Riley Eubanks The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Riley Eubanks takes a look at how small businesses are utilizing technology and shopping trends to attract customers back into their brick-and-mortar locations.
Just over a year removed from opening for the first time amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, White Oaks Mall businesses are utilizing e-commerce in addition to their in-person storefronts.
The mall's stores, many of which are small businesses, are utilizing technology and shopping trends to attract customers back into their brick-and-mortar locations.
"Physical retail is always going to be in demand," White Oaks Mall business and marketing director Lori Kiel said. "I know a lot of people shop online or do a combination of both, but there are certain items that you want that experience with. ... I think that there's always going to be a need for that and to come into a store and physically touch, feel, try and then buy it when you're here."
These three small businesses, all with physical locations in the mall, use technology to get customers to come to their stores.
Daily Stealz & Furniture Kiel said Daily Stealz & Furniture embodies what she calls a "shopping experience." The operation, which now has two storefronts at the mall, has varying items that have a new price every day but aren't guaranteed to stay in stock in addition to heavily discounted furniture.
Each week begins on Friday for Daily Stealz: the store gets boxes and boxes of new inventory and each item starts off at $9. $2 gets taken off the price tag each subsequent day until Tuesday and Wednesday, when every item in the store's bins are priced at $2 and $1, respectively.
Thursday features what Daily Stealz's Omar Abdel calls "higher end" items that are priced at 50% off whatever they cost online. On those mornings, Abdel said his business often does a livestream on Facebook to promote the items.
"If you look at our website online on dailystealzfurniture.com, you'll actually go ahead and find that we have five times the amount that we have actually displayed here. And we have all that in stock," said Abdel, who added that his business is working on developing capabilities for customers to buy products online.
The in-person shopping experience, Abdel said, is "curated for the customer" at Daily Stealz because the prices change from day-to-day and he'll barter and offer discounts on furniture bought in bulk.
One location features the discounted shopping bins priced depending on the day in addition to furniture while Abdel's other location is just furniture.
Corrine's Closet After opening a business at 223 S. Sixth St. in October 2018, Corrine's Closet owner Corrine Campbell opened another resale store inside the mall filled with purses, home décor and unique clothing items for men and women.
Her items range from decorations she picked up while she was in Africa to resale items from vendors and people who are looking to get rid of their lightly used boutique-like clothes. She advertises her new store and clothes on her Instagram account.
"I'm really happy to be here. I (feel) like I'm home. What's funny about it, my first job in the U.S. was Gap," said Campbell. The storefront she works at now used to be a GapKids.
Even through the pandemic, Kiel said White Oaks Mall still brings a lot of jobs to the community and is a destination in central Illinois and for commuters between Chicago and St. Louis. Historically, she recognized malls are often a place where people had their first job, like Campbell.
"The mall, it's much more than just like a retail space. It's a place where people have their first job ... we're responsible for a lot of jobs in the community," Kiel said. "We pay taxes here and that supports a lot of funding for first responders and educators. So, I feel like that's becoming important to people (when) they shop."
Campbell said her location at the mall, which opened Aug. 9, is four times the size of her location on Sixth Street. She also offers free in-store pickup for her expansive online catalogue at https://corrinescloset.com/.
Better With Bubbli Another boutique that utilizes an online catalog, Randi Pecka and her husband, Justin, opened Better With Bubbli Boutique in White Oaks Mall around the time it reopened in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020.
"I actually opened online first. And then we did some pop-ups over the holiday and we did pretty good at the pop-ups and then I somehow convinced my husband that a store is a good idea," Pecka said, jokingly. "(It) took some arm twisting but now he definitely agrees that the store was a good idea."
Being that she runs a visually appealing boutique, Pecka said Instagram is huge for advertising her store's wares but that she still relies on foot traffic to attract new customers.
"I've been kind of tracking it recently just to see my marketing skills are because Instagram is really big for us," Pecka said. "So just finding out how many girls have heard of us through Instagram versus just kind of walking through, that's been good."
Pecka regularly advertises her new items and sales on her Better With Bubbli Instagram account, which has more than 2,000 followers. She also hosted a back-to-school fashion show at the mall in August.
Her catalog is featured online at https://betterwithbubbli.com/. Like Corrine's Closet, shipping is free on orders of $75 or more.
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