Shop Local For The Holidays: Online

With 1/3 of all small businesses at risk of closing as the result of the pandemic, how and where consumers decide to spend their money has rarely been more important.

The last two months of the year, traditionally dominated by holiday shopping, may be even more critical this year for the small mom and pop shops. With the Brooklyn Chamber estimating 1/3 of all small businesses in the borough may close up shop as the result of the pandemic, how and where consumers decide to spend their money has rarely been more important.

Cinch Market owner Maya Komerov (right) fulfilling an order with Lindsay Stuart (left), owner of Glam Expressway. Courtesy of Maya Komerov

“We know the holidays are going to be a big thing for our retailers,” said Alexandria Sica, president of the DUMBO Business Improvement District. “Business just ground to a halt. For many of our small businesses, they had to pivot to online sales.”

Not least because their customers already have. According to a quarterly report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, online sales totaled over $211 billion in the United States from April through June of the pandemic, a 44% increase from the same period in 2019.

ShopIN.nyc is a business that was born out of the pandemic. It is an online marketplace, “an Amazon experience powered by Brooklyn businesses,” explained Maya Komerov, whose company Cinch is behind the venture.

Shoppers can treat shopIN.nyc as a one-stop-shop for any Brooklyn resident’s needs. And while just about 40 Brooklyn businesses are on the platform it does include favorites like Sahadi’s and Annies Blue Ribbon store, offering a choice among over 30,000 items for sale.

A map of one business (green) and the expanded zone of deliveries available to it through shopIN.nyc. 

“I ended up concocting a very strange cart,” said Dianne Gillespie from Kensington, Brooklyn, a shopIN.nyc customer. “I got puzzles from one place, groceries from another, toilet paper when it was hard to get toilet paper.”

After shopIN.nyc receives an order, one of the company’s 15 Brooklyn-based employees pick up the items from each store and deliver them in a single package by the following day to the Brooklyn shipping address. shopIN.nyc asks for up to 9% of the total sales a business does through the platform and may upcharge items.

“A lot of customers are trying to figure out how to do their Christmas shopping now, especially during COVID times,” said Jordan Allen, operations manager for shopIn.nyc. “They want to find online stores that have either same-day delivery or next day and stuff that will be in stock, and they will get in time for the holidays.”

ShopIN.nyc gift cards available to holiday shoppers. Photo: Maya Komerov

Ron Sahadi, managing director of Middle Eastern grocery store Sahadi’s, appreciates the delivery service and range.

“The vast majority of our customers were from Atlantic Avenue, and it’s nice to deliver all over Brooklyn,” said Sahadi.

However, getting locals to use shopIN.nyc as their primary shopping platform may be difficult. Joe Metford, a digital marketing professor at New York University, said this would be a behavioral issue for the company to overcome.

“A huge percentage of people go to Google or Amazon immediately before they buy anything from a smaller store,” said Metford. “I think it’s a challenge in the short term to have people automatically go to ShopIN.nyc as a platform.”

Komerov’s goal is to double product availability for the holidays by bringing in new businesses.

Businesses already on shopIN.nyc appreciate the platform for increased visibility during the holidays.

“Even if customers don’t shop, they expose us,” said Lindsay Stuart, owner of Glam Expressway and shopIN.nyc contributor. While she doesn’t expect the platform to be the leading solicitor of online holiday sales, she said, “it will be a combination of all things to help us get through.”

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Zachary Smith

Zachary Smith is a freelance journalist and grad student. Born in Queens and living in Brooklyn, you can often find Zachary looking at datasets and writing about food, local businesses, health, and science. When not reporting, he's most likely cooking or doing a crossword puzzle.

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