UWS small business finds new customers on e-commerce store

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Written by Neil A. Carousso

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Retailers that have grown their e-commerce platforms are the ones that are surviving the pandemic.

Sylvia Parker owns Magpie - a gift store on Amsterdam Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets on the Upper West Side. She told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank, "now is the time" for retailers to focus on building and growing their online presence.

"I know shop owners are really busy, but if they can take these couple of extra minutes or whatever to do it, then it's worthwhile, obviously worthwhile," she said.

Parker, with the help of a "tech savvy staff member," recently built a new website using a "big e-commerce" platform that has templates. Her product photos stand out on the easy-to-navigate online store. She told WCBS 880 that she purchased a portable photo booth for about $100 from a local camera store to take product photos for her website and Instagram page.

"That was something that we did sort of sporadically before and I think it's more and more important," Parker said of posting on Instagram, nothing frequency is important to growing a following.

Magpie is closing in on 800 followers on Instagram.

"I think it's another way to present ourselves to the public, especially for a lot of our customers now who are no longer in the city or are from out of town," Parker said.

She told Connolly and Carousso she has to be cognizant of what's in stock at all times before putting products on her website; they have more than 100 items available for purchase. Magpie, which opened in 2012, sells mostly hand-made products from bags to jewelry to home decor, and of course, masks.

"I think that people generally do appreciate that we have something special to offer," Parker said, adding, "This gives us an opportunity to think, 'well, what are the things that we can do that really differentiate us? What can we do to make the experience special for our customers?'"

She said e-commerce is part of the long-term strategy for her business and has to be for any shop owner. When she reopened her store, though, Parker told WCBS 880 her customers expressed how happy they are that she has stayed in business.

Hear ideas for building and improving a profitable e-commerce store on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast on the RADIO.COM app or on the media player above.