Walk-in traffic at the Little Egg Harbor Soap Co. slows down between the end of summer and the Christmas holidays.
But the custom-soap company with stores in Upper and Galloway townships and Rehoboth Beach, Del., stays busy filling Internet orders of Jersey Girl, Apple Martini and the Beach soaps for customers as far away as California.
“We find that a lot of people discover our products while they’re here. And our Internet store gives tourists the ability to purchase year-round,” said employee Erin Quirk, of Galloway.
The store is gearing up for the big cyber-Monday sales that traditionally follow Black Friday. Internet retail — also called e-commerce — has been a bright spot in retail since the 2007 recession.
Internet sales are expected to grow by 10 percent per year over the next five years to $370 million, according to Forrester Research, an international research and consulting firm. By 2017, the Internet will account for 10 percent of all retail sales.
Little Egg Harbor Soap arranges gift boxes for $25 and $55. Each comes with its own personalized hand-written note from the sender, an added touch that is popular with gift-givers, Quirk said.
“We didn’t think much of it, but people really appreciated it,” she said.
Many summer businesses lean on Internet sales to extend their season long after most visitors have packed up their beach chairs for the winter. This is especially true for stores that sell holiday favorites such as taffy, popcorn and candy.
James Candy stays open year-round in Atlantic City. But its Fralinger’s stores in Cape May, Wildwood and Ocean City close as boardwalk business tapers off for the season.
James’ factory in Atlantic City operates all year, filling orders for third parties such as Williams-Sonoma, B.J.’s Wholesale Club, Sam’s Club and Costco Wholesale.
And the business has a thriving Internet presence, shipping gift orders nationwide.
“With e-commerce, we’ve definitely seen the pendulum swing,” said marketing director Lisa Whitley-Glaser, of Linwood. “Orders that used to come from our catalog are moving toward business from our Web presence.”
James promotes its products and specials over Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. It reaches existing customers and exposes the James brands to new ones, she said.
The holidays are a boon to other seasonal businesses, such as Ocean City-based Johnson’s Popcorn, which ships its tins of caramel popcorn all over the world, Vice President Rebecca Juzwiak said.
As long as the weather permits, the Ocean City Boardwalk store does brisk walk-in business, said Juzwiak, of Ocean City.
“We have a good following of people who drive down. They know they can still get hot, fresh caramel corn in the winter,” she said.
The big seller is the 28-ounce tub of popcorn in a decorative tin. Each winter, when colder temperatures prevent melting during shipping, customers can order a chocolate-drizzle peanut crunch.
Juzwiak said the company plants the kernel of the idea of holiday gift-giving in the summer, when customers visit the boardwalks in Wildwood and Ocean City to get popcorn.
“We tell them in August. Let them know they can still get hot, fresh caramel corn in the winter. A lot of people don’t realize it’s available,” she said.
The Ocean City Coffee Co. packs a lot of its special holiday-blend coffees for shipment to customers far and wide. The company makes gift baskets in a partnership with Shriver’s Saltwater Taffy and Johnson’s Popcorn.
“You can get a coffee basket anywhere, but we combine all the things people like from Ocean City,” said employee Aubrey Corbett, of Ocean City. “They get a little taste of the shore.”
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