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Madison retailers commit to brick and mortar in rising digital world

MADISON (WKOW) — As the holiday shopping season approaches, more and more people are looking online for the perfect gift. In response, local business owners like Carol Schroeder are brainstorming ways to get shoppers out from behind their screens.

“A lot of shopping is not about the commodity,” she said. “It’s not that you go out and need a certain item. It’s you want the experience of browsing and delighting your senses by seeing what’s out there, maybe finding just the right gift by being inspired by the selection.”

That’s why her store Orange Tree Imports has a limited online presence. Instead, Schroeder said she’s committed to encouraging shoppers to look to her brick and mortar store first since they opened 43 years ago.

Still, she said the changing retail landscape has come with its share of growing pains.

“When we started out even big box retail wasn’t so much a thing,” she said. “And then when Walmart came in and everybody said it was going to be the death of independent retail and those of us that managed to survive that onslaught then had Amazon and other online business come into play so it’s been some challenging times.”

On State St. Anthology has been open for business for the past 10 years. Owner Laura Komai said the store recently expanded, tripling in size despite sharing a certain philosophy with Orange Tree Imports.

Anthology has a website, but Komai said it’s primarily to show shoppers what they can expect if they stop by. It’s not the store’s main sales platform.

“We’re really all about saying to people, come to the store itself and see what I cannot possibly convey through any digital means,” Komai said.

While the owners said they’re confident in their business strategies, not all Madison retailers have been as successful. A number of stores, some with decades of business, have closed in the city over the past year.

That’s why Schroeder said she makes sure when customers walk into her store, they’ll want to come back.

“Instead of trying to compete online, which we know is a game we can’t really win, we’ve tried to up our game for customer service, selection,” she said. “Making shopping an experience is something we can offer that an online business can’t do.”

As for Komai, she believes there will always be a place for brick and mortar stores.

“Why do we still like it when someone sends us a card that’s handwritten?” she said.

It’s that personal touch she said that’s irreplaceable.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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