Show Us Your Shop: Caravan Gift Shop By Debbie Eisele

Owner shares how they are coping with COVID-19

With so many retailers facing similar challenges right now, we encourage you to Show Us Your Shop so we may share your story and help other independent retailers.

Rhonda Ahles from Caravan Gift Shop, a brick-and-mortar located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Caravan opened in 1927, and is a small family biz that is 93 years old. This boutique showcases beautiful merchandise, created by very talented artists from all around the world. Ahles shared how this business is adjusting to the current retail climate. 

How have you transitioned your selling strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our shop is 100% reliant on walk-through traffic. While we continue to build an online shopping platform, we have created a Go Fund Me campaign to help get us through this storm. 

What special services, such as curbside pickup or delivery, have you implemented?

We are offering personal shopping and delivery to anyone that calls the shop. We have also created gift sets that can be viewed on Instagram and Facebook, so customers can purchase and have them delivered.

How are you reaching out to customers during this crisis?

We’re trying our best to stay connected with our costumers via Facebook and Instagram! Our mailing list for the shop contains actual phone numbers and addresses, no emails. Every Christmas we hand-stuff, seal and address 5000 Christmas cards to send to our clients. Just in case you’re wondering we begin that project in September! Our shop has not only been around for a long time, we also enjoy running it in an old-school way.

What are your social media handles?



Is your business offering any new programs to assist others in the community at this time?

After we have reached our Go Fund Me goal we plan to donate any extra proceeds to the other retail businesses in our community that are suffering during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Have you increased your online retail presence to adjust to social distancing?

This is something that we’re still transitioning to. We have begun increasing our social media posts in hopes to gain followers and build an online audience. This pandemic hit us all so fast, mom and pop shops likes ours weren’t ready. We hope with the funds raised through our Go Fund Me, that we will be able to kickstart our online sales.

Are you creating any grab-and-go type solutions to help sell through existing inventory and to provide merchandise customers need in today’s environment?

Customers can take part in our snail mail project, where they can pick out any card from the shop and we’ll address, stamp, message and send the card for them.

What helpful tips would you like to share with other retailers during these unprecedented times?

If you need help, ask for it. Your tribe is bigger and more supportive than you even know.

Debbie Eisele

Debbie Eisele is the former managing editor for Gift Shop Plus, Stationery Trends and a variety of special issue publications, including: The Guide, Holiday Shop, Celebrations & Occasions and Waterfront Living.

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