Cyber Monday No Big Deal at Mast General Store

Article Published: Nov. 23, 2011 | Modified: Nov. 30, 2011
Cyber Monday No Big Deal at Mast General Store

Jae Ireland and daughter Amalia, 5, consider a pink stick pony in the Mast General Store’s downtown Boone Store. The Ireland family traveled from upstate New York to spend Thanksgiving with family in Boone.

Photo by Jerry Sena

With more than a billion dollars in sales in a single day last year, Cyber Monday may represent the nation’s biggest online sales rush of the year, but here in the High Country, the folks at Mast General Store are serving up the holidays the way they always have: slow and easy.

Their state-of-the-art web site notwithstanding, Mast General doesn’t use its Internet site to hard-sell products – not even on Cyber Monday – said Sheri Moretz, community relations manager for the 130-year-old Valle Crucis–based general store.

“Cyber Monday doesn’t affect us much,” she said. “We don’t do a lot with any particular specials or promotions – nothing exclusively for Cyber Monday.”

If most e-commerce sites target this first Monday after Black Friday – Nov. 28 this year, and first dubbed Cyber Monday by an Internet marketing company back in 2005 – as potentially their biggest day of the year for pushing products, Moretz described Mast General’s website as more community service than sales generator.

While the site is easily browsed and offers a wide range of products, online sales make up a small portion of the store’s total sales, Moretz said. And most visitors to their site have already visited one of their eight brick-and-mortar stores in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“What drives people to our website most often is the person who visits the store, then gets home and says to themselves they wish they’d bought that sweater from us,” Moretz said. “So, they’ll go to the website – and if they don’t find it there they’ll give us a call – and one of our people will go and hunt it down for them. It’s a customer service kind of thing.”

It’s that “kind of thing” that keeps their business growing, Moretz said. The Internet, meanwhile, serves a different purpose for the store, more as an old-fashioned community meeting place and bulletin board than a high-tech sales tool.

Moretz explained that, although Mast General’s heart and soul may rest in its brick-and-mortar stores, the customer community it’s worked so diligently to foster over the decades has extended to include online gathering places. Facebook and Twitter have become valuable tools for bringing Mast General and its customers together.

“We try to create a conversation,” Moretz said of the store’s approach to social media, which have garnered the company more than 1,100 “likes” on Facebook and a similar number of followers on Twitter. “Once or twice a day, we’ll have gift ideas, that