BY MAYRA DIRICO
CHAIRPERSON, QUEENS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
In the past decade, the borough of Queens has demonstrated significant growth as New York’s largest borough. Since 2004, private sector employment has increased 18 percent.
On the jobs front, the small business sector has become the largest segment of employers in Queens, and there is no question that the borough’s small business sector is going to continue to grow due to our increasing diversity and immigrant population.
Queens has a larger share of its employment in businesses with less than 20 employees (34.8 percent) than the city as a whole (27.8 percent). Notably, entrepreneurship is increasing in the borough, with 11.8 percent of all new jobs in the last five years added by firms less than one year old.
When it comes to small business, the retail sector is prominent in the Queens economy, currently representing nearly 12 percent of total private employment. Also, Queens has had the largest growth in chain retail stores of all the five boroughs at 5.3 percent growth.
The retail industry has always had its ups and downs, but since the advent of the internet and online-sales, retail stores have been forced to find new ways to remain afloat. At the Queens Chamber, we have heard the woeful tales of our brick-and-mortar shops having to close due to online competition.
This is troublesome across the borough, but especially in the areas such as Corona, Flushing, and Bayside, which are especially high foot-traffic.
We cannot delude ourselves into thinking this competition between small retail and online sales is going to get less fierce, but small businesses can take steps to retain and bolster their clientele. Here are a few simple suggestions:
1. Develop a social media plan and create a social media presence.
2. Give people extra reasons to come to your store rather than shopping online.
3. Send weekly newsletters with specials, related news, featured items new to the store, etc.
4. Create loyalty programs to increase member retention.
5. Demonstrate how an item looks or works using video merchandising.
6. Search online to see what the competition is and make sure you are offering the best deal.
7. Offer free shipping, or at least pay for returns.
Again, we realize the struggle facing our small business Retail owners and want to offer any assistance we can. Please reach out to us and we will be more than happy to help.