How a Local Footwear Retailer in Stratford Saw Success with eBay and Ecommerce During the Pandemic: Interview

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Like thousands of retailers across the country, White-Balmer Shoes has faced a tough challenge over the past two years to deal with the lockdowns and public health restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But entrepreneur Karina Bogle, owner of the Stratford, Ontario business, turned to ecommerce and the eBay platform to keep the store alive and thriving during the difficult time.

Bogle took over White-Balmer, which has been in business for 41 years, just before the pandemic began in March 2020. The store is located on the main street in the heart of Stratford.

“The first wave of the pandemic hit about seven months after I owned the store. I was just learning still how effectively to run a shoe store when I was forced to temporarily close. So I really had to pivot quickly and find new ways to generate sales and move inventory. Like most retailers I started offering curbside pickup and doing local home deliveries but I also knew at the start of the pandemic that was the time I needed to expedite my ecommerce plans,” she said.

Image: White-Balmer Shoes
Image: White-Balmer Shoes

“The pandemic really created the opportunity for me to build and launch and after that was up and running I linked that inventory to eBay’s global marketplace which has been really successful and now I can embrace both instore and online shopping which allows me to reach many more new customers and even the website for local business it’s been really great because customers are able to pre-shop and see what we have instore and if we stock in what they’re after so that they can come in and zero in on what they’re after and work with our knowledgeable staff.”

The website was launched in April 2020 and she started using eBay in December 2020.

Bogle was named eBay’s Emerging Ecommerce Entrepreneur of the Year in 2021.

“I had experience selling personal items on eBay. So I was already familiar with the platform. I was just trying to find new ways to reach more people and it turned out to be a really great way to extend my audience and reach people globally,” said Bogle.

“Through my website it’s just North America but on eBay I’ve been selling to people in Australia and all over the world which has been exciting.”

Image: Karina Bogle
Image: White-Balmer Shoes

The retailer sells footwear for men, women and children, handbags and accessories, gloves, scarfs, hats, umbrellas, socks and shoe care products.

“I’m planning to increase my sales team and introduce new products, expand further on to the existing products. Definitely continue to grow ecommerce, find ways to make my website stronger, and actually get to work with some eBay experts who are going to work with me and advise how to best grow sales and be more visible to their audience. So I definitely plan to continue on with that,” said Bogle.

In Ontario currently, retailers are allowed 50 per cent capacity in their stores due to the latest COVID lockdown restrictions.

“I don’t think that has been what’s caused such negative impact on retail stores especially in destination shopping areas like what Stratford is. I think the major issue is that the restaurants have to be closed so it’s not as desirable for people to go downtown shopping when there’s nowhere they can go inside to eat and the uncertainty of being able to find a public washroom,” explained Bogle. 

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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