Some small, local retailers transition to online and virtual shopping after pandemic

Posted at 7:14 AM, Jul 14, 2021

(WXYZ) — All week long on The Rebound Detroit, we're shining a spotlight on metro Detroit's small businesses. We're exploring the hit they've taken, what recovery looks like now and the road ahead.

Small retailers have been impacted, and many people are changing how they've shopped.

One business that used to be in Midtown Detroit, Little High Flyers, is still open and doing well, just online.

"In terms of me just being at home and operating my online business, it was actually just a glimpse into how easy this can be," Corina Baldwin said.

After five years on Cass Ave., Baldwin decided to close up the brick-and-mortar location in January for her children's boutique.

She found that during the pandemic, Little High Flyer's customers kept shopping, just not in person.

As a small business owner, she didn't have the staff to avoid coming into the store herself each day, and with a young son learning at home, he often came with her. It was a lot to juggle.

"My heart didn't want to, but just in terms of what made sense… it just made more and more sense to just go online," she said.

Baldwin, who already had a website established before the pandemic, now enjoys the flexibility and has less overhead.

It's not an uncommon scenario, says Jennyfer Crawford. She helps small businesses get recognized through public markets and events like All Things Detroit. When COVID-19 hit, she launched All Things Marketplace, think of Amazon but for the little guys.

"I use Amazon, I know a lot of small businesses that actually sell on Amazon and they're very successful with it. The only thing for me with Amazon is if I'm buying from a small business I don't really know that I am…this is a woman-owned business," Crawfod said.

All Things Marketplace allows you to shop local by item or store, and like Amazon, they do shipping and fulfillment.
hipping and fulfillment for all of the businesses on the marketplace."

Crawford has seen smaller retailers opt for remote shopping instead of just online shopping. Instead of dragging things into a virtual cart, someone's talking to you and maybe holding up the items for you.

"You can actually see your customers so you're matching a face with those products," Crawford said.

Corina doesn't have any immediate plans to reopen a physical store. Instead, she frequents pop-up markets like those Crawford hosts.

"We do local delivery, next day delivery. Something I would have never had the time to do when I was at the store," she said.

Statewide, small business retail sales are down about 24% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.