In person or at the click of a mouse?

The battle for retail business is tough. Shopping habits are evolving, with the gap between those who shop ‘offline’ and online closing fast. Sophie Rishworth spoke to retailers with different views on what works best for them and their customers.

The battle for retail business is tough. Shopping habits are evolving, with the gap between those who shop ‘offline’ and online closing fast. Sophie Rishworth spoke to retailers with different views on what works best for them and their customers.

WORKING FROM HOME: A converted lounge in Kylie Foster's home is the heart of her online business. Kylie and her family moved home to Gisborne four months ago. She is adamant that online trading is the way of the future. Picture by Paul Rickard
PHYSICAL PRESENCE BEST: Martins Event and Party Hire co-owner Kelli Macdonald says having a physical store brings vibrancy and builds business confidence in the city centre. Picture by Paul Rickard

BUSINESS owner Jude Halley cradles one of her month-old baby grand-twins behind the counter of her new shop, Tiny Style.

The babies’ presence brings a warm energy to the store, as customers browse the range of children’s clothes and accessories on display.

Other shoppers in Gisborne are browsing online, passing their eyes over options from the comfort of their own home, while waiting for an appointment or during a quick break at work on their smart phones or computers.

Shopping habits have evolved over the years, with the gap between those who shop in retail stores and online closing fast.

Mrs Halley said she knew the Gisborne retail scene could be slow but took the risk to open a physical shop in Gladstone Road anyway, instead of going online.

“I’m from Gisborne and I’ve seen shops come and go, I’ve seen franchises come and go, and then come back. I figure, if it’s just me, I could maybe make it work. I don’t have to pay any other staff.”

The new shop beside Muirs Bookshop fills more than one gap. It lifts the city centre with one less empty space on the street, and gives local shoppers more choice.

Even though you can find the label online, Mrs Halley insists it is better to come in and buy them for the same price from her.

Another way to shop

Across town in a quiet suburban home, another business has also just arrived in Gisborne.

But there was no shop opening, the business has been online since 2013 selling party supplies as Missmouseboutique.co.nz

Business owner Kylie Foster grew up in Gisborne and moved home from Auckland four months ago with her husband and two children.

The beauty of having a virtual business was that it moved with them, without so much as an online ripple.

Their formal lounge at their new home was transformed into the heart of the business. Shelves full of stock line the walls and work fits around her children’s schedules.

Ms Foster does not regret bypassing the road of physical retail and going straight to the virtual highway of stores online.

Gisborne shoppers are still buying local, she says, even though most of their orders are for out-of-towners.

“For our local shoppers, we are available for pick-ups and we can do viewings by appointment. Compared to the cost of petrol, and often parking, having an order couriered to you is actually quite economical.

“A lot of time goes into a website and getting it to rank well in search engines. I’d not be able to invest the time I needed to if I had a retail shop also.”

Ms Foster says she sees online as the way of the future for retail, and as a low-risk way to set up a business.

“We operate from our home so do not have additional costs of rent, broadband, telephone, insurances, staff.

“An online shopping experience can be a great one. Online businesses need to use social media so that their customers can get to know and trust them. We have a chat function on our website so our customers can ask for help while they are shopping, it is a great feature which we’ve added recently.”

In retail for a decade

Martins Event and Party Hire is a well-established Gisborne business that has been in retail for 10 years.

Managing director Kelli Macdonald bought it with her husband Dean four years ago. They are passionate about having a physical store.

“It brings vibrancy and life to the city centre. A retail store gives our customers the opportunity to touch and see the products we have on offer. Customers receive instant gratification, inspect their items carefully before making their purchase and don’t have to worry about packages getting lost in the mail.”

Mrs Macdonald says face-to-face customer interaction adds to a shopping experience, which keeps customers coming back.

“We are employing local people, leasing commercial property and having a visible presence in the community.”

When the Macdonalds bought Martins Event and Party Hire there was an online component, but after their first 12 months they reviewed their business model and decided to focus solely on a retail presence.

“This has paid great dividends and complements the marquee and party hire side of our business immensely. Retail is tough in today’s environment but as locals we must support local retail shops to build confidence in our city.”

Read more of our extensive business coverage.

BUSINESS owner Jude Halley cradles one of her month-old baby grand-twins behind the counter of her new shop, Tiny Style.

The babies’ presence brings a warm energy to the store, as customers browse the range of children’s clothes and accessories on display.

Other shoppers in Gisborne are browsing online, passing their eyes over options from the comfort of their own home, while waiting for an appointment or during a quick break at work on their smart phones or computers.

Shopping habits have evolved over the years, with the gap between those who shop in retail stores and online closing fast.

Mrs Halley said she knew the Gisborne retail scene could be slow but took the risk to open a physical shop in Gladstone Road anyway, instead of going online.

“I’m from Gisborne and I’ve seen shops come and go, I’ve seen franchises come and go, and then come back. I figure, if it’s just me, I could maybe make it work. I don’t have to pay any other staff.”

The new shop beside Muirs Bookshop fills more than one gap. It lifts the city centre with one less empty space on the street, and gives local shoppers more choice.

Even though you can find the label online, Mrs Halley insists it is better to come in and buy them for the same price from her.

Another way to shop

Across town in a quiet suburban home, another business has also just arrived in Gisborne.

But there was no shop opening, the business has been online since 2013 selling party supplies as Missmouseboutique.co.nz

Business owner Kylie Foster grew up in Gisborne and moved home from Auckland four months ago with her husband and two children.

The beauty of having a virtual business was that it moved with them, without so much as an online ripple.

Their formal lounge at their new home was transformed into the heart of the business. Shelves full of stock line the walls and work fits around her children’s schedules.

Ms Foster does not regret bypassing the road of physical retail and going straight to the virtual highway of stores online.

Gisborne shoppers are still buying local, she says, even though most of their orders are for out-of-towners.

“For our local shoppers, we are available for pick-ups and we can do viewings by appointment. Compared to the cost of petrol, and often parking, having an order couriered to you is actually quite economical.

“A lot of time goes into a website and getting it to rank well in search engines. I’d not be able to invest the time I needed to if I had a retail shop also.”

Ms Foster says she sees online as the way of the future for retail, and as a low-risk way to set up a business.

“We operate from our home so do not have additional costs of rent, broadband, telephone, insurances, staff.

“An online shopping experience can be a great one. Online businesses need to use social media so that their customers can get to know and trust them. We have a chat function on our website so our customers can ask for help while they are shopping, it is a great feature which we’ve added recently.”

In retail for a decade

Martins Event and Party Hire is a well-established Gisborne business that has been in retail for 10 years.

Managing director Kelli Macdonald bought it with her husband Dean four years ago. They are passionate about having a physical store.

“It brings vibrancy and life to the city centre. A retail store gives our customers the opportunity to touch and see the products we have on offer. Customers receive instant gratification, inspect their items carefully before making their purchase and don’t have to worry about packages getting lost in the mail.”

Mrs Macdonald says face-to-face customer interaction adds to a shopping experience, which keeps customers coming back.

“We are employing local people, leasing commercial property and having a visible presence in the community.”

When the Macdonalds bought Martins Event and Party Hire there was an online component, but after their first 12 months they reviewed their business model and decided to focus solely on a retail presence.

“This has paid great dividends and complements the marquee and party hire side of our business immensely. Retail is tough in today’s environment but as locals we must support local retail shops to build confidence in our city.”

Read more of our extensive business coverage.

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