by Michelle Perry
Online shopping has rapidly increased in the past decade, and this has caused small business owners frustration. Why are people supporting foreign countries when they should be supporting our local small businesses? The fighting with online sales is forcing these businesses to struggle and possibly shut down their stores for good.
Harry Harjani, owner and operator of Instyle Fragrances, said he was forced to shut down his fragrance kiosk located in the Whitney Field Mall in Leominster due to online shopping.
“I have had my fragrance business for 12 years and over the past 5 years I have struggled in trying to compare to the online prices,” he said. “Often times fake or old perfume stock is sold online, that’s why it is so cheap compared to the regular retail price.”
Harjani said his business sales suffered so much in 2012 he was forced to close his location in the Leominster mall.
So the question is proposed; why people are still choosing to buy online when they should be making more of an effort to support our local small
Bree Waldren, a manager of Victoria’s Secret in the Whitney Field mall, says “I’ve worked here for 2 years and I have noticed everyday it’s becoming harder to meet our daily sales goals and keep my employees motivated.”
Bree works full time and prefers to work on the weekends because, “the time goes by much quicker when there are actually customers in the mall.”
“During the week, we are lucky to have five sales before 4pm. Many customers will come in to look at what we offer and then tell us they will check online for more colors and styles,” Waldren says. “I definitely think more people prefer to shop online, but I don’t think they realize it’s making our economy worse.”
Maureen Watson, a Gardner resident and customer in the mall, says, “I prefer to shop online. It’s much easier and there is so much more to choose from. With the amount of online websites it’s really easy and convenient to find the cheapest price and best deals.”
Watson agrees that online shopping is affecting the economy but still prefers it.
“I only come to the mall when I need something immediately. I would prefer to pay the extra money in shipping then to deal with the hassle of coming all the way to the mall, not to mention the very limited selection the Whitney Field Mall has to offer,” she said.
Harjani and Waldren both agree customers in the mall don’t seem to be very interested in buying anything, but more inclined to walk around the mall for something to do.
“It is becoming a rare occasion to see customers walking through the mall with shopping bags,” Harjani said.
Janet Rasaro, security guard in the Whitney Field Mall, says she’s been working as a guard for over four years now.
“I have noticed a significant difference in the shoppers at the mall. During the week the mall is empty, there are only a few customers and most of them are window shoppers. I see most customers leaving the mall with no bags in their hands. The economy is bad, but it definitely is affecting the business of everyone in the mall,” Rasaro said.
The Whitney Field Mall, located on 100 Commercial Road in Leominster, is currently managed by Jone LaSelle. Originally the Searstown Mall, it opened in 1967 and was renamed the Whitney Field Mall in March 2004 when it was bought out by a new company. The mall currently has 72 locations, but only six of those are open store locations, and the mall has noticed a decrease in kiosk leases and carts.
Several other small businesses in the Leominster and Fitchburg area are experiencing what it’s like to compare with online shopping.
Toni Vachon, owner of Sunsations Tanning Spa located on John Fitch Highway, said she has noticed a huge decline in her retail.
“All of my customers have been buying their lotions online. The online sites have my product for half the price, I can’t compare with those prices. I will go out of business,” Vachon says. “I always warn my customers that the product could be fake and can potentially burn their skin, but they still continue to do so to save the money. Online sales are hurting my business; the retail of products is where I make my money.”
Small businesses provide several jobs for the community, which helps increase the economy. However fighting with online sales is forcing small businesses to struggle and shut their doors for good. We encourage shoppers to support their local businesses and help improve our local economy.