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WorkinCT: Small businesses look to technology to stay current

“I like the atmosphere.  I like the small feeling of this store.  The fact that the women who work here know me by my first name,” said customer Abby Roccapriore.

Cathy White has been in business for more than 21 years.  She expanded her business from selling baby and maternity wear to selling women’s fashion, accessories and even bridal gowns.  She’s been keeping up with her customers’ changing tastes, both in her products and how she does business.

“Online has been a challenge for brick and mortar stores.  As a result, we have added our own online store within the last year.  It does feature some of our larger items.  People are able to shop if they’re busy.  Working moms shop at night.  They can click and buy, pick it up in the store.  Smaller items can be shipped,” said White.

She’s also tapped into social media.

“It’s very affordable.  We can communicate directly with our customers who want to communicate with us.  We have Facebook.  We do Instagram.  Facebook for us is a very good match.  We correspond or communicate directly with our customers all day long,” said White.

Caroline Lemley agrees that communication is important to any business.  She started Pearls and Plaid in Old Saybrook in 2014 and says social media is a key to the success of the women’s fashion boutique.

“It’s honestly probably why three out of the five customers come to me is because they’ve seen something on Instagram, which is my main social media platform,” said Lemley.  “I post three to five times a day, and I try to post all of the new arrivals.”

Though she personally finds that Instagram and Facebook work for her, she says any type of social media presence is important in this day and age.

“Especially if you don’t have a website to send people to, because when people Google you, they can go straight to your Instagram or Facebook page,” said Lemley.

Tove Vigen of Tova’s Vintage Shop in Old Saybrook says the reach of an online store is what sold her on a digital presence.

“The big spark for me was a big estate I got a hold of, was lucky to sell, and there were thousands of things that were high-end, beautiful, designer pieces that I knew that my location wouldn’t really support, so that spurred me on to get the online store really going.  Then things started selling really well all over the world,” said Vigen.

She keeps about 100 items online every day, but she also makes sure she is catering to her local customer.  She offers a $15 sale rack at the vintage shop, and clothing and accessories ranging in price from $20 to $70.

“My local customers have kept me in business for 18 years.  They’re the mothers who are doing book reports and need an outfit and girls who are in a play and they have to wear something that’s 1950’s.  It’s important to be affordable for people who need you here every day,” said Vigen.