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September 2014

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Oconomowoc shop owners comparie the click of the mouse to customer service

With the popularity of online shopping, local stores work to compete

It's no secret that online shopping has become a phenomenon with no signs of slowing down. Statistics show that online shopping was up 28.4 percent on Cyber Monday, compared with the same time last year.

Nationwide, shoppers are expected to spend an estimated $54.47 billion this holiday season, up 16.8 percent from last year, according to eMarketer, a national website that projects online sales. The site also projects that online spending this holiday season will account for 24 percent of all U.S. retail spending during the period.

In Wisconsin, early projections report Internet shopping has increased by 20 percent from 2011.

But local shop owners seem undaunted by those numbers and the fact that big-box stores have such a large online presence.

In Oconomowoc, The Gallori - Fine Art, Framing and Gifts has a website and Facebook page where customers can see products, but the store doesn't have an online site to buy products.

That's intentional.

Store owner Lori Boldig explained, "we are in an artistic/visual business, so most of our customers really want to examine their artist-made purchases."

She added that there is an intangible effect of shopping inside the store.

"They also get instant gratification from purchasing at the store," Boldig said. "They get great customer service and the story about the artist so they can feel connected to the artwork. Compared to the Internet purchases, the customer has also avoided shipping and handling costs and saved the environment from more packaging material."

Eric Eck of The Doggy Bag, a dog bakery and boutique in downtown Oconomowoc that specializes in all-natural dog treats, said his store has online shopping, but added that customers still prefer the in-person shopping.

"When it comes to those unique items you want to give as a gift, you really want to see it, touch it, feel it," Eck said. "You can only get that at your local business."

Eck also does things to get his customers in his store during the Christmas shopping season, such as the pet photos with Santa he hosted on Sunday.

JoAnn Ley of Grand Appliance and TV in Genesee Depot said stores that offer more of a personal service shouldn't be ignored.

"We provide more service than there would be online," Ley said. "You can come and talk to someone, and you're not doing that online."

She also said shipping costs associated with online shopping can be more expensive.

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