PUTNAM POSTING: Local Retailers Must Make the Shift to Online Sales to Survive

Jennifer Maher | December 2017

On Small Business Saturday, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and I conducted our fifth annual tour of Putnam County small businesses. Stores were filled with great selections, beaming with community pride and the kind of service only small town retail can provide. We visited flower shops, gift shops, boutiques, liquor stores and more. It’s amazing how much you can buy locally!

However, in the past two years I have made a shift in my shopping habits, now doing about 80% of my shopping online. Being a shop local advocate, I fought this for a long time, but my busy lifestyle has made it nearly impossible to keep up with the demands of my household as well my office. There simply is no time to “go out” shopping.

According to Forbes magazine “For the first time ever, shoppers are going to the web for most of their purchases.” An annual survey by analytics firm comScore and UPS found that consumers are now buying more things online than in stores.” Based on a poll of more than 5,000 online purchasers, there has been an increasing trend of online purchases, from 47% in 2014, 48% in 2015 and 51% last year, with corresponding increases in smartphone purchases too.

The local implications are clear: to be competitive, shopkeepers need to enable customers to find them online, via “apps”, their website, smartphones, etc. The shift needs to happen NOW, and already has in some industries. For example, car or boat dealers rarely help customers decide on vehicle, upgrades and price. People show up already knowing the packages they want and the price they are willing to pay. If they come at all—one can buy a car from their living room if they choose to do so. Similar shifts have taken place in real estate (Zillow, Trulia) and in the taxi business (Uber, Lyft).

Remember…. to keep things local you must make it simple for people to buy your goods in a couple of clicks, wherever possible!

Jennifer Maher
Jennifer Maher is chairwoman of the Putnam County Business Council and currently serves as the vice president of the Hudson Valley Chapter of the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors.