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Small businesses adapt to pandemic shopping trends

Small businesses adapt to pandemic shopping trends
Posted at 11:07 PM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 09:59:11-05

GREEN BAY (NBC26) -- The pandemic has created a time of more online buying and less-in person shopping this holiday season, forcing small businesses to get creative with how products are sold.

COVID-19 shut downs and restrictions have added challenges for many small, local businesses from the beginning. Now comes the surge in online shopping.

A recent Adobe Analytics report shows this last holiday weekend from Thanksgiving through Sunday generated $23.5 billion in online sales, up 23 percent from 2019.

This trend can be a blow to small businesses that don't have an online option. That's why some are turning to social media.

Jill Zelzer, store manager of A Bag Lady, does Facebook lives to showcase items in store. She also posts photos of the unique jewelry, clothing, and handbags on Instagram.

“We pick certain things that we show and then people can comment and say, “I want this” or “I want that," Zelzer said.

Those products can be picked up in store, which is open for up to five customers at time, or curbside.

“Hopefully they’ll continue to do that and continue to do the sales that way if they don’t feel comfortable coming in," Zelzer said.

Although the shop only saw about half the sales it normally does on Small Business Saturday, Zelzer described the event as a success. She said they've noticed more foot traffic since the first weekend of gun deer season.

A Bag Lady is also hosting private parties. People can book a time for six to eight people and receive 20 percent off everything in store. Whoever books the party will get a $50 gift certificate.

Powers East, the newer sister store to Powers Comics in Ashwaubenon, is taking a similar approach using social media.

Dave Powers, store owner, said they've been doing auctions and live sales over Facebook. People can pick up those items in store, curbside or have them shipped locally.

“That’s been a really effective way for us to sell kind of online, but not how some stores have strictly gone all sales online," Powers said.

The Green Bay and Ashwaubenon locations are also open for in-person shopping. People can browse through new and older comics, graphic novels, action figures and statues.

Powers purchased the building for Powers East right before the pandemic started. The store officially opened in August. Powers said the new location is meant to help fund Brewster’s Place, a non-profit cat rescue and adoption center found next door that he and his wife own.

Powers said business has been good at Powers Comics. Sales from Small Business Saturday were up from last year at the Ashwaubenon location. Now Powers said they're hoping to see more foot traffic at Powers East.

As for the holidays, Powers said he's not sure what sales will look like.

“It’s strange. Normally we compare numbers every year, every month, every week. We just didn’t have anything to gauge it with, because we’ve never been through something like this before, especially with the new location," Powers said. "What we’re shooting for is just keeping our doors open.”

The same nation-wide buying trends are being seen locally for a Green Bay business that does have an online store.

“The online sales have really increased," said Don Thompson, manager of Captain's Walk Winery. "People still really desire their wine during the pandemic. So we’ve done very well, but we've been affected too."

As more people purchase products online, Thompson said the winery's in-house sales have dropped. The same scenario played out on Small Business Saturday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The winery has been open for curbside pick up the duration of the pandemic. In July, the winery re-opened for tastings with a restricted number of people allowed in at one time. Thompson said they're looking to add outdoor options in the near future.

Captain's Walk Winery also offers virtual tastings and parties so people can safely get together with friends and family while enjoying specialty drinks.

“We’re modifying and adjusting like a lot of businesses," Thompson said. "We really appreciate the community support in times like this.”

All three businesses require masks while shopping in store. They're all implementing social distancing and extra sanitation on high touch surfaces and items.

Powers, Thompson and Zelzer said they hope people will continue to show support by shopping local this holiday season.