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plaza house furniture showroom

Two Businessmen Move into the Virtual World

Although they have one of the most successful businesses in our area - and their two stores represent one of the best known "brands" here, two brothers have decided to make a move outside their "comfort zone" and open a third store, this time in a Virtual Mall.
Having read an article in one of the local papers, Eric Hoot, the proprietor of one of their stores in Selinsgrove PA, sought information about the S*U*N* Virtual Mall, which is scheduled to open in April of this year. They were unfamiliar with virtual businesses and needed to be educated about how they could be made to add customers, and sales, to their well-established enterprise.
That is how Plaza House Furniture became the very first store to commit to be part of what is a revolutionary idea to assist brick and mortar businesses to survive the pandemic and, coincidentally, a ferocious winter season.
The mall, which will cover nearly a dozen counties in the north central section of PA, will assist businesses by creating a venue that appears to be a mall. Outwardly, it appears to be a structure and inwardly, there is a gateway entrance which is a website that welcomes shoppers to the mall and provides an entrance to the Rotunda.
Here, the shopper can register, then be given options to find a store by name, type of business or by town, which is closest to their residence, so they can actually shop locally and SMALL. If the shopper is looking for Plaza House Furniture, they will locate it by looking up "P" for Plaza – or by locating Plaza under "Furniture" stores or finally by locating Plaza House Furniture as having stores in both Selinsgrove and Bloomsburg.
By clicking on Plaza's name, they will be "transported" to the actual store front, which resembles Plaza House's real frontage, and then click on the store front, they will be inside the store.
That store is actually the website of Plaza House Furniture. Although it is extensive, showing pictures of an enormous amount of their inventory, never-the-less it is almost not possible to purchase an item from that website. There are no prices and no "shopping cart' as there might be on a so-called "e-Commerce" site. Want to buy that item in real life? Call the store and ask a salesman how much that item is and buy it by giving them your credit card number – or better yet – visit either of the stores at 1060 North Susquehanna Trail in Selinsgrove or 3071 Columbia Boulevard in Bloomsburg.
But in the virtual mall, the problem is solved immediately. The shopper can click on a Video chat TAB and have live video chat with a salesperson. Tell them the item number and description, get the price, and pay by doing a credit or debit card transaction immediately. Find out about tax, delivery costs and, because of the pandemic, WHEN to expect the item. It's just like visiting the enormous facilities of Plaza House Furniture.
So, what was the factor that convinced the owners of Plaza House to sign up although they hadn't experienced virtual marketing? Perhaps it was the low cost of renting that store. A mere $400 a Month - $100 a week. Perhaps it was that no inventory was needed, no carpeting or shelving – just adapting their selling method to virtual reality. Their store looks small in the mall, but you don't need tens of thousands of square feet to sell their quality furniture.
You can follow the progress of SUN Virtual Mall on their website www.sunvirtualmall.net, or make inquiries by calling 570-308-7700 and you can talk to Art Lieberman at Ext 210. You also can e-mail them at sunvirtualmall@yahoo.com
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Using the Virtual World to Save Central PA Businesses

