis resident who bought the business in the summer of 2011. "I think online would work for just about any item. Look at what you can buy at Amazon. You can buy anything, and they don't have a storefront."
Billings' decision to shift to the Web is a conundrum many business owners struggle with as they try to meet the needs of their mobile client base. This past holiday season, shoppers spent $42.3 billion online, a 14 percent increase from 2011, according to comScore Inc., which measures online spending. SmallBusiness.com estimates that it costs about $1,000 to start an online business, but making it profitable by buying an advertising site and building traffic could come at an additional cost.
"Any retail establishment needs to embrace the opportunity that the Web presents," said Kris Shock, executive director of the Chesapeake Tech Council, which helps technology companies in the region. "It's wonderful to have all the loveliness that comes with a local business, but I don't know any business that can survive on just the opportunities in their local community."
When David and Sue Adams launched their business in 2005, they wanted to peddle something that is easy to sell online. They operated Candles Off Main from a storefront for less than a year before they added an online component. It took them three years before they were selling more online than in a storefront.
Eventually, they moved into a warehouse space that had lower rent and was more conducive to their Web-related efforts, which evolved to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. They still take customers there and that helps offset their expenses at the warehouse, Sue Adams said.
"It takes awhile to build up that online community and that support group," she said. "You want to start small and test it out before you go cold turkey. It's harder online than most people think. It takes longer than most people think."
Last year, handbag designer Ellen Allen decided to do a hybrid of her business. Previously, she sold her products online and through other retailers. In December, she moved into a studio space on Chinquapin Round Road. She still has an online component, but her new space -- which is open one day a week and by appointment -- allows her to interact with customers.
"We don't have Nordstrom hours; we're open to the public on a limited version," Allen said. "We have a product and a brand and we want people to be part of that. I need my customers to be part of what I'm studying. This studio -- that they have access to -- gives them that."
But that doesn't work for every business. At Snyder's Bootery on Main Street, shop owner Biz Snyder only uses the Internet to order items for the store. All sales are done face to face.
"A pair of shoes has got to fit and they all vary," Snyder said. "I like to be waited on by somebody who knows what they're talking about."
With the shift to online, Billings plans to add equipment reviews to the website, which already features her blog posts and recipes. Her Etsy.com shop will sell vintage items such as cookbooks, aprons and dish sets, while the regular website will have the rest of the merchandise, which consists of cooking, bake ware and appliances.
So far, the website has led to her most expensive sale -- $360 Wedgwood Virginia Military Institute plates. The products have also gone international, with a lady finger pan that was sent to a customer in South Africa.
"If I can sell something to somebody in South Africa, I must be doing something right," Billings said.
___ (c)2013 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) Visit The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) at
www.hometownannapolis.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]