The pandemic pushed these businesses online — and they have no plans to log off when stores reopen

The Orchid in Corner Brook has moved online as a result of the pandemic, and owner Jessi Martin says she’ll keep up her presence online when the doors of her shop reopen. (The Orchid)

The owners of two Newfoundland businesses say after moving their businesses online as a result of the pandemic, they have no plans to stop when their doors reopen.

Jessi Martin, owner of the Orchid flower shop in Corner Brook, says she did some business on her website prior to closing her store to the public due to provincial public health restrictions, but she’s been focused mostly on social media in recent weeks. 

“We’ve definitely bumped [up] our online presence on Facebook a lot more, because with everything that’s going on, our suppliers don’t always have the same availability that they always did,”she said. 

“We’ve been encouraging people to call us or message us on Facebook to check our availability.”

I feel like our customer relations have grown so much.– Jessi Martin

The Orchid has been offering delivery and curbside pickup of plants and flowers, something Martin said customers have adapted to well. She said social media has allowed her business to be flexible and meet people’s needs in different ways.

“I’m really loving it because I feel like our customer relations have grown so much,” Martin said.

“We’re not in person, but we’ve almost got more communication now because people are more likely to reach out via [Facebook] Messenger or something like that and ask a question about a plant or a flower rather than come in and ask.” 

While shopping online does provide a very different experience from visiting the flower shop in person, Martin said she plans to keep up her new online presence even when the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

“The thing with flowers is you see them, and they’re vibrant and they smell great, and it’s the experience of being in that flower shop that often makes an easy sale,” Martin said.

“But when you do it online, you have to make sure that you’re capturing the beauty of the flowers and the plants and you’re really showing the customers the beauty of it all.”

Resonating with customers 

Cathy Martin, owner of Sharington’s, a women’s clothing boutique in St. John’s, agrees online shopping has its challenges, as customers can’t try on items of clothes, but she has been using Facebook to show off the items in her store.

“With clothing, for women especially, we need to see how it looks on the front, on the back, what it does for different parts of our body,” she said.

“So one thing that we started to do early was get on Facebook and show people exactly how it would fit, how it would feel, how it would flow.… It’s resonating with the customers.”

Sharington’s has been using its Facebook page to show off clothes for sale online while their store is closed. (Sharingtons/Facebook )

While Sharington’s had social media accounts prior to the pandemic, it didn’t have a website or online store, something Cathy Martin said she was forced to take on and build herself using web retailer Shopify.

“At the beginning of this … we have no sales coming in whatsoever because we have no website, no ability to really reach the customer,” she said.

“The ability to reach out on Facebook, that helped pivot us and be able to make sales.”

Despite serving a demographic Cathy Martin said isn’t used to shopping online, she said she also plans to keep selling online when her store opens again. 

“I was amazed at how we could get online and how supportive the community could be,” she said.

“We’ve been able to reach a lot of customers outside our [St. John’s] area. I’ve had so many messages to me like, ‘When this is all over, I hope you continue doing what you’re doing.'”

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