Alaska Mill and Feed is aiming to launch a new website on Jan. 1. (Alaska Public Media/Abbey Collins) With COVID-19 keeping many shoppers away from stores, some small businesses in Alaska are adapting by moving inventory online to try to reach customers they won’t see in person. And many businesses are finding it’s worth the […] Date: 2020-11-11 13:47:16🔎 Company now hiring work-from-home education jobs! No experience required! Work-from-home helping prospective students enroll in an online college. This is a full-time 40 hour per week position. Available in the United States. Employment at the College Thank you for your interest in employment with Cincinnati State. To be included among the applicants considered for employment in any position with Cincinnati State, you must complete all sections of our on-line Employment Application. Welcome!Log into your account
With COVID-19 keeping many shoppers away from stores, some small businesses in Alaska are adapting by moving inventory online to try to reach customers they won’t see in person.
And many businesses are finding it’s worth the investment.
Alaska Mill & Feed in Anchorage sells a lot of different things: from pet food, gardening tools, plants, to those little booties you see dogs wearing in the winter.
Moving that inventory online is a big job, said the company’s Kimberly McCourtney,.
“From a data perspective, it’s a daunting and massive project,” said McCourtney.
Bit it’s been paying off: McCourtney said her business has been experiencing a boom in online sales. The pandemic has forced many people to change the way they shop. As customers spend less time browsing stores, they’re spending more time on the internet. McCourtney says Alaska Mill & Feed is working hard to keep those sales local, competing with websites like Amazon.
The store was working on building their online presence even before the pandemic. This year it’s become clear they’re moving in the right direction.
“The Spring taught us rapidly that that growth and demand were there,” said McCourtney. “And in the fourth quarter behind the scenes, we’ve really been building out and vetting a new website which we hope to launch January 1.”
The store offers curbside pickup and delivery. They have a lot of products online already, including Christmas trees.
“We can talk with customers on the phone,” said McCourtney. “We have it set up so that we can do a live video chat and we could show them trees that way, and they could pick out their favorite. So nothing, I think, is off the table currency with what we’re facing.”
The business has been around for 70 years, and its inventory is huge. McCourtney says they eventually want to have all of their around 20,000 products online.
“We’re such an old company that you have like 30 or 40 years of items where now is a great opportunity to go back through and go ‘do we even have this blue lid cover for a canning jar?’” she said.
But, it’s a priority, and McCourtney says there are multiple employees who are working on this full time.
Online sales have also become a priority for Janet Gregory, who owns Over the Rainbow Toys in south Anchorage.
“We’ve always had a modest website that I always regarded as a place to see what kind of store we were, what kind of product we sold,” said Gregory. “But it really wasn’t geared to drive website sales.”
Gregory is in the middle of the busiest time of the year for her toy store. She typically makes about 30% of the year’s sales in the last six weeks of the year. In 2020 online sales are a huge part of that.
“The number of web orders we’re receiving right now is at least ten times the volume we have received typically in the past,” said Gregory.
Across the city, Tyler Yates is in charge of the website and online sales at the Hoarding Marmot. The outdoor consignment store launched a new online shop a few months ago.
“We started working on it, like, as soon as businesses locked down,” said Yates. “And it just took a little bit to get our old computer system to work with a new resale environment, new website environment.”
Yates said he’d been pitching the idea to his boss since before the pandemic, but the disruption to businesses in March was a big driver in actually making it happen.
Getting inventory from the store online takes some time, said Yates. He’s finding products, photographing them, coming up with descriptions. So to start, they’ve been focusing on higher-dollar products.
“Selling, you know, a sticker, for $0.50 isn’t always worth it,” said Yates. “But selling a pair of skis for $300, that works for us.”
Yates says customers have been taking advantage of a feature that allows them to check their consignment account balance online. And, he says, they have seen an uptick in sales since the new website launched.
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