The COVID-19 pandemic has affected business operations tremendously. In fact, a survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that COVID-19 wiped out 113 straight months of job growth, and small business revenue fell down twenty percent at the end of March in comparison to January of 2020.
When the Coronavirus arrived in the United States, a lot of small businesses closed their doors due to government regulation and widespread health concern. With this, many business models changed as a direct result of the pandemic.
One small business, in particular, a Philadelphia/South Jersey retail store dedicated to gifts for every occasion – Occasionette – took an aim at shifting their business model to an e-commerce destination.
Prior to the pandemic, Occasionette relied heavily on face-to-face consumer interaction. While Occasionette offers a service in finding the perfect gift for any event: the store’s merchandise display and the atmosphere is a huge component to its success. Many customers enjoy browsing the aisles for personal gifts or stopping in to see the artwork on display on the walls. As part of the customer journey: visitors would enter the shop, browse, and purchase items – along with punching holes in a reward card for every card purchased.
For a retail store that relied on fulfilling orders in person, the COVID-19 pandemic swiftly changed that.
Towards the beginning of April, Occasionette owner Sara Villari decided to take an aim at switching her business model to reach her customers quarantined at home. Only a select handful of best-selling items were for sale and had to be picked up outside at the Occasionette Collingswood location. Eventually, as time passed, the online inventory expanded and Collingswood shoppers were offered the option to have their items delivered to their door through a local Collingswood drop-off (similar to DoorDash.) As we reached towards the holiday season, items sold on Occasionette were shown on Good Morning America, HGTV and more to reach on a national level – pinpointing customers to directly buy and purchase from Occasionette.com. Thus, national consumers could purchase an assortment of candles, cards, puzzles and more on the Occasionette site.
Now, the design of their website transferred from a typical small business website to a more established e-commerce store (pictured above: a snapshot timeline of Occasionette’s website progress.) With the evolvement of their web presence, Occasionette has clearly overcome the hurdle of the COVID-19 pandemic by creating a new process: online fulfillment. While Occassionette’s stores are open for in-person shopping, the small business also hires employees for solely fulfilling online orders in their Collingswood warehouse to reach their national demand.
It’s crazy to think a year ago this was not the case for this business, but hey – COVID did: that. ✔️
Bauer, Lauren, et al. “Ten Facts about COVID-19 and the U.S. Economy.” Brookings, Brookings, 2 Feb. 2021, www.brookings.edu/research/ten-facts-about-covid-19-and-the-u-s-economy/.
Fairlie, Robert. “The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Business Owners: Evidence from the First 3 Months after Widespread Social-Distancing Restrictions.” Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, John Wiley and Sons Inc., 27 Aug. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7461311/.
Zero, Sarah. “Sara Villari of Occasionette.” Wellstruck, Wellstruck, 11 Dec. 2019, www.wellstruck.com/blog/2016/sara-villari.