Online business has been boosted during the pandemic, with Langley merchants joining a growing trend of pivoting to the internet to reach customers.
“Have we ever,” laughed Sonya Perkins, owner of Forever Yours Lingerie in Langley City.
Perkins’ store at 20460 Fraser Hwy. has had an online presence for the last five years or so, “but it’s always been a fairly small part of our business,” she commented.
Not any more.
“We are just as busy online as we are in-store,” Perkins estimated.
“It’s a huge change.”
The growth in their online business has exceeded expectations, Perkins said.
“What we would have done in five years [in terms of online business growth], we did in five months.”
When in-store shopping closed during the initial COVID-19 lock down last March, Perkins said she had to rethink the kind of products the store was offering, adding comfort and lounge wear items for buyers who would be staying in a lot more than before.
The store now offers “virtual fittings” by videoconference for customers who are more accustomed to buying from Forever Yours online.
While it has reopened to in-person shopping, the online side has become increasingly important to the store bottom line, Perkin disclosed
Perkins estimated the boost in e-business has helped her store cope with the challenges of the pandemic.
In fact, on average, she estimated, the combined income from online and in-store sales income has rebounded to the point where it roughly equals pre-pandemic business levels.
She praised her employees with being able to make on-the-fly adjustments as needed to navigate the new normal in business.
“My staff have rolled with the punches, really fast,” Perkins said.
Forever Yours web director Jacqueline Cox said over the last year, online sales have been “significantly busier.”
“It’s been challenging, interesting, all of the above,” Cox commented.
Thachuk said her in-store business has rebounded.
With people spending more time at home and using that time to redecorate, they are visiting the premises for socially-distant browsing at her store and its stock of repurposed and restyled pieces, along with specialty paint.
But at the same time, online trade has increased, driven, in many cases, literally by customer demand, with people phoning in to ask if the store is selling an item on its web site.
“More people are asking for it [online],” Thachuk noted.
Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce CEO Colleen Clark said the pandemic has accelerated the trend towards online for business owners.
“If they weren’t there already [when the pandemic hit], they wanted to get there quickly,” Clark commented.
“You need to have an online presence.”
There are plenty of tips to help businesses get their store online, quickly and easily at www.langleychamber.com, which is offering virtual networking and webinars on topics such as online sales and recruiting.
“We stress to people, we can help you,” Clark said.
“If you’re a smaller mom-and-pop in your 50s and 60s, you may not be as tech-savvy as people in their 30s,”
but the chamber can help make them that important transition, she stressed.
“Anyone who goes online will never go back,” Clark predicted.
Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce has also made moves online, including virtual town hall meetings moderated by Clark, presented via Zoom conferencing software.
“We not gong to see – air quotes – back to normal for a year” Clark predicted, and one place that will have a lot of the answers businesses are looking for, will be the chamber.
According to Google Canada, e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.
As well, figures released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business show roughly 152,000 small businesses shifted to boost e-commerce between March and November of last year, and one in five independent companies told the advocacy organization they expect to increasingly rely on that avenue to survive.
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