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Missoula reports hit-and-miss Cyber Monday, but strong Small Business Saturday

Posted: 9:26 AM, Dec 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-03 11:26:42-05
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MISSOULA — Small Business Saturday, the annual merchant holiday that reminds consumers to spend their money at their local mom-and-pop businesses, boosted many downtown Missoula shops.

But Cyber Monday was less predictable, as not all local businesses depend on internet sales as much as walk-in shoppers.

For Heather Kreilick, co-owner of Lake Missoula Tea Company in downtown Missoula, cyber sales have increased her business, comprised of carefully selected inventory. The aromatic shop smells like Christmas.

“We do sell online,” said Kreilick, who opened the shop with husband Jake Kreilich seven years ago. “Our online sales are going up and they’ve been going up every year here since 2012.”

She lauds her mother, Deborah Jones, for successfully running the online shipping part of the company – and for maintaining consistency.

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Heather Kreilick, right, owner of Lake Missoula Tea Company, and Tea Ware Manager Gunilla Gillette, behind the counter, offer scrumptious samples to customers.

Nurturing business relationships with various tea farms and customers keeps the business strong, she said. Among the countries on the family’s tea farm visitation list are Japan, Columbia and China.

“We have a lot of really good content and customers online,” added Kreilick. “We also work on our relationships with our customers. They know we’re going out there and digging in. It’s all about trust.”

In lieu of special Cyber Monday sales, she also offers free samples.

“You get a sample when you come into the shop and when you buy tea, you get free samples,” said Kreilick. “And when you buy online, you get a sample just to try something new.”

A recent visitor can attest to a delicious Holiday Grey – a sample blend of teas from different tea farms with a touch of sweetener – served in a tiny, uber-cool ceramic cup.

“The more energy you put into the website, the more repeat customers you’ll have,” said Kreilick.

A much newer brick-and-mortar business, Hometana on Higgins Ave., offered 20% off on online sales on Cyber Monday while seeing an uptick in walk-in business at the new location.

Shirstie Gaylord’s shop existed online only for three years until last month. Online sales at are up 10%, said Gaylord.

“It’s increasing in the last month and it’s doubled today,” she said. It’s obvious she thrives on both modes of sale – online and in-person. Since the Thanksgiving holiday Black Friday and Small Business crowd, locals drop in on their lunch breaks to Christmas shop.

For the Red Rooster, a 25-year institution in downtown Missoula, Small Business Saturday was a boom. It was also good to Sarah Allen, owner of Mood Boutique on Higgins Ave.

Allen said the store has no online presence except for social media advertising, but on Small Business Saturday, business was great.

“We beat last year,” said Allen. “We were up 15% in sales from 2018. I’ll take it.”

Black Friday sales last week were decent until the blizzard hit Missoula, she said. She characterized her customers as across-the-board in age and hometown.

“I see a lot of people I haven’t seen before, which is nice,” Allen added. “There’s a lot of people who came in from out of town. We have something for all ages – and I try to carry a lot of Made in the USA products, which is important to me.”

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Sarah Allen, Mood Boutique owner, sells many Made in the USA products and draws customers of all ages.

Another downtown shop that drew much foot traffic during Small Business Saturday was Missoula Wine Merchants on Higgins Ave. Sales were up over last year.

“Saturday sales were up compared to Small Business Saturday last year,” said Erin White, Missoula Wine Merchants employee, adding the that the eve before Thanksgiving was even better. “Wednesday was good, too; it was a record-breaking day for us, looking at our sales numbers for that day.”

The wine shop does not sell online or promote any Cyber Monday specials – except for taking sign-ups for its local wine club. It sells a broad variety of wines, but White said it focuses on selling small producers who offer biodynamic, sustainable and organic products.

“We’re obviously brick and mortar, but we can’t sell wine online. That requires different distribution and liquor laws in Montana. We rely very heavily on foot traffic,” said White. “We’re interested in wine growers who have a good story.”

Contact Business Reporter Renata Birkenbuel at 406-565-0013 and renatab@missoulacurrent.com .