*Editor’s Note: Since this interview took place, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced most retailers to close their doors, making a tough industry even more difficult. When we emerge from this crisis, local retailers will face all of the same challenges… and then some. Now more than ever, we must support them by shopping local.
So Chic Boutique first opened in 2013 as an outgrowth of So Chic Events, a wedding and event planning business. With locations in Morton and Peoria Heights, they offer a wide range of gifts, stationery, party supplies and décor.
What is your biggest challenge as a retailer in 2020?
Our biggest challenge has been competing with the convenience of online shopping. While I know we can offer an experience that online shopping can’t, it still is a challenge to compete with the ease of buying online and the discounted pricing customers can often find.
What strategies do you employ to mitigate any downsides from the internet?
The way I’ve always looked at it is that other small businesses are not our competition; we small businesses are in competition with the internet. It’s pushed us to be innovative with our website, our offering buying online and picking up in our stores, continuing to push our social media, purchasing via Facebook or Instagram messaging, texting with customers—basically anything we can do that shows we can offer amazing convenience and customer service, but they get to support a local business. It obviously adds additional work, labor and brainpower for it to be a constant focus in order to keep up with the changing technologies and offerings.
Have you seen a sustained impact from recent Shop Local campaigns?
Absolutely! It helps keep it at the forefront of people’s minds, whether it’s a one-day touchpoint (like Small Business Saturday) or an ongoing campaign. Anything we can do as a community to share the impact and importance of shopping local is always a step forward.
What other trends are you seeing in retail?
You’re seeing more and more “pop-up” markets and vendors—businesses that aren’t taking on rent or overhead and instead going mobile, out of their home or online only. We’ve chosen to embrace those trends and love to put together community-based events that bring brick-and-mortar and pop-up businesses together. With events like Tinsel the Town, Small Shop Hop and Parking Lot Parties, we do at least one event each quarter that’s solely focused on bringing shoppers and small businesses together in one place.
Anything else you wish to add?
It’s important for consumers to know how truly, truly impactful their dollars are to small businesses and that, likely, any small business will bend over backwards to earn their trust and business. So when the consumer is tempted to go for the convenience of buying online or in a big-box store, I urge them to pause and think, “Is there somewhere I can buy this locally?” While a $25 purchase on Amazon is just a drop in the ocean, a $25 purchase at a small business adds up to mean a lot more. PM