Sink or Swim

by Shannon Scully Imagine if you had never heard of the Internet. “Google” would still mean a really big number and “crawl” would be how babies get around. Think of all you’d be missing if you had never been online: instant news headlines, discount shopping deals, access to the world in just one click. Has your small business heard of the Internet? Are you capturing opportunities to sell to a customer across the country as easily as you sell to one down the street? “We don’t need a Web site,” you say. “All of our customers are local. And besides, they wouldn’t use an e-commerce site if we had one.” If that’s your opinion, it’s probably time to rethink it. Consumers as a whole are moving online in droves ? your customers included. During the 2003 holiday shopping season, online orders grew 29 percent over previous years, according to research firm comScore Networks. And consumers weren’t buying just at mega sites. Small online retailers also enjoyed big boosts in their sales. Since it appears this “Internet thing” is here to stay, it’s survival of the smartest now. Despite all the favorable statistics, do you still worry e-commerce would kill the respected brand that took you years to build? We found four small businesses that say, Fear not. With at least 50 years of experience at each business, these owners...

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