If nothing else, the coronavirus pandemic has emphasized the rise of e-commerce. But many small businesses struggle to capitalize on the acceleration of online shopping. For instance, nearly 30 percent of small businesses don’t even have a website, according to a recent report from Top Design Firms.
Ash Cintas wants to help small businesses capture a bigger slice of the e-commerce pie, so she launched City Shoppe last September. The platform — an alternative to the Amazons and Etsys of the world — features unique local merchandise sold by small businesses.
As she seeks to grow City Shoppe, the founder and CEO is hunting for fertile ground to nurture that growth. That’s why she’s moving the startup’s headquarters from Portland, Oregon, to Austin. The company currently employs six people. By the end of this year, Cintas envisions a workforce of 25 people, all of whom will be located in Austin. Cintas is moving here in May.
Earlier this month, the company added Austin to its lineup of city “shoppes.” Portland and Brooklyn, New York, are the platform’s other focus cities. In the coming months, City Shoppe plans to expand to 15 locales. Today, City Shoppe offers products from more than 90 small businesses around the U.S., mostly in Austin, Portland and Brooklyn.
Cintas says City Shoppe promotes what she characterizes as “digital tourism,” allowing site visitors from anywhere around the world to search for items that radiate a local feel.
“I’m not trying to put a bunch of commodities onto the site or things that you can just find anywhere,” Cintas says. “We really want to be able to represent a city. We do want to be more curated, more special, more unique in our product offerings.”
Among the offerings on City Shoppe are home goods, apparel, accessories, and health and beauty products. Here are four of the small businesses in Austin whose merchandise appears on City Shoppe:
- Awkward Auntie, which crafts home décor items
- Monster Dance Design, a maker of hand-etched drinking glasses
- Slow North, which sells botanical products that promote wellness
- The Good Hippie, a creator of natural skin-care and beauty products
City Shoppe strives to give those and other small businesses a leg up in the increasingly competitive e-commerce marketplace.
Global e-commerce sales totaled nearly $4.3 trillion in 2020, representing 18 percent of all retail sales, research firm eMarketer says. The firm predicts global e-commerce sales will rise to nearly $6.4 trillion in 2024, accounting for 21.8 percent of all retail sales. Yet small businesses make up only a sliver of those sales. Last year, 10 mega-retailers accounted for nearly 68 percent of e-commerce sales in the U.S., according to The New York Times.
City Shoppe helps a small business navigate the e-commerce landscape by managing its website, customer support, inventory, shipping and delivery, and merchandise returns, along with other mechanics of online shopping.
“It is now becoming even more difficult and challenging for a small business to succeed at [e-commerce],” Cintas says. “I really wanted to … be that operational arm so the small business can focus on doing what they love, which is curating great products and really representing products that are the vibe of that city.”