#ShopSmall: Online Shopping and the Brick-and-Mortar Store

by Jenna Knutson, correspondent

The Second Child is a consignment store located on 945 W Armitage in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The owner, Amy Helgren, opened the store 30 years ago, inspired by her second daughter. With online shopping recently increasing, owners of local brick-and-mortar shops like The Second Child have found themselves perplexed about how to avoid losing customers.

“We’ve seen a huge change in retail shopping, obviously for used items as well as new,” Helgren said. “Back 30 years ago there was no eBay, Craigslist, no apps like LetGo or Neighborhood Garage Sales, so we had no competition.”

According to a poll taken on January 29, 2017, smallbiztrends.com reports, 51% of Americans prefer online shopping. 95% of Americans shop online yearly, 80% monthly, 30% weekly, and 5% daily.

“Things have changed,” Helgren said. “People buy and sell things amongst themselves, which has had an impact. We do have an eCommerce site as well, so we have been trying to stay current with that and to keep up with the times.”

Smallbiztrends.com said that the top two reasons customers shop online with eCommerce sites is because of price (87%) and speed and shipping cost (80%). One main online source that has taken small businesses by storm is Amazon.

“They can offer things for a fraction [of the price],” Helgren said. “Though if you do your homework, they’re not always cheaper and it’s not always such a great deal. But some of us just assume we are getting the best price there, especially with the membership free shipping, which I think is brilliant! I would love to charge people a $100 a year to have the ability to shop at The Second Child.”

In an article he wrote for Forbes.com titledIs Amazon Killing Small Businesses?” Ian Altman wrote, “In most small businesses, your ideal clients are located within 10 miles of your store. As expedited shipping and online ordering has become more prevalent, it gets harder for retailers to compete financially with online retailers like Amazon when it comes to purchasing a commodity item.”

Helgren said, “Amazon has changed the way people shop and we feel it. Luckily we still have our little niche in the world. We’re fine because we do very high-end and designer-type stuff and we have been here for such a long time that we’ve gained a following over the years from the neighborhood.”

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