E-commerce isn’t just for the big, national brands anymore.
Hampton Roads restaurants and retailers have shifted focus to their online, curbside pickup and delivery options, spurred on by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. They also don’t see this focus going away once the virus subsides.
“What I know and what I think is the right thing to do is expand that to be the primary part of our business,” said Pam Katrancha, owner of the Garden Gazebo gift shops. “Retail is headed in that direction.”
Katrancha’s business, which sells flags, wind chimes and other garden decorations, was caught off guard by the pandemic, like so many others, she said. Her immediate concern was the safety of her employees, she said, and the business closed for a few weeks after Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order. After reopening, she tried to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program small business loan, but ran into difficulties with her bank.
Help came from a national cable channel with a local presence. The shopping channel QVC, which has a call center in Chesapeake, featured Garden Gazebo on its Small Business Spotlight show. After her two-minute segment ran on QVC and HSN, Katrancha said her online business exploded.
“We were just all over the map, and people were just so excited about Garden Gazebo,” she said.
Katrancha plans to renew her focus on her website through the TV program. For two weeks, online shopping experts will help her make the site more user friendly and improve marketing efforts.
E-commerce sales are expected to increase 18% to $710 billion nationally in 2020, according to a July report from the research firm eMarketer. The report expects online sales will reach an all-time-high of 14.5% of total sales for 2020.
National brands in Hampton Roads have already leaned into online shopping, pickup and delivery options. For example, Target shoppers in Hampton Roads can now order same-day grocery pickup from stores in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Newport News and Williamsburg. Discount grocer Aldi also offers curbside grocery pickup at Norfolk stores. Customers place an order online, select a pickup time, park in a designated space at the store and an employee loads the groceries into their car.
Norfolk chicken wing restaurant The Dirty Buffalo is no stranger to pivoting its business model, said spokesman Ryan Lynn. The first iteration of the business was in a small building with counter service and a large focus on carry-out from 2012-16. After the pandemic hit, he said it was fairly easy for the business to switch that focus back — they added to-go beer, wine and cocktails to their online ordering system and began offering in-house local delivery.
“Once we were able to reel everything in, sales have been incredible,” Lynn said.
Katrancha also added curbside pickup for her stores, which are located in MacArthur Center and Pembroke Mall. She’s also delivered several items to local customers.
Both Lynn and Katrancha think the larger focus on e-commerce, pickup and delivery is here to stay for their businesses, even after the effects of the pandemic subside.
“I believe delivery isn’t going anywhere,” Lynn said.
Katrancha had for months held off on redesigning her website due to costs. The pandemic, along with the QVC program, made her realize its potential.
“When you are as busy as you are in the store, you stay focused on what you know how to do well,” she said.
Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, email@example.com
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