There is a plan afoot to utilize the latest technology to make it possible for existing brick and mortar businesses to survive the pandemic. Led by a local businessman, together with several other establishments that specialize in various relevant industries, the group plans to open a VIRTUAL MALL in early Spring of 2021.
Statistically, many shops in local towns were already having problems competing with stores that utilized the Internet to sell goods and services. The larger chain stores have what is called "e-Commerce" sites where everything they sell is shown on their websites, complete with photos, descriptions and pricing of each item, and where a click of the mouse button will place the item in a "shopping cart" and purchased by credit or debit card. No muss, no fuss. The creation and maintenance of these e-Commerce sites are extremely costly, but in the long run there is huge personnel costs that are saved. More than 65% of all sales from stores such as Walmart, Lowes, or Target rely on these Internet sales. Then, of course there are the computer only businesses such as Amazon, eBay or Espy which also compete with smaller mom and pop stores.
Over the past few years, statistics prove the shops on Main Street and Market Street have been increasingly losing business to the Internet-driven businesses.
Then came the Pandemic.
This has proved to be a nearly fatal blow to local businesses. Since March of 2020, one out of every three businesses have either closed for the foreseeable future or permanently. Restrictions placed on people, particularly shopping or eating in restaurants has left few options for shop owners to survive – And predictions for normality have dates that seem to increase every month.
Strangely there is a businessman who saw the advantages of Internet shopping nearly 11 years ago. Art Lieberman had moved to central PA from Brooklyn, NY in 2000 and began a credit card processing business. He had been a piano entertainer for over 40 years and dabbled in half a dozen businesses on the side, most of which were financially successful. By 2010, his credit card business now solicited RV campgrounds throughout the US and was growing quickly. There is and was an Association for the industry that ran a yearly trade show nationally, that drew in 300-400 campground owners from across the US. Lieberman knew, however, that there were more than 11,000 campgrounds in the US. There was something new called "Virtual Reality" where people could stay by their computers yet join a trade show on the Internet. No travel, hotel, shipping of goods, outside meals or even time away from their own businesses.
So in 2010, and again in 2011, Lieberman and his Vice President Deanne Bower produced the Virtual Hospitality Expo. In 2011, 3, 374 people attended. Although Exhibitors purchased booths, attendance to the event was free.
But the software in those years wasn't totally up to the task. There were flaws in the program. They decided to discontinue the event.
In 2020, however, when Covid19 occurred, several State campground associations asked if they couldn't produce the event again so this past year, they revived the event, this time, however, there was tons of competition.
Now, under the influence of the Pandemic, but having the OUTDOOR campgrounds still doing well, Lieberman turned to what was happening in his own community: North Central Pennsylvania. He also saw, to his dismay what was happening to his local businesses in towns like Lewisburg, Selinsgrove, Milton, Danville, Bloomsburg, Williamsport, Mifflinburg, Middleburg, and dozens of others, where local stores were shutting their doors.
If he could only bring the virtual world into this environment. It was then he thought of a MALL. A shopping Center. The key would be to enable stores with websites that emulated e-Commerce sites without the costs of actually creating and maintaining the site. Also, producing enough revenue to allow failing stores or even start-ups to be able pay a reasonable fee to participate. Most importantly, he would need a team, starting with the company that would actually create the event virtually so that, instead of looking and acting like a convention or trade show, it would appear like a mall with store fronts, and interior shops and an exterior and interior design of a mall.
He would need a designer, a media company, the aforementioned virtual producer and, of course a sales and marketing team. But first he would need a NAME.
Lieberman chose S*U*N* VIRTUAL MALL, the letters SUN, referring to the middle counties in north central PA – Snyder, Union, and Northumberland.
Then, through research and because of some previous affiliations Lieberman began to assemble a team of "partners who could bring about the physical mall. First, obviously, he needed a company that could create a virtual mall. Although there were dozens of companies now working in virtual reality (primarily creating trade shows and conferences), Lieberman found one that was anxious to take on the challenge of a Mall. Based in Lakewood, CO. Exhibitor Connect quicky made a proposal out lining the details of how the mall would look,
Knowing that design of the stores would be important to the businesses, Lieberman contacted long-time friend and associate Heidi Criswell, owner of Heritage Printers in Mifflinburg PA, to be Art Director of the project. Heidi quickly created a logo for the Mall and began to work on the individual stores to be offered.
Next, a website welcome gateway had to be created and, once again. Lieberman resorted to a company he currently works with; ResNexus, which designs websites and also well known for their reservation programs for hospitality businesses such as RV Campgrounds and hotels.
Finally, Lieberman spoke to a local media company to promote the entire project and chose 7 Mountains with several offices across America, but with one awfully close in Selinsgrove, PA.
The initial logistics were worked out in only a month. The cost of a store, only $400 a month with a 4-month commitment. The key to make a website act like an e-Commerce site? – Live VIDEO Chat, allowing the store owner to actually talk to the shopper and even show goods that the store sells and to explain all of the elements necessary to the sale. Although the store hours would be totally up to individual owners, the Internet store would be open 24/7/365 and available from anywhere in the world.
Advantages to store owners? No store fixtures, electric bills, decor costs, even personnel unless they want it – and – in many cases NO INVENTORY either.
Advantages to shoppers? No driving or parking or walking problem, many of their local businesses easily available from the same site and, of course, no chance of catching the virus.
Lieberman also began to wonder if several of the chain stores that inhabit real malls wouldn't also care to have a virtual store in the area intended to be covered by SUN Mall. Would a Macy's, for instance, risk $400 a month to have a presence in an area where they have none right now, except of course their own website?
Finally, what if the pandemic is gone in a year? What if the new normal looks more and more like the old normal and Main and Market Streets return?
"Terrific" says Lieberman, "If that happens, I can tear down the mall without even a construction crew."
You can follow the progress of SUN Virtual Mall on their website www.sunvirtaulmall.net, or make inquiries by calling 570-308-7700 and you can talk to Art Lieberman at Ext 210. You also can e-mail them at sunvirtualmall@yahoo.com