Penny Lane clothing shop owner Andi Dornan had been thinking about introducing online shopping for a while.
Then came the pandemic.
“It gave me the push to go for it,” she said.
With the help of her brothers-in-law she created her new website with a goal of giving customers a place to shop that’s as attractive and easy to browse as her South Glenwood Street boutique.
“I want them to have the same feeling they get when they walk into the store,” she said.
PennyLaneJH.com debuted Monday, joining a growing number of web adjuncts to Jackson retail shops.
In Dornan’s case, social media opened her eyes. She keeps a steady stream of Instagram posts going, with inspirational quotes and photos of new arrivals, from beaded earrings to cropped sweatshirts and wrap dresses.
During the time this past spring when Penny Lane’s doors were shut, many customers reached out to Dornan through Instagram to tell her they wanted to support the store.
“It became even more crystal clear that I have a customer base outside Jackson,” Dornan said. The website will be more convenient than “texting me a million times on Instagram.”
She views the online shop as an extension of her bricks-and-mortar operation and as the next logical step to growing her business of affordable and on-trend clothing, accessories, home goods and items by local artisans.
“I’m trying to build our brand nationally,” she said.
And being online will help, she said, if the COVID-19 crisis intensifies to the point of another shutdown.
“We’ll be in a better position to keep our business open,” she said.
Other Jackson business owners can attest to that. Having online stores proved helpful during the period when customers couldn’t walk through their doors.
Jackson Hole Jewelry Co. has been on the web (JacksonHoleJewelry.com) since about 2014, but during the six weeks the Broadway store was closed to walk-in traffic the employees there devoted more time to the site, adding photos and content.
“It was a way to stay engaged with customers and keep employees busy when the business was shuttered,” owner Zachariah Turpin said.
But even before the COVID crisis the website has proved over the years to be “a great reference tool to assist customers,” he said. They might come in, for example, look at few pieces and leave, but later start thinking about something they saw and want to buy.
The website enables them “to revisit the thing they looked at in the store and make a purchase decision,” Turpin said.
He doesn’t post everything on the site, just the most popular items. One downside of operating an online store, he said, is time.
“It is something you can literally sink endless amounts of time into,” he said. Between uploading thousands of photos or just 20 or 30 of the top ones, “I think that’s a pretty clear choice.”
Pet Place Plus offered online shopping one summer and landed only three or four purchases, said partner and general manager Jessica Borneman.
But this past spring, when the pet store went to curbside service only, it added the shopping function to its website again, and online sales took off. People who went to PetPlacePlus.com for daily necessities like dog food enjoyed being able to look at items like collars, beds and toys that aren’t easy to shop for over the phone.
“We were getting 20 and 30 orders a day” on the website, Borneman said.
During that time overall business was down but employees were working harder, she said. The phones were ringing off the hook, and orders had to be packaged and taken out to customers’ cars. The website took some of the pressure off.
“It was a lifesaver in terms of managing our workload,” Borneman said.
It’s handy now even when customers can walk into the store again. Those who are elderly or immunocompromised may prefer to continue to browse by computer.
“We still have at least a few orders every day,” Borneman said. “We intend to keep it as long as the virus is a concern.”