Chicago Stationary and Gifts Business Owner Finds Success With eCommerce

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December 13, 2021

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(CHICAGO) – Changes in consumer trends have accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic. With safety restrictions keeping Americans indoors, buyers utilizing online platforms challenged physical retail shopping. At the end of 2020, Chicago and the greater metro area saw retailers overhaul their physical stores into distribution centers to accommodate the spike in online shopping. In PwC’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey, consumer responses demonstrated the new trends over the past 12 months. In the United States alone, 44% of shoppers went online to purchase compared to 58% of consumers still going to physical stores.

In Lincoln Park, Chicago since 2016 sits Greer Chicago, the curbside pickup location for the stationery company founded by ex-advertiser Chandra Greer. Once a typical brick-and-mortar shop, Greer moved to the ecommerce model during the start of COVID-19 and isn’t looking back anytime soon.

In a phone interview with The Click, Greer shares her experience of embracing the eCommerce model, including a broader consumer base, “Regional tastes don’t come into play anymore in our business because we’re not appealing to a very small, local audience.” 

To stock her shop, Greer finds vendors that sell stationery, specialty gifts, and office supplies to purchase. What sets Greer Chicago apart is the mix of independent and recognizable brands. Shoppers can pick up an old favorite and get introduced to a new brand. “There might have been a time when I avoided something that was too edgy because sometimes Chicago can be a little more of a conservative market, but I don’t do that anymore. I’m buying for a type of person that could live anywhere.” Now under this new commerce model, Greer’s consumer base is on a national level. 

Referring to her time operating as a brick-and-mortar in Lincoln Park, Greer found it a “very easy place to do business.” The Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce actively seeks small, local businesses like Greer Chicago to start a business in the neighborhood. In 2014, the chamber estimated total spending per area resident at $551.9 million annually for all retail purchases making strong earning potential for small businesses in the area likely. 

During the summer of 2020, Black business owners, especially those with online stores, saw support in their ventures as media influencers and larger corporations put them in the spotlight, with dedicated social media posts urging their followers to “buy black.” Greer says her company saw a boost in revenue from this.

When asked if her company felt that momentum going into the current year, Greer disagreed. She said, “It did not persist in that form. I hate to say it, but it kind of went back to business as usual. We haven’t had these people with a million followers posting about us, and we haven’t since last summer. What has continued, which is really interesting to me, are individuals who have made the decision that that is how they are going to buy.” 

Though influencer-led support may have died down, Instagram is also where Greer Chicago does the bulk of its promotion. “We need to do better with newsletter/email blast marketing, but the other elements have been very effective,” Greer said. Consumer posts, word of mouth, and press are the biggest aides in advertising for Greer Chicago.

A past customer who goes by the name “Kayla” gave their review to The Click via Instagram, “I love it, I write a lot, and so much of my cute notebooks are from Greer. I send cards out for holidays and birthdays that came from them too.”

As for whether she will consider going back to a brick-and-mortar model, Greer replied, “I think part of the reason that we are having success in eCommerce is that we’ve made a commitment to it. But right now, I don’t see it.”

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