Carson City’s small outlets cope with Cyber-shopping

Black Friday brought folks into Carson City gift shops, where owners of such outlets use uniqueness and service to help them combat any cyber-competition.

As they prepared for shoppers who are keyed into today’s Small Business Saturday, owners of The Purple Avocado and Touched by Angels mentioned those strategies and other aspects of their retail playbook to cope in the competitive retailing arena. In essence, the same approaches that distinguish small retail gift shops from larger brick-and-mortar stores are the techniques separating them from shopping competitors that are online.

“Hopefully,” said Sue Jones of The Purple Avocado when asked how to deal with cyber-competition, “just by having unique items, great customer service, gift wrap and a lot of variety.” She stressed the first and last of those, saying she tries to stock “a lot of unique gifts.”

Stan and Sue Jones are entering their 15th holiday season operating their gift store. The shop is at 904 N. Curry St. He chimed in with a word about Carson City residents who have been customers over the years and remain loyal.

Glen and Simone Bartell, whose Touched By Angels Home and Garden Shop is at 108 E. John St., also cited unique items they stock, some from local artisans, and what Glen called knowledgeable service.

“We really don’t feel a lot of competition from the Internet,” he said. He said good pricing, one-on-one attention and targeting a different type of shopper help do the trick.

“It’s like the old-fashioned hardware store my dad and I liked to go to,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like to go to big stores.”

He said he and his wife cater to those seeking angels-oriented items and related gift store curios, signs and the like, while outside they stock things geared toward peoples’ interest in the garden and landscaping.

The gift store owners at both outlets indicate many shoppers, they have found, prefer to feel and see actual items in person rather than just view them online and read snippets about them prior to purchase.

Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce, was staffing the chamber’s artisan store on Black Friday and made similar points. Asked about concern small firms face growing competition from not only big box stores but cyber-shopping, she sounded less than convinced.

“Oh, I guess so,” she replied when asked if mobile and Internet shopping is growing over time. “But people still want to touch things.” She said as a former retail shop owner and an advocate of her artisan items at the chamber, she still feels “the ‘oooh and ahhh’ factor is important.”

Friday’s comments came against a national backdrop that has broadcast and Internet media reporting on a spike in shoppers’ use of mobile devices or the Internet connection to browse and buy from home, work or while on the go. Going into Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, an article on Google said 54 percent of all holiday shoppers say they plan to shop on their smart phones in their spare time.

The article also said the mobile factor will make the prominence of any particular hyped shopping days lessen over time.

None of that will mean the small business shopper won’t come out today for Small Business Saturday, if last year’s results nationwide are any indication. The National Federation of Small Business said in 2014, Small Business Saturday attracted 88 million customers who spent $14.3 billion, according to American Express research. American Express began the Small Business Saturday movement in 2010.


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