Small retailers shift plans as online sales grow

    Some small and independent retailers feeling the impact of the growing preference for online shopping have adapted by focusing more on their web business, including diverting more advertising dollars to those areas.

    The Associated Press reports the latest Commerce Department figures show online and mail order sales nationwide rose 11% in October from a year earlier, compared with less than 2% growth in overall retail sales.

    There’s room for both types of retailing, but the increasing competition means store owners must be able to meet customers’ demands for the right merchandise, convenience, good service and an enjoyable experience whether it’s in a store or online, says Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York-based consulting company.

    Retailers also must make sure both their stores and websites can help bring sales in for each other.

    For example, antique dealers used to make most of their sales in stores or at trade shows. Now, when customers visit a store, they are likely there to inspect in person items they already checked out on the retailer’s website.

    But customers of M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans are also willing to spend even millions of dollars on an antique or artwork they see only online because they’re able to view multiple photos of an item from different angles and zoom in to examine it closely, owner Bill Rau says. So the 104-year-old retailer, which operates a store in the French Quarter, has shifted its advertising budget to online from magazines and other print publications.

    The trend toward online becomes more pronounced during the holidays. Rau says visits to his website increase 20% this time of year, although foot traffic to the New Orleans store is little changed.

    “We made four sales this week from the web, going from $2,000 to $60,000, and I love it,” says Rau, whose antiques include jewelry, furniture, ceramics, silver and paintings. “It obviously reaches the whole world.”

    The Associated Press has the full story.

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