Leon Worden

Retail or e-tail, help's on the way

By Leon Worden
Friday, September 10, 1999

athy Allie started Cobblestone Cottage in the River Oaks shopping center 12 years ago. In June 1998 she expanded her business and used half her floor space to open a Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery. In November she opened a third store, also a Thomas Kinkade showroom, in the Valencia Town Center.
    Kathy Allie is a real success story, and it wouldn’t be right to attribute her business savvy to Kent Burnes. But the fact is... well, as Allie put it, “We have implemented every idea he has ever given us and it has improved our bottom line.”
    Burnes will make his fourth trip to Santa Clarita next week. A specialist in helping merchants survive and prosper, Burnes will give a series of low-cost lectures and free, one-on-one consultations with individual business owners Tuesday through Thursday.
    (Tuesday’s SCV Chamber lunch and Wednesday’s chamber breakfast with Burnes are sold out, but seating is still available for Tuesday morning’s and Thursday evening’s sessions on marketing and the sign ordinance. Prices are $10 for chamber members and $15 for non-members. RSVP to Colette at the chamber at 259-4787 ext. 19.)
    For the price, it would be silly for local merchants to miss out.
    “I have paid hundreds of dollars to attend many business seminars,” said Allie, “and yet this free seminar... has paid more dividends than money could buy.”
    Allie is on the waiting list this year for a personal business visit from Burnes.
    “People really need to take advantage of it and pick his brain for an hour,” Allie said. “Whether you take (his advice) or not, it’s up to you. He’s a wealth of knowledge.”
    Allie isn’t alone in her praise. Jo Smith of Jo’s Country Baskets in Canyon Country reported a 23 percent jump in sales after attending a Burnes seminar and following up with help from the Small Business Development Center.
    Bob Kellar, chairman of the chamber’s business assistance committee, said the annual Burnes visit is a big part of the city’s and the chamber’s efforts to support small business.
    “It is of particular benefit for those who are finding business difficult,” Kellar said. “It would be extremely unfortunate for them not to take advantage of this great opportunity.”
    The sessions are sponsored by the city of Santa Clarita, the SCV Chamber, the SBDC, Pacific Bell Directory, The Newhall Land and Farming Co., His Hands Sign & Design, Merrill Lynch, Kellar (Town Center Realty), Sign-A-Rama, Academy Addressing & Mailing and Strategies for Success.
    Local retailers who haven’t yet developed an e-tail strategy might want to hurry up.
    Online sales this holiday season are expected to jump 250 percent over last year, according to Forrester Research, a top e-research firm.
    “Last year, retailers didn’t feel they would lose money if they didn’t go online,” Forrester senior analyst James McQuivey told American Demographics magazine. “This year, they do stand to lose.”
    The online version of the Harris Poll concurs: 32.9 percent of Net users are expected to purchase online this year, compared to just 8 percent in 1998.
    What’s more, online holiday shoppers will spend less in traditional retail stores the rest of the year— especially shoppers under 35 and those with incomes over $75,000, according to American Demographics.
    And it isn’t just youngsters under 35. E-pollster Greenfield Online says over two-thirds of the Internet’s 55-and-up crowd— the Net’s fastest-growing age group— have shopped online.
    Lower prices and convenience are the leading reasons for buying online, according to Harris, which predicts big growth in e-sales of toys, electronics, fitness equipment, gardening supplies, household goods and wine and spirits this holiday season.
    Now the good news for local brick-and-mortar retailers: Help is on the way for those who want to explore e-tailing.
    CalTech in Pasadena will host an all-day program Saturday, Oct. 9, for businesses interested in using the Internet to expand their marketing, communication and transaction opportunities. Call (626) 395-3916.
    Less pricey and closer to home is an Oct. 20 workshop at the SCV Chamber office, covering everything from Web design to promotion strategies and payment processing. It’s $8 for chamber members and $15 for non-members, and it will be followed by an afternoon session on how to use the Internet to win federal contracts. RSVP to the SBDC at (818) 907-9922.
    Leon Worden is The Signal's business editor.

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