Businesses Find Creative Ways To Join, Transcend Cyber Monday Phenomenon

By James Burger The Bakersfield Californian

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Brick and Mortar businesses are stepping up their game this Cyber Monday, finding ways to use technology and claim a foothold in the online shopping world.

The Bakersfield Californian

Our collective retail ritual is ramping up again.

As the Monday after Thanksgiving has come to be known, Cyber Monday is a growing attraction to shoppers. It represents the busiest online shopping day of the year, retailing pundits say, as workers return to the office and take advantage of historically faster Internet speeds at the workplace compared to their home computers.

This year is expected to be the most lucrative shopping day ever, with more than $6 billion in sales -- a double-digit jump over 2016.

Locally owned businesses are stepping up to get their share of the pie, using technology to claim a foothold in the online shopping world.

ONLINE Online retailing has grown by leaps and bounds with mega-stores like Amazon selling everything under the sun and specialty stores filling out niches for everything from glassware to homebrewing equipment to doggie clean-up bags.

Even the County of Kern spent more than $448,000 at Amazon using credit cards in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Big box distribution centers in the Tejon Industrial Center are beginning to sell products online out of those centers said Tejon Ranch spokesman Barry Zoeller.

That reality poses a challenge for mom and pop businesses with brick and mortar shops said Cornelio Gutierrez-Lozano, Director of Membership & Events for the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association.

So they're fighting back, he said, with creativity.

A number of the member businesses of the DBA have launched their own Cyber Monday sales and specials, Gutierrez-Lozano said.

For example, The Padre Hotel has special rates available for registration.

The Beautiful Sequence women's boutique, which has an online storefront, is doing Cyber Monday specials, he said.

Sisters Bella Ruano and Araceli Gomez started the Beautiful Sequence women's clothing and accessory shop on Ebay, then opened a shop on 19th Street in downtown Bakersfield, Ruano said.

Now they have a website and social media page as well.

"Now everybody is shopping online. It's crucial to have for retail especially on the holidays," Ruano said. "Most of our customers who shop online are from Bakersfield."

But they've sold to people in Los Angeles and to customers in other states as well.

Today, on Cyber Monday they'll have some deals for customers.

Everyone who buys more than $45 online will get a free choker and online buyers will get an extra 50 percent off sale items on Cyber Monday, Ruano said.

Dee Dee Todd, owner of Essentiels Spa at the Marketplace, said they'll be offering special online gift cards and spa packages.

"I feel like online has become huge. We have to be prepared to compete in the marketplace with other online business," Todd said. "Throughout the year and the holidays we do a large gift card and spa package business online."

This year they're selling $100 gift cards for $85 and offering 10 percent off gift cards of more than $100. A $159 spa package available on Cyber Monday will offer $70 in savings, Todd said.

The internet also offers the spa a chance to sell itself to new customers.

"We try and market ourselves through our social media and advertising to people who aren't already coming in to see us," she said.

Soon, she said, the business is hoping to have an e-commerce site up which will allow people to purchase the hair and skin products and home décor items they sell and have them delivered.

TAXING Businesses aren't the only entities that are tested by the new wave of online retailing that has its big day today.

City of Bakersfield Finance Director Nelson Smith said the city's taxes work differently for online sales.

"Internet sales have had a negative impact on our sales tax collections," he said. "If we receive any tax at all we get only half of what we get when somebody goes into the store."

In a brick and mortar store in the Bakersfield city limits, Smith said, the full tax allocation is sent to the city.

Online sales taxes are shuttled through the state of California and the Kern County tax pool which is divided by population.

Bakersfield gets about 48 percent of those tax dollars, Smith said.

CREATIVE In addition to online sales, said DBA veteran Cathy Butler, traditional mom and pop shops are finding other ways to bring shoe-leather shoppers their way.

Not too long ago, she said, downtown retailers had given up the fight against the onslaught of Black Friday big box shopping

But then they carved out a day of their own -- Shop Local Saturday.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend 28 DBA businesses offered special deals to people who come in with a special passport.

Shoppers got the passport and a champagne brunch for $35 and enjoyed a fun tour of downtown shops.

Butler said creative ideas like that offer a way for traditional shops to re-create that traditional holiday shopping experience -- even in the era of online power shopping.

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