Martine Rolls: Let's stay home and go shopping

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Another local retailer is closing shop and taking their business online.

Kitchen supplies store Table Pride has been at its Devonport Rd location for nearly 50 years but will close next month because of a booming online trade.

In the story we published on bayofplentytimes.co.nz on Monday, Table Pride owner Wendy Holdom said that the decision was a matter of moving with the times.

According to Ms Holdom, that's where the growth is and that's why they are putting their efforts into online. Just see how successful the online daily discount site GrabOne has become. They celebrated their second birthday yesterday and have sold almost five million coupons to date, saving Kiwis more than $200 million.

A quick look at my own GrabOne account tells me I made 54 purchases since GrabOne started: from stuff for the children to beauty and hair packages, from books to a gym membership to T-shirts and bottles of wine. As I remember well, only one or two of those purchases were a little disappointing.

I got some pretty sweet deals.

In a reaction to the news of Table Pride becoming a web store, Downtown Tauranga chairman Glenn Tuck said there was a place for online, but physical stores in the city were still valuable and needed.

He said that he doesn't think online is the total way to go because it's hard to tell what a product is like from a computer screen. But I agree with Rachelle Duffy, a local businesswoman who runs Little Big Market as well as online fashion store Idiom with her husband, Chris. She said online trade is huge.

The positives are easy to list. Businesses can build their brand and attract people from all over the country to their site. If they get shipping and warehousing sorted properly, they can trade worldwide. Just imagine how much a retail business can save on overheads with a successful online store?

For customers, there are many advantages as well. It's easy and convenient to choose a product without having to leave the house; no problems finding a park, no bags to carry, no worries about bad weather and no inconvenient opening hours.

Most online stores have a very decent return and exchange policy so there is little need to worry if what's delivered is not exactly what you want.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Other advantages for businesses, as Ms Duffy also explained in the story, are that online retail offered the chance of analysing where people looked, what products were most popular and where was best to advertise - without spending eight hours in a store. Good use of social media, especially Facebook, is also a key factor as it can lead many customers to the e-store.

If you run a retail business and this boom in online trade worries you, then maybe it's time to take a look at your online presence and perhaps to add an e-store to your site. Of course, this doesn't mean you have to close your physical address like Idiom and Table Pride did, but it might give your business new opportunities.

Shopping is an experience, for sure, but I have discovered that online shopping is an experience, too. And yes, you can still support the local economy when you shop online. My favourite online stores are all local businesses. Just to give you a few examples, when I needed a new pair of sheepskin boots for the cold weather, I looked at natureshop.co.nz and found exactly what I wanted.

I will be going to Europe for four weeks soon and it is summer there, so I looked for and found fantastic bargains online at sistersboutique.co.nz. The box came beautifully wrapped and there was a personal thank you note. I even got a free lip gloss. The parcel arrived on the same day I had placed the order and that was most impressive. It felt like Christmas.

Some gorgeous high heels from Chaos & Harmony were in my order at Sisters but, because I am more the type of girl who wears flats, I also had a quick look at havaianasnz.co.nz where I found a great pair of jandals to match the pretty new maxi dress I'm going to wear for my birthday bash next month.

The businesses mentioned above are doing a roaring trade online, and they are all in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. There are plenty of others, and I think it's great that I can add Table Pride to my favourites when I get back from my big trip. I wish the business owners all the best, and I think time will tell that they have made the right decision.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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