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Thursday, July 5, 2018 12:09 am

Shopping local online

Michael Naylor, owner of Abe’s Old Hat Antiques.
Photo by Niko Roblado
Online shopping is a tool that our culture has adopted in full force, and it is hard to argue with the convenience factor that online shopping provides. Even those of us who do our best to keep our dollars local need or want the convenience of ordering an item online every once in awhile. But there are ways to still shop local and take advantage of all the perks online shopping offers (ordering in your sweatpants and getting it delivered right to your door being high on that list).

Springfield business owners understand these desires. Local businesses such as Books on the Square and Prairie Archives use online collections to make their inventory more accessible to the general public. Both sites sell books on Abebooks.com, which hosts a plethora of books available for purchase.

“Seventy-five percent of our business comes from in-store, but we have increased our online sales from 14-15 percent to 25 percent in the past two years,” said John Paul, owner of Prairie Archives.

While business owners almost always prefer to have face-to-face interactions with their customers, they are aware that they must have an online presence to stay up to speed with their competitors, particularly national chains.

“We prefer in-store 100 percent, but you have to be pretty versatile to be in small business anymore,” said John Alexander, owner of Books on the Square.

Alexander has been selling books online since 1998. He constantly adds to his inventory and monitors prices of books, keeping a competitive edge when pricing his merchandise.

Do your research

Before ordering an item from a major retailer, make sure your local store doesn’t have an online shop. Having a professional website is practically standard now, and many businesses are incorporating online shopping into their site along with standard information about their operating hours and services.

If it appears that a local business does not have a website for their store, take a look on Facebook or Instagram. Abe’s Old Hat Antiques, located at 111 N. Sixth St. in Springfield, is one business that does not have its own website. Instead, they use Facebook and Pinterest pages to get the word out on new inventory and provide customers with the ability to contact the store to buy an antique.

“Online is not easier but it gives us exposure, we get 10 percent of our business from Facebook. We also use Pinterest, it’s a very good site, no chatter. They either like it or they don’t. It’s all about the item,” said Michael Naylor, owner of Abe’s old Hat Antiques.

Support small

There are many online marketplaces where small businesses (and many times one-person shops) can sell their wares. Stores such as Upper Limits, a vape shop located at 1205 S. Second St., Suite B. in Springfield, use their website to provide a user experience that caters to in-store regulars as well as customers that prefer the convenience of online shopping. The Upper Limits website contains an instant message feature that lets someone at the store chat with customers about any questions they might have.

“It’s really nice to have that one on one with a customer. We are always trying to create a good user experience,” said Matt Fortin, owner of Upper Limits. “The website is vital to our future and the future of our product lines. It is very important to me.”

Even if you can’t support your own community, branch out to try to support another community and family business. While your money won’t be coming back to your community specifically, you are still doing a service for business owners and employees of a community that is similar to your own.

Community swaps

We all have something to offer and needs to fill. The internet has been a great platform and facilitator for community swaps. Websites such as Varagesale.com provide pages for communities to buy and sell items in their area. These sites work like a single seller online garage sale. People in a given community can list things they are interested in selling and can also browse other listings. Some websites, such as Freecycle.org, have items that are even given or traded freely. The more we can source and solve locally, the closer we come to achieving sustainability.

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