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How Online Shopping is Affecting Small Businesses

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By Tristan Blake Rines | trines@radford.edu

When you take a trip down to Main Street right off Radford’s campus, you may walk by a significant number of small businesses. These businesses are competing for customers, not only with one another but the internet as well.

With online shopping becoming more frequent, even Radford is feeling the effects. However, some businesses have adapted by using online forums to reach new customers. One of these businesses is Riley’s Uniques.

John Ousley opened the business with two other partners after being let go from the Dublin Volvo plant. Ousley decided to open his shop to help care for his 4-year-old daughter, considering it was difficult to find jobs that allowed him a flexible schedule.

Over time, Ousley collected items that would eventually end up for sale in his store that include things like vintage pins and buttons, unique artwork, and even jewelry. Riley’s Uniques is located at 1224 East Main Street near the edge of the strip contains a broad assortment of items, its most prominent seller being furniture.

While things like furniture and antiques can be bought in person, major online realtor Wayfair has created some estimates in their annual report that point toward the trend of future online spending by Millennials (aged 22-35).

“We believe the annual U.S. market for home goods is approximately $275 billion, of which 10 percent is sold online.” The report also added, “Moreover, we believe there are approximately 70 million millennials in the U.S., many of whom are accustomed to purchasing goods online. As millennials age and move into new homes, we expect online sales of home goods to increase.”

With the development of online spending and competition from Amazon, Walmart, and Target, one large business, in particular, has recently announced it is closing its doors.

Toys R Us crumbled as consumers turned to the other large online sources to get their fix of games and toys, and decided instead not to leave their homes to get their hands on the latest and greatest available gadgets. Though online shopping was influential in the company’s announcement, Toys R Us also faced that they lacked in, “general upkeep and the condition of our stores,” said CEO David Brandon.

The store also filed for bankruptcy after being $5 billion in debt in September of 2017, according to CNN Money writer, Chris Isidore.

Riley’s Uniques Owner John Ousley pictured left

With Toys R Us closing some of its doors it shows that to stay afloat in today’s market, a business must have an avid online presence, and Riley’s Uniques has been no exception.

When asked about how the online forum helps Riley’s Uniques, Ousley named some of the sources they use to sell items, “eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, Facebook marketplace.” With some online forums, Ousley’s business benefits, “the reason I see that online works is when I post stuff on Craigslist, or on Facebook, I get multiple questions about certain items. Even though I have thousands of other items, they want to sit on their chair just looking through what’s only online, and they don’t see beyond that, and actually coming in. So it’s important to have all your items online if you can.”

When it comes to Riley’s Uniques, the most significant thing that pulls in revenue for the store is furniture. Co-owner, Toby Bullion explained that some of the best ways the store goes about getting its merchandise are through yard sales and estate sales.

The owners each have a different style, “Each one of us brings in a new kind of character to the place,” Bullion said. “Joe has a lot of jewelry, John is the master of chalk paint and furniture, and I do a lot of antique stuff. It’s kind of like a new wave antique store.”

Retail during the last nine years has steadily been improving when it comes to e-commerce or online purchasing. In 2008, e-commerce accounted for less than 4 percent of retail profits in the United States. That increased steadily over time to just over 9 percent in 2017, meaning more and more people are shopping online. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce sales were estimated at $453.5 billion in 2017, an increase of 16.1 percent from 2016.

You might not have to make the drive to your local gaming store to pick up that newest edition of your favorite game. Perhaps you will even be able to buy your bananas from the comfort of your bed and have them arrive at your front door within the day in the near future.

However, businesses that are trying to succeed, like Riley’s Uniques, will find a way to bring their products to you.

Photo Credit: (Tristan Blake Rines-Contributing Writer)

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