Businesses trying to lure holiday shoppers online

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) – Working with a small loom in her shop in downtown Ocean Springs, Kathleen Brown turns ordinary fiber into fine hand-crafted rugs, blankets and shawls.

"Everything is hand-woven. That's unique. Kind of a lost art," Brown said.

Brown also uses an ancient Japanese braiding technique called Kumihimo to create her jewelry and handbags.

"It's something nobody has got in this part of the country.  Most people haven't even heard of it," Brown said.

To expose "Kathleen's Fiber Arts" to the rest of the world, Brown is launching her store web site this week.  It's a move she hopes will give her new business and holiday sales a much-needed boost.

"It's been slow in November compared to what I thought it would be," she said. "So I'm hoping December picks up."

Marcia Manuel knows the value of cyber sales, especially for small businesses.  She started selling her hand-blown glass jewelry and original artwork online, before she opened her downtown store called The Glass Fish.

"It's certainly a great way to get your work out there and for anyone who's in another area who can't be here," said Manuel.  "I'll have someone come in and they'll say, 'My mother loves this' and I'll say, 'I have a website. She can look at my pieces online and make a purchase that way.'  We get a lot of calls for special orders."

Local retailers hope shoppers who surf the net for holiday gifts on Cyber Monday, will get hooked on south Mississippi's one-of-a-kind creations.

A California company that tracks Internet sales reported sales for the day ran about 20 percent ahead of last year. The Internet accounts for about 10 percent of holiday shopping.

About 97 million Americans were expected to shop online this Cyber Monday.  That's an increase of 11 million over last year.

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