Danielle Cunningham
The Navigator

While downtown’s Commercial Street draws an eclectic crowd for cuisine, coffee breaks, and conferences, Cayo Fashions shop owner, Erin Wagenaar, draws a crowd of her own to her local women’s boutique nuzzled in the downtown core.

Statistics Canada reported online sales to have doubled from 2007 to 2012, bringing the net total of purchases to a heaping $122 billion in Canada last year. With the growing population of members on social media such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr (to name a few); we are able to share thoughts, feelings, photos, and, more recently, market products on an international level. These social media outlets, combined with websites like e-Bay, the growing JustFab, and Zappos have made shopping as convenient as a mouse click or screen tap away for browsers and business owners alike. Larger companies, like Gap, The Bay, and Sears, have also extended their businesses to the online community, updating and releasing new catalogues regularly. This begs the question, what are local businesses doing to retain and expand their clientele?

It is a typical Friday afternoon in the shop for Wagenaar at Cayo, greeting, sizing, styling, and bagging parcels for her proud patrons. By this point she has already posted her “outfit of the day” on Facebook and Instagram, and has suited the mannequins accordingly. “I advertise on Facebook so people across Canada can not only see my Facebook page, but can then call the store and purchase my products,” Wagenaar says. This has worked in her favor, though she feels “the fact that customers still have to pick up a phone is a deterrent, believe it or not.”

To make things more convenient for the online shopper, Wagenaar is constructing an e-Commerce shop for herself, which she is planning to have launched by winter. Wagenaar believes this will contribute to the volume of products she is selling, but will not change or disturb the traffic she gets now in the shop. Posting on Facebook and Instagram certainly helps to entice shoppers, but it is not the core of my business, Wagenaar says it is the warmth of the service and personalized care each customer receives that keeps people buzzing. “Boutique shopping is always going to be alive because of the experience you get as opposed to a mall or online,” Wagenaar responds when asked if the physical shopper is becoming extinct during this influx of e-purchases.

As does everyone else, local shop owners must adapt to the changing winds of technology and media outlets to promote themselves. The key to staying successful, however, seems to be keeping with tradition and giving shoppers the attention and experience that only a face to face interaction can offer.