Houston entrepreneur creates online marketplace to support local shops amid coronavirus crisis
The retail industry has been hit hard due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent social distancing measures that kept customers out of stores. With retail stores reopening at 25 percent capacity, a Houston startup is helping customers find and support local independent retailers online.
Support My Local Shop is the 'Yelp" for independent retailers, giving local customers the most accurate information about store hours, allowing customers to write reviews, and support their favorite independent shops by ordering online through the store's website or buying gift cards.
"Before Support My Local Shop there wasn't a great way to find local indie retail stores around you and know exactly how to support them," says the creator of the tool, Adrianne Stone.
Stone, who is also the founder of Stockabl, the wholesale marketplace for handcrafted and independently designed goods. From her retailers, she heard of the struggles they have gone through as shops closed down to prevent the spread of the virus.
Users can find store information on the website. Screenshot via supportmylocal.shop
Support My Local Shop make it easier to order from local Houston shops by creating a platform especially for local retailers. For Stone, it has been a labor of love. Manually inputting information from store websites and creating the retailer's profile within the tool. Retailers have a chance to claim the store page and update it with the most reliable information.
For many retailers, Support My Local Shop is a great tool that customers can use to support them. Forth and Nomad — an apparel, arts, and decor store in the Heights — has become an anchor in the Houston arts and maker community.
"It's a good tool," says Andy Sommer co-founder of Forth and Nomad. "Anytime we can have anything that could point to our business and tell people about us and that wouldn't find us otherwise is very helpful."
The handmade local small-batch goods retailer does not only sell goods, they also provide a place for the community to gather, learn new skills, and support other local shops by providing retail space in their location.
Sommer's business has been able to make a fast transition into online shopping, but it has been a bumpy ride learning as they go the best practices for shipping products and the ins and outs e-commerce. With Texas reopening retail stores at limited capacity, that brings its own set of challenges.
"We're ready to continue on as is, but it is a great relief to open physically," Sommers says. "However, we need to have some sort of guidelines for the opening to make sure that we can open safely."