Local businesses battle 'behemoth' Amazon on Cyber Monday
Online shopping on Cyber Monday is expected to hit a record $9.4 billion this year. Though it's one of the busiest shopping days of the season, local retailers say it’s a year-round struggle to compete with giants like Amazon.
“It’s a challenging marketplace, everybody knows it,” said Blaines Art owner David Haag, who said sales are down slightly this year. “Anybody that has a brick-and-mortar business knows that they're competing against online sellers and particularly the behemoth known as Amazon.”
Haag can’t compete in price but he has added new product lines, classes and experiences you can’t find online in an effort to lure customers in. He said people in the arts community appreciate that the shop has been in business in Spenard since 1953.
“They appreciate that we are here, because one thing you can’t do online is get something right now. And you can’t touch it. You can’t feel it. You can’t see how soft the bristles are,” said Haag, pointing to a row of paintbrushes.
Haag said another issue with buying things online is that it isn’t the most responsible thing for the environment, citing the carbon footprint required by overnight shipping on an airplane and the excessive packaging that items are typically wrapped in.
But Haag’s biggest beef with online retailers is that he doesn’t believe they contribute to the community. He said local businesses like his give to local charities and nonprofits. They also provide jobs to people who spend their money in Alaska.
“Online outfits really don’t do anything for us locally. That’s money that’s going straight out of Alaska. Our focus is to keep it here,” he said.
That’s also the hope at Bodyphlo, a business in the Metro Mall that specializes in women’s activewear.
Manager Vivienne Potts said the company works hard to provide exceptional customer service but still finds it challenging to lure consumers off their computers and into the store.
“I think they say that they do like to come into small stores and get that personal service,” she said. “But then at the end of the day it’s easy to sit in front of your computer and just order things online.”
The shop has taken to hosting special events, advertising often on social media, expanding clothing lines and focusing on what customers want. Potts said Bodyphlo owner Bettina Chastain fills the store with her customers in mind.
“Everything in here is handpicked by her and she buys for Alaskan women,” Potts said. “And it’s beautiful things. And I think once you come in and you try things on and feel it and touch it, it makes a big difference to just going online and looking at the pictures and not getting what you think you’re getting.”
Back at Blaines, Haag would agree that shopping local should be an experience in itself.
“I always hope that people find some value in coming to the local business,” he said. “We do what we can to get people in and once they get here we hope that they like what they see and they come back.”
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