CLOSE
Buy Photo

Wrapped gifts ready to be delivered or picked up are displayed at Grace Boutique in Old Town Thursday evening, Nov. 19, 2020, in Lansing. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal)

Kendra Patterson isn’t comfortable being on camera.

But she was willing to try something new to keep her business, Michigan Barn Wood & Salvage, afloat during the strictest stages of the state’s coronavirus-related restrictions.

She used Facebook Live to walk thousands of viewers through her store’s inventory of metalwork, reclaimed lumber, home goods and accessories. Items showcased in those viewings frequently sold out, with Patterson’s mostly female customers sending messages to order mugs, colorful facemasks and earrings made by Michigan artisans for curbside pickup and delivery.

Couch: Don’t pin this shutdown on Whitmer. If restaurants and high school sports are important, prove it

The Mason-based business has since reopened its showrooms for in-person shopping, but Patterson credits Facebook, where she’s racked up more than 43,000 followers, with expanding her customer base ahead of the busy Christmas season.

Retail shops are allowed to be open at reduced capacity despite statewide restrictions in Michigan that ban activities including indoor dining at restaurants until Dec. 8. Customers and workers must wear masks and some shopkeepers say they’re upping disinfectant measures. Still, many Michiganders remain leery of non-essential pubic outings, prompting Lansing-area businesses to adapt with remote holiday shopping options.

Buy Photo

Crafted with hand-spun yarns, local artist Deb Cholewicki’s ‘Holiday orbs’ are displayed at Grace Boutique in Old Town Thursday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Lansing. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal)

Social media outreach essential to local businesses

Last year, $602 billion in online shopping accounted for 16% of total U.S. retail sales, according to an analysis from Digital Commerce 360 of federal data. That percentage has been rising year after year and, in 2020, Cyber Monday could have even more significance while shoppers attempt to socially distance.

For small businesses, continuous updates to a traditional website can be costly, which is why social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are essential tools for locally-owned establishments, Meegan Holland, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Retailers Association, said.

More: The story behind this year’s Michigan State Capitol Christmas tree began 14 years ago

Buy Photo

Summer Schriner, owner of Grace Boutique in Old Town wraps holiday gifts Thursday evening, Nov. 19, 2020, in Lansing. Customers may place orders online or by phone. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal)

The Grace Boutique in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood doesn’t post its full inventory online because merchandise rotates so frequently, owner Summer Schriner said. 

Like Michigan Barn Wood &  Salvage, Grace Boutique has turned to Facebook Live to promote its wares, including women’s handbags, shoes and accessories.

Luxuriant items like shea butter and cashmere sweaters have been especially popular ahead of this holiday season. Schriner thinks people want to indulge after a difficult year. 

Grace Boutique will schedule private shopping sessions and offers a concierge service at no extra charge. Shoppers can call the boutique