With the holiday shopping season underway, small business owners in Chautauqua County are offering their wares on a web platform that brings them together in one virtual marketplace. Local leaders are hoping this will encourage more support from local consumers.
Three years ago, an Iowa-based small business owner and her husband, a computer programmer, created a platform which became known as Shop Where I Live. While many small, local businesses have their own websites, this platform allows numerous businesses within a region to share web space, and let consumers buy products from multiple vendors at once.
The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce has adopted the platform to create its own local marketplace, ShopLocalCHQ, or chq.shopwhereIlive.com.
Walmart reported last week that its e-commerce sales were up 79% in the third quarter of the year, while Target said its online sales were up 155%.
"That's how important it is to make sure we, as an organization working with the business community, are doing everything we can to help empower local businesses," said Todd Tranum, president and chief executive officer of the Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce. "ShopLocalCHQ is our community's response to other online platforms that, frankly, are taking sell opportunities away from our local economy. We're fighting back to keep these sales local. But to do that, we have to empower our local businesses and our consumers to be part of that fight against the large online corporations."
Some vendors registered to the site allow a consumer to make a direct purchase through their already existing online store. Many, however, allow the customer to add an item to the online cart and then continue shopping at other registered businesses.
Online platforms have become increasingly important for small businesses, but Andrew Nixon, president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, noted the collective online marketplace facilitated by the Chamber of Commerce will help reach out to a broader customer base.
"Given the environment under COVID, a lot of businesses really don't know how to start. They don't know where to turn, they're tearing their hair out for other reasons," he said. "It's great that the Chautauqua County the Chamber of Commerce is able to offer a service like this, first and foremost for the businesses, but then for consumers who are looking for access to product information."
As of late Tuesday, 53 businesses throughout the county were signed up.