Secret Treasures Antiques for almost 30 years, which has thrived by promoting classic gadgets at “wow costs”—from 5 cents to over $100—within the Maine-Dampster Mile business district of Evanston. Enterprise has additionally developed, however by no means as quickly or as quickly because it has been prior to now two years.
Proprietor Don Okamoto mentioned COVID-19 pressured the shop at 605 Dempster St. to do issues he by no means imagined, and greater than serving to it survive, took the enterprise in a brand new course Is.
“The pandemic has pressured us to have a look at our enterprise in such a unique means. The best way we do enterprise now was by no means in my sport plan,” Okamoto mentioned. “About three years in the past, I’d have written a very completely different marketing strategy.”
Gross sales fall to 40% of pre-COVID ranges
It has been almost three a long time since Okamoto took the entrepreneurial leap and determined to give up her media gross sales job within the company world, according to her values and her favourite pastime – thrifting.
“My passion on the weekends was my remedy, my launch from after I lived within the company world,” she mentioned. “I have been doing this since I used to be little and going to auctions with my mother. At a sure level I requested myself if I used to be going to go company for the remainder of my life, and need to receives a commission properly. However be unhappy.
Secret Treasures has been successful, and Okamoto credit it, largely, to adopting one thing he likes. However COVID-19 posed a significant problem.
Okamoto and his crew, which they needed to considerably scale back in dimension, stored the buying expertise personalised by COVID-safe buying codecs like encouraging clients to window store and are available for curbside pickup. However when gross sales fell to 40% of pre-pandemic ranges, they shortly decided they would want a extra sturdy on-line presence.
The shop up to date its web site within the first few months of the pandemic, which additionally included an e-commerce part. A pal on the retailer, Evanstonian Julie Cowan, jumped in to assist.
“Julie instructed us that our system was out of date for eight years, that we must construct a completely new web site,” Okamoto mentioned. “Inside three days he had a brand new website up and working, together with a web based retailer part.”
Okamoto mentioned Henry Flora, who has been with Secret Treasures for the previous eight years and is now operations supervisor, has been a key companion in serving to the shop survive COVID-19. Because the begin of the pandemic, Flora has labored to create on-line catalogs of the shop’s gadgets and showcase them on her Instagram and Fb social media accounts.
As restrictions have been eased, the variety of in-person clients on the retailer continues to develop. Its income has elevated by 90% in comparison with earlier than the pandemic and the employees has grown to 9 members.
Okamoto mentioned that 35% to 40% of income now comes from on-line companies, which proceed to develop. Secret Treasures serves clients throughout the nation with new common clients in places similar to California and Oklahoma.
“Now we have a buyer in California who continues to order and obtain it and get and obtain it,” Okamoto mentioned. “For some on-line clients, I believe it is like Christmas every single day, it is thrilling for them. They even ship footage of what the stuff seems like of their residence. Such issues are part of the whole lot we do.” Discovering issues which are enjoyable, issues that make somebody glad.”
The shop’s energetic on-line presence has received followers overseas as properly, in as far-flung places as Japan and the UK. Nonetheless, Okamoto mentioned that dealing with the transport quantity – about 60 packages a month, domestically – and the related logistics has been a problem, so the shop not ships internationally, which he believes will assist. It is going to be much more tough.
On-line sale of ‘Instagram Animals’
Okamoto mentioned the web part of the shop grew organically with none marketing strategy. “We did it out of full desperation, not wanting on the numbers and the analysis,” she mentioned. “It simply took on a lifetime of its personal.”
An instance of that natural progress is that Instagram, not the e-commerce part of the web site, has turn out to be the shop’s major platform for on-line gross sales.
“With Instagram, folks reply shortly, so we’re principally posting there,” Okamoto mentioned. “Some clients have turn out to be Instagram beasts, as a result of Instagram is so instantaneous. You publish it and it sells. They obtained it in eight seconds.”
Okamoto mentioned he and his staff have gotten to know lots of on-line clients by Instagram direct messages. Prospects DM an merchandise declare after which name for fee over the telephone. Native clients normally come for pickup and shops ship for long-distance clients.
“We have been already posting on Fb and Instagram, but it surely was silly stuff — like, ‘Look what got here up at this time,'” Okamoto mentioned. “However with out them, if COVID had occurred 15 years in the past, we’d have needed to put up indicators and use snail mail.”
Due to the whole lot concerned in managing on-line work and in depth transport, the shop shortened its opening hours. And because the on-line workload is more likely to be right here, these shorter hours are more likely to final. “We even have extra work to do than we ever have. We’re not simply sitting again, binge-watching TV and consuming Oreos,” Okamoto mentioned with a mild chuckle.
Okamoto mentioned working in Evanston has been crucial to Secret Treasure’s success as a result of town helps small companies, Evanstonians store domestically and the shop has very loyal clients.
She credit the shop’s skill to climate COVID-19 to Katherine Gotsik of the Maine-Dampster Mile, the group that helps the business district. She mentioned Gotsik shortly shifted tasks to serving to companies apply for the Paycheck Safety Program, and that federal assist helped the shop survive the pandemic.
The Northwestern College Program LEND (Lending for Evanston and Northwestern Improvement), created to help native companies throughout COVID and run by Northwestern college students, additionally supplied a $5,000 grant. However Okamoto mentioned he checked the grant, did not want it, and gave it again, in order that the cash may very well be obtainable to different companies.
Along with offering a novel thrift outlet, Secret Treasures contributes to the neighborhood by supporting two native nonprofits, Soup at Six, the dinnertime soup kitchen that operates out of Hemenway United Methodist Church; and the Skylight Basis, which helps these in search of counseling sooner by connecting them to a therapist.