From the AT Staff: Evolution of shopping: Freedom of choice

There’s an ongoing campaign in my community to “Buy Local” – spend your dollars close to home so jobs and businesses can survive and thrive.

I did my best to help the local economy over the holiday season. But in the end, when all was said and done, I spent close to half of my Christmas money shopping online. In some cases, it offered the best deal. In others, it was something I just couldn’t find locally and would have had to gas up the vehicle and travel a ways to get. Online shopping was there to meet those needs.

I had to chuckle when I read Robert Reed’s cover story on mail-order catalogs. How did we manage with so few options for spending our money? I guess we didn’t mind all that much, did we?

After all, it was such a pleasure to stop at the local store and get personal customer service. And those mail-order catalogs were quite the treat when they arrived!

I can recall closely looking at every single page of those “Christmas Wish Books” from Sears, Montgomery Ward and JCPenney, and then starting my own wish list. When I was too young to write to Santa, I’d cut out pictures of probably dozens of toys from those Wish Books, then stuff those clippings in an envelope addressed to the North Pole. If Santa couldn’t find what I needed at Sears, then where else was there?

It’s amazing today how our shopping habits have evolved. It is still a pleasure to shop locally but, for some people, “local” is within the four walls of their home. They can order through a catalog, sure, but maybe they saw an ad on TV or in their local newspaper and are calling a phone number to order the item. Perhaps the antiques shop in the next town has a Web site so they don’t have to brave the winter roads to shop there. Maybe the buyer wants to do some “window shopping” on eBay. So many options!

On the other side of the commerce coin… What are you, the shop and mall owners, auction houses and dealers, doing to capitalize on these options? Are you still relying on just foot traffic to help your business grow? Or have you found other avenues to reach your market?

Today, there are countless options available from mail-order catalogs and newspaper ads to billboards, radio spots, infomercials and Web sites. Are you evolving along with the shopping habits of your customers?

The only way to attract customers and keep them is to give them what they want through the avenue they want it. And always give them the same quality customer service you’d apply if they walked through your front door.

Convenience. Service. Two words to build on for 2009. Best of luck!

Antique Trader would like to know how you reach your customers. What marketing tools have worked best for you? Drop me a line at robyn.austin@fwmedia.com or post a comment in the forums on our Web site, www.antiquetrader.com.

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