Neil A. Carousso produces and co-hosts WCBS Newsradio 880’s Small Business Spotlight series with Joe Connolly. Click here to watch the weekly video segments featuring advice for business owners on survival, recovery and growth opportunities.
  • Small Business Spotlight: Cindi Bigelow Shares Tips for Surging Online Sales as Retail Remains Sluggish

    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It’s no surprise online sales have surpassed retail sales given pandemic restrictions, but Bigelow Tea’s third-generation president and CEO Cindi Bigelow understands exactly how to grow her fan base.

    “It’s very important that you build out each page for each product with as much as you can both from a visual perspective and a verbal perspective so that you have to make that product come alive,” said Bigelow on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    She calls this the “digital shelf,” likening it to a store shelf that should capture shoppers’ attention ideally at eye level.

    “We have a team of individuals that literally work on the different places that we are on the web to examine every single page to make sure that page is maximized,” Bigelow said.

    She told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso her world famous Bigelow Tea is very much in demand with online sales of some teas surging beyond 100 percent. But, the overall business is only up 6 percent while retail, restaurants, offices and universities are closed or limited 11 months after COVID-19 shut down large swaths of the U.S. economy.

    “That’s a high hurdle to get over,” she said.

    Bigelow’s manufacturing plant based in Fairfield, CT. She employs 400 workers at her family business with 300 employees in manufacturing who are required to be on-site with safety precautions in place. She expressed concern on WCBS 880 about small businesses that do not have the resources to invest in digital infrastructure.

    “What about Main Street?” Bigelow asked with excitement, continuing, “Don’t you want your child to be able to work at the pizza shop down the street during their summers and being able to work at a shoe store?”

    She explained she is sensitive to how local businesses have been stifled by the deadly virus and the lack of government relief, noting it could impact generations to come.

    Those that are in operation, Bigelow said, need to pay close attention to consumer behavior and changing trends.

    “We will listen to absolutely everybody,” she said, using a customer complaint about the lack of “peachiness” in one of her teas as an example. She noted that’s how they “identify what to do better.”

    Bigelow’s motto is “the meanest taste bud wins,” meaning she will listen closely to those who offer criticisms to improve her products, which have been on store shelves for 75 years.

    That’s one way she limits the echo chamber of “yes men” around her and a way to anticipate changing consumer preferences she applies to tea, but can apply to any industry.

    See Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso’s conversation with Cindi Bigelow of Bigelow Tea on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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