Black Friday — and now Cyber Monday — signal the start of the holiday shopping season with a rush for deals at big box stores and major brands.
Small businesses also benefit from the frenzy, but some entrepreneurs say online sales are a growing part of their business throughout the year.
When you walk into Lizz Scarlett’s neighborhood gift shop, the fragrance of scented candles meanders amid displays crowded with jewelry, clothes and gifts for children. You wouldn’t guess that Scarlett Alley in Philadelphia’s Old City section is also a thriving online retailer.
Scarlett was offering Cyber Monday customers a 15 percent discount, but she said it’s already been a big year for online shoppers.
“I think it’s getting to be almost 40 percent of our business online,” she said. “If I just had a nice little store and waited on the customers, then I think that would be fine. But it wouldn’t be able to evolve into anything.”
Scarlett tries to keep some of the mom-and-pop feel of the store online, listing items from the same vendors. And it’s clear to her that having the physical store helps online. Local shoppers come in to pick up merchandise they order online.
“Travelers said, ‘I’ll keep you in mind for the holiday. I love to shop in a local store.’ We’re their local online store, even though they don’t live in Philadelphia,” she said.
Around the corner from Scarlett’s shop, there’s a business owner who’s trying to go the other way. Brian Linton sells most of his clothing line through bigger outlets and online, but opened up his first store a few months ago.
“Our brick-and-mortar store would not be as viable without having a business structure we have with our direct business as well as our wholesale business,” he said. “So we opened this store because we felt like there was a need to tell our story in the place where we’ve been doing business.”
The storefront also has a coffeeshop to draw browsers in the doors. Linton is counting on people coming in for their morning pick-me-up and leaving with a taste for the company’s sweaters.