CINCINNATI — Anyone who got an early start to their holiday shopping this year is not alone. The National Retail Federation reports more than 40% of Americans said they’re ahead of schedule.
What You Need To Know
- Most Americans report they started holiday shopping early
- Most shopping is online but small businesses say they’re seeing shoppers make an effort to come to them
- Small businesses hope their personal touch can keep shoppers interested in in-person shopping
Most of those sales are online, but some Ohio retailers report they’ve seen shoppers make the effort to come to them.
In his cookware store, Artichoke, next to Cincinnati’s Findlay Market, Brad Hughes said December is usually the busy month. This year, though, he’s noticed cooking supplies have been in high demand since the pandemic began and it reached a peak before Thanksgiving.
“Bread was really popular, we couldn’t keep bread equipment in for the life of us, for a longtime,” he said. “Now, roasting pans.”
Hughes said many people coming in told him they’re making turkey for the first time, and others said they’ve been planning ahead for Christmas.
“People really want better cookware,” he said.
In his store, though, Hughes said he relies on customers to physically come in. He doesn’t believe in online sales and decided to run an exclusively brick and mortar store very early in the business’s inception. His reasoning is simple.
“People still want experience they want to talk to someone, just not read a review they want to talk to someone who’s used it,” he said. “They want to actually see it.”
Hughes said the store is as much about teaching cooking techniques as it is about selling the supplies. There, he and his wife carved out a niche five years ago, offering a personal touch and a demonstration kitchen.
This gives customers the chance to see for themselves what equipment will work best for them.
“This is what you don’t get when you’re online,” he said.
Even through the pandemic, Hughes said this model has kept business steady. Now as cases across the country and world are rising again, he said biggest problem is the product supply chain.
Much of his stock comes from overseas, Europe and Japan and some Chinese equipment. All of those regions are facing manufacturing delays as they ramp down nonessential work.
“We’re really trying to get, balance our inventory and just say this is what I think we’re going to have and we just won’t be able to get some things,” Hughes said.
If things worsen in Ohio and the governor orders businesses like his to ramp down again, Hughes said he’ll be prepared this time.
During the spring, he kept business up offering private, one-on-one demonstrations and curbside pickup. He said he’s ready to return to that model if need be.
Still what he’s not ready to do, is move online.
“To me online is a race to the bottom,” he said.
He said small stores can’t compete there against big box retailers who can offer pages of reviews, reliable or otherwise, and often down-sells customers.
The personal touch has worked for Artichoke for the past five years, and Hughes hopes it will keep the business running for years to come.