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Local Retailers, Found Online 

As online retail sales grow, local store owners use web stores to find new customers and curate unique experiences

It's no secret that online shopping is gaining in popularity for Americans who want to save time shopping for everything from groceries to gifts.

According to Internet Retailer, people bought $517 billion worth of retail goods online in 2018—up from $390 billion in 2016. In 2018, that accounted for 14.3% of total retail sales (which factors out things not normally bought online, such as gas or food in restaurants). Ten years ago, e-commerce accounted for just 5.1% of sales.

And while sites such as Amazon are some consumers' go-tos, that's not exactly the golden path to shopping local. For local retailers, e-commerce sites that allow them to sell what they offer in their stores are an increasingly popular way to serve those customers who would rather shop while sitting by a warm fire at home.

  • Courtesy Wren & Wild

Here's how some local retailers use their websites to drive more sales.

"As a small business, we cannot compete with Amazon," said Mandy Butera, owner of Wren & Wild, a "clean beauty" boutique in downtown Bend with a full e-commerce website that mirrors the store. "We choose to focus on what works for us—i.e., offering outstanding service, special promotions (including free shipping on products), special deluxe sampling, unique brands not found on Amazon, FaceTime consultations, social media giveaways and more." Butera told the Source that she does a "healthy business" in online sales, mostly from out-of-towners who visited the store and continue to be clients.

click to enlarge As part of her quest to give online customers a personal experience, Mandy Butera of Wren & Wild does FaceTime consultations with clients. - COURTESY WREN & WILD
  • Courtesy Wren & Wild
  • As part of her quest to give online customers a personal experience, Mandy Butera of Wren & Wild does FaceTime consultations with clients.

"We are also first and foremost a clean beauty retailer and we monitor our stock very carefully. We would never sell a product that is past expiration; I am not sure you can get that level of trust or service on Amazon," Butera said.

At Root Adorned, a store offering artisan home goods in Bend's Northwest Crossing neighborhood, owner Erin Hasler said about 10% of her total sales happen online. She offers the majority of the store's lines on the website—besides items such as plants, which they can't ship. For both retailers, having the online presence helps them gain customers they wouldn't otherwise see.

"We ship quite a bit to L.A., New York and Seattle," Hasler said. "Our Central Oregon customers love coming into the shop to get the full experience and to get first dibs on new items that may not have hit the website yet."

Both retailers have also opted not to offer their products on Amazon, preferring to use their own sites to market their goods.

"It's really difficult for a small business to compete online with Amazon on pricing. However the majority of the items that we carry aren't available on Amazon," Hasler said. "We want to be able to offer our clients a beautiful process from start to finish with their online shopping experience and it's just easier for us to do that from our website."

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. While the pandemic reduced "hobbies" to "aspirations," you can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis. (Progress: slow.)
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