By ARIELLE ZIONTS, a South Dakota public radio
RAPID CITY, SD (AP) – While some businesses in South Dakota have struggled during the pandemic, others have seen success by expanding e-commerce, online messaging and social media services.
Each week, quilters from all over the world can participate in Fabric Friday, a virtual shopping event hosted by Quilter’s Corner in the small town of Folcton.
Fabric Friday is like QVC but smarter, focusing only on fabric-related products, and it’s on Facebook instead of TV.
The staff at Quilter’s Corner aren’t afraid to get festive and a bit whimsical during Fabric Friday. They wore ugly Christmas sweaters, unicorn costumes, Bob Ross wigs, and construction hats while wrapped in yellow warning tape as they enthusiastically displayed items for sale, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reports.
Owner Laurie Holt said: “My boss and my daughter-in-law collaborate and are very entertaining, and they have a following that loves to watch.” “They will go ahead and show off new products and talk about new things in the store and that in and of itself creates a lot of sales for us.”
Viewers post the items they want in the Comments section and CommentSold directs them to their online shopping cart.
Quilter’s Corner also created an app, added an online chat feature to their website, and started participating in online “hops stores.”
The store shares the Heart of South Dakota Shop Hop with other quilt stores in the eastern part of the state.
Participants receive a ‘passport’ and earn ‘stamps’ by shopping at each store. Then they enter a lottery to win a prize, like a sewing machine.
During the pandemic, Quilter’s Corner has begun joining online shopping malls with stores across the country because some customers won’t feel comfortable visiting in person.
“It was a really great experience because we have now developed a group of clients from all over the country, and we probably would never have ventured into this part of the business without the pandemic,” Holt said.
Montgomery’s is a furniture store in Sioux Falls, Watertown, Aberdeen and Madison known for its interior design services.
During the pandemic, Montgomery added “What’s Your Design Style” and a live chat to its website where customers can ask staff for design advice or inquire about specific products.
Owner Eric Sinclair said he is considering hiring more workers to hire after-hours live chat for the store. It has already added about 60 positions during the pandemic due to increased demand connecting it to people spending more time indoors.
“Maybe after the first few months of the pandemic, once everyone knew the world wasn’t coming to an end, they just started spending money on their homes and it just didn’t stop. It was just absolutely crazy pace,” Sinclair said.
Montgomery has also taken advantage of social media.
“We’ll have full sales where we’ll have merchandise ready, deliver merchandise via Facebook and Instagram, take phone calls and sell right away,” Sinclair said.
He said Montgomery has seen its online orders triple, which is significant because most people still prefer buying furniture themselves rather than online.
Sinclair also notes that people will browse products online, select items to check out, and then bring a printout of their cart to the store to purchase items in person.
Black Hills Bagels in Rapid City set up a website and phone app in 2018 where people can order bagels and coffee. Customers can pick up or deliver their orders.
Co-owner Debra Jensen said the baking store added these ordering options after noticing the trend toward e-commerce. That gave the Black Hills Bagel a forward when the pandemic began in early 2020.
“We’re definitely seeing more people using it in the pandemic,” Jensen said. And then what they found out was that they loved it and so I don’t think this is going to be a trend that will go away.”
This way customers save time by ordering online, Jensen said.
But she said there is one downside when business shifts toward social media and online sales: a decrease in forming close relationships with customers.
Before ordering online, Black Hills Bagels knew all of their customers’ names and their signature orders. Now, Jensen said, it takes longer to form this relationship when customers come only to buy food — not order it.
“I always think of ourselves kind of like cheers. People want to go where you know their names and that’s really South Dakota anyway,” Jensen said. “I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to lose him here and I don’t want to lose him to South Dakota.”
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