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Pandemic sends businesses online, in time for Cyber Monday

By Blaise Mesa/The Topeka Capital-Journal
Pratt Tribune
Hemslojd Swedish Gifts, 201 N. Main St. in Lindsborg, has sold items all over the world.

When Shawnee County issued a stay-at-home order the Red Door Home Store lost its main source of revenue: in-person traffic. During the downtime of the pandemic, Jesse Borjon realized he needed to start selling his products online.

“We had plenty of time on our hands...we looked at it as an opportunity to really beef up our business,” said Borjon, owner of Red Door Home Store in Topeka.

What started as a decision to keep his business active during a shutdown has now put Borjon, and Red Door Home Store, in a better place to sell to customers during Cyber Monday and the upcoming shopping season.

An April 2020 Statista report found that Cyber Monday was the largest online-shopping holiday in the US bringing in $9.4 billion in 2019. This year’s Cyber Monday comes as the U.S. Department of Commerce found e-commerce sales are increasing from last year.

Alan Cobb, president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber, said he finds himself shopping online now more than before.

Cobb said Borjon is one of many small business owners realizing the potential of an online store, especially during a pandemic that has stifled in-person traffic.

“It forces their hand,” Cobb said. “The businesses that want to survive have to do it.”

Borjon said the online marketplace is “a game changer” that has him better prepared for Cyber Monday. He said his business had no online presence before and couldn’t capitalize on the popular online shopping holidays, until now.

“We intent to take advantage of that,” he said.

Corey Peterson, owner of Hemslojd Swedish Gifts in Lindsborg, said the online marketplace can play a key factor in his business long after the holidays end.

“While our brick and mortar sales have decreased substantially, fortunately our online business has remained steady if not up,” he said.

Peterson estimated in-store sales are down over 30% from January through September when compared to last year, but his online sales are up 20-25% in that time, and is hoping to see online sales remain high during the holiday season

He said his business, among other businesses around Lindsborg, rely on holiday traffic and the “snowbirds” who stop by Kansas in the winter months to avoid the cold. He said it is only a matter of time before other Lindsborg businesses create a permanent online store.

Peterson said Hemslojd Swedish Gifts’ customers base is worldwide as it ships items as far away as New Zealand, which Cobb said is one of the benefits to an online marketplace.

Cobb said the products small businesses sell might not found on larger sites like Amazon. Peterson said his business fills a certain niche which is helpful when competing against larger companies.

“It’s a challenge to make sure you do it right, but it’s a huge opportunity,” Cobb said. “(Customers shopping online) are going to have an opportunity to buy a product from a Kansas retailer no matter where they live.”