Homemade Snow Man Hat - from Lara English's Etsy Shop
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Buy Local Schmocal – Retailers Need to Get Online

Christmas Gifts at the Burgoyne House

When I organize our Travel Hag Adventures, I’m committed to the Buy Local movement.  Whenever possible, we support local, privately owned businesses when we shop, eat, rent gear, or stay overnight (if affordability allows).  Buying local helps to preserve communities and build local economies, and tourists are often big factors in these retail economies.  But are retailers reaching out to potential travelers who are making advance travel arrangements online?   Can travelers find your store online?  Can your local people who may not get downtown or who just hate to shop find you?  Can people in who live a distance away find your products online?

Retailers can shout “buy local” forever, but if they aren’t online, they aren’t reaching a crucial market share that will gladly support them.  Not everyone loves to shop, but they might love to buy.  Busy people want what you have.  Give them a way to find it.  Don’t throw away a market share (that your competitors will gladly scoop up) by not having an online presence that allows customers to BUY.


In doing a rough search of Maryland Main Streets, I spent about one hour trying to find retail stores with shopping carts.  I found two. About 75% of the stores didn’t even have websites.  A few had websites with a “shopping cart coming soon” tag.  My search of Colorado Main Streets and Shopping in Charleston SC delivered slightly better results with one notable difference.  Neither Colorado nor Charleston listed businesses without websites. This makes sense to me.  People seeing the information are viewing online. It’s frustrating to see a business listing with no website.

Kudos to Old Town Arvada in Colorado (a suburb of Denver) for having an easy-to-navigate website with 50% of the businesses listed having shopping cart capability.  In today’s business world an updated website with simple navigation that is easy is one of the most – if not THE most important marketing tools.

How can retailers justify not having a web presence?

Eastern Shore Thing T-shirt from Crabi Gras in Cambridge, Maryland
Eastern Shore T-shirt from Crabi Gras

85% of Internet users are also Internet shoppers, according to “The Interactive Consumer: Charting the Online Shopping Revolution,” commissioned by Parade Magazine.  The Bloomberg Business Week post War Over Christmas states that the retail big boxes are trying to thwart fulfillment rivals like Amazon and Ebay by lowering prices and marketing heavily online.

If the retail giants are pushing to find more customers on the Internet, how can the Mom and Pop retailer, restaurant owner, or B&B owner say that investing in shopping carts and online activity is too expensive and time consuming?  It’s a major way that people shop.


And remember – travelers can buy local too … when they are traveling.  But considering 70% of travel arrangements are now made online, retailers virtually exclude themselves from the plans of potential travelers if they don’t have an online presence that is easy to find and easy to use.


One month before Christmas, I told my kids to make a Universal Wishlist through Amazon.com. I have them include their spouses and children.  They can add anything from any store online that has a shopping cart including Etsy (crafters online shopping network) and Ebay auction site.  I make a wishlist too.  My husband and kids love it because I’m hard to buy for.

(My Amazon.com wishlist is here if you want to be nosy…. or better yet …buy me a gift)

Homemade Snow Man Hat - from Lara English's Etsy Shop
Homemade Frosty-the-Snow Man Hat – from Lara English’s Etsy Shop


On Cyber Monday I sit down at my computer and do every single bit of my Christmas shopping.  I stay on budget, get people what they really want and can wrap as the gifts come in.  I figure this saves me hours and hours of time, headache and money.  Does it support local shopping?  Sometimes.  I listed several things from Etsy sites and some from privately owned retailers who have shopping carts.  I’m happy to buy local if LOCAL retailers can highlight some of their products online.

I recently did a search for local retailers in Old Town Alexandria (VA) because of the Christmas at Mount Vernon Travel Hag Adventure that features shopping in Old Town.  I was amazed at how many retail shops didn’t even have websites, much less a shopping cart. I wonder if these merchants complain about sales, or competition?  I’m a BUYER, people.  I buy online.  I want to shop local.  Give me the opportunity.


Retail store owners have lovely galleries, gift shops, apparel and specialty items that people want to see up close.  They offer that warm, personal assistance and welcome that some shoppers thrive on. Those shoppers will always be the core of the retail industry.  If online shopping was going to eliminate retail, it would have done so by now.  But the market shares have shifted, and it’s incumbent upon retailers to recognize online shoppers are a share worth grabbing that can yield sales in exponential proportions.

Consider the revenue retailers could ADD to existing in-store revenue if they had online shopping available.

  • The Universal Wishlist Market – everyone who makes a wishlist online
  • Travelers – is the store in a tourist destination?  Travelers are passing through and might want to make later purchases when they aren’t in the locality.  Online shopping can make a transient shopper a return customer.
  • Travelers planning to visit your area – If tourists find your store online prior to the visit, it may compel them to stop in as part of the travel experience.
  • Potential return customers who can’t get back to the store
  • Customers who can’t buy everything in one purchase and want a convenient opportunity to buy again.
  • People on an e-newletter list who can’t make it into the store.
  • Out of town friends of customers who want to buy a similar item.
  • People from all over the world who find a particular item on a store website through a google search
  • Out of town collectors of items you sell – art, specialty items, apparel
  • Everyone from the niche the retailer serves – worldwide — in other words – the NON Local people interested in that retailers brand or niche.

If Your Merchandise is Online, Let People Know.

Christmas Blessing Book
Christmas Blessings from Irish Traditions

Buying local is a frame of mind and it doesn’t necessarily mean to only buy from your local hometown, but to try to buy all you can from local, privately owned businesses everywhere.  But our local businesses have to meet the customer’s needs as well.  More and more people need the online availability.

Retailers, let people know you’re online.  Suggest they add your store to Universal Wishlists. Get your website updated.  You don’t have to have all of your inventory online.  Your popular items or special items – whatever you’re promoting for the season can be available via shopping cart.

I affirm my commitment to buying from local businesses, and to support local businesses in our Travel Hag Adventures.  But I encourage all businesses who want to attract the travel industry to get as much online presence as possible.  You can’t be competitive without it.


If you want more info on Shopping Carts – comment in the section below.  I have some suggestions.

Happy Christmas, all.

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