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Merchants Join the Online Marketplace

Local sellers jump into Web 2.0.

Last month the team at Candy Nichols children's clothing launched a Web site to give their customers another option to view and purchase their most popular products.

Although many local merchants have a presence on the Web, Candy Nichols is among just a handful who are now selling their merchandise online.

In the past several years Candy Nichols closed store locations in Greenwich and Rye, so they felt the new Web site could reconnect them with customers who no longer have a store in their local neighborhood. They also wanted to reach customers who’ve made purchases while visiting New Canaan from far-flung places once they’ve returned home.

Candynichols.com launched the first week of September offering the store’s best lines and most popular brands, such as One Kid and Petit Bateau.

Candy Nichols employee Tara Carberry (and the owner’s daughter) built the site and negotiated with the bank over the terms for online selling, despite being an English and Art History student with little background in computers. Last April she started teaching herself to skills to launch the site while taking classes and working part time.

Carberry is still generating ideas to entice customers to visit candynichols.com, including showcasing on the site a gallery of six New Canaan children modeling store clothing, and offering free shipping and holiday wrap to online shoppers.

Anna Carberry, co-owner of Candy Nichols, says they are able to view their site traffic and know they have lots of "lookers," but that they have not yet completed a sale online. So far they have about 1,000 customers who have provided their emails to hear about store news, and they have all been informed about the new Web site.

Lang's Pharmacy launched online shopping about two years ago and communicated the new service primarily via in-store signage. Retail Manager Shannon Kelly says about 400 customers now utilize langspharmacy.com monthly, and about 800 are registered. Most log on to order prescription refills, which can either be delivered to a customer's home for a flat fee or picked up in store at one's convenience. The site does not process payments.

Although he primarily sells and rents movies at his Gramophone Video Shop, Jack Trifero has gone online with a couple of sideline enterprises.

A few years ago Trifero watched the only local premium, professional photo development store close its doors. To fill the void, he launched Gramophone Photo, where customers can upload photos, edit them with tools such as cropping and red eye reduction, and order them for pickup the next day at his video store. He says he has loyal customers who have been using the service regularly.

Trifero also launched modernhouseman.com to advertise his driving tours of New Canaan’s modern houses and discussion of the Harvard Five architects, including Philip Johnson, who lived and worked here in the 1940s. Personalized tours of up to four people begin at his Gramophone Video shop downtown and last for about an hour and fifteen minutes. His clients have come from cities across the U.S. and even from Europe.

Other merchants have thought about offering online services, but have not yet taken the plunge.

Chris Smith, manager at Zumbach's Gourmet Coffee, says owner Doug Zumbach has been considering offering mail order service for their whole bean and roast and ground coffees. Other possible offerings could include biscotti or gift baskets. Smith does not anticipate a launch until 2010, but customers can stay informed of the store's online selling plans by registering at zumbachscoffee.com.

Valerie Magee November 05, 2009 at 03:11 PM
I am disappointed that you did not mention Francos Wine Merchants (http://www.francoswine.com ), who have been selling online since November 2001! They are really trailblazers and I think that they should have been showcased in this article. I am proud to be their webmaster, and responsible for the design of their web site and their sophisticated online store. Perhaps, you'd like to run a follow-up story about their online experience? Valerie Magee

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