Businesses meet challenges of online shopping surge


Competition between brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers peaks at Christmastime when Americans spend about $500 billion.

This year, online retailers are expected to grab about 11 percent of total holiday sales, setting a new record for the industry, according to statistics compiled by Invesp Blog.

For traditional stores, online shopping’s growing popularity means more competition and new challenges.

At local brick-and-mortar retailers, there’s not just one secret to meeting the new challenges. Many use a mixture of traditional advertising techniques and online tools to get name recognition and entice customers through their doors.

At Ferdinand House of Flowers, owner Kathy Welp uses business cards, flyers and ads in local newspapers such as The Herald to attract new customers to her business, but she also uses online networks to reach a broader base.

The main online network for Welp is The website connects online shoppers with florists in their area, allowing customers to have the ease of online shopping while still supporting a local business. According to the website, Flower Shop Network will not take a cut of the sale from the local florists, either. Welp uses Facebook, too.

She also sets up at local shows such as the Ferdinand Prom and Bridal Expo coming up in January. The show is another way to get her name out in the local community and garner business for weddings and school dances.

Welp also already has strong name recognition in her community.

“It’s been here quite some time, and the name hasn’t changed,” she said.

Many local companies, businesses and schools use Ferdinand House of Flowers to purchase anniversary and birthday gifts for their employees.

In Huntingburg, Touch of Class uses email marketing and local media to bring customers into their outlet stores on Fourth Street. The most successful for them, according to Susan Blume, an accounting and budget analyst with the company, is write-ups in the local newspapers about community events such as the Christmas Stroll.

“We seem to do best with those,” Blume said.

Touch of Class as a whole does most of its business through its catalogues and online sales, Blume said, which puts its brick-and-mortar stores in less competition with similar online retailers. As outlet stores, Blume said, Touch of Class’ stores are “kind of a different animal” and compete more with other local decor shops than online retailers.

Like Welp and Touch of Class, Ann Recker uses a combination of advertising tactics for Chocolate Bliss and Kitchen Essentials in Jasper. Recker uses newspaper and radio ads for traditional advertising and Facebook to break into the online world. She also lists her business in local hotel directories to attract tourists to the store.

She uses each advertising method to showcase a different aspect of her store. On Facebook, for example, she focuses on product highlights, and those have been successful with bringing in a mix of new and repeat customers. A lot of times, she said, customers will come in looking for the specific item they saw on Facebook. In other advertisements, Recker said, she focuses on the social aspect of shopping and how shopping can be a way for friends and families to bond.

Recker also puts work in before goods ever hit her shelves by comparing her retail prices to online prices. If she can’t compete, she won’t stock it.

“A lot of people have this misguided idea that Amazon is cheaper (than a local store),” Recker said. “It is not.”

On individual items, yes, Recker said, an online store might have it cheaper, but overall, Recker has only found a few items where Amazon beats her prices.

She said she hasn’t been as hurt by online stores as other businesses, and she chalks it up to the industry she’s in.

“You can’t get the scent of coffee to come through online,” Recker said. “You can’t get the scent of chocolate.”

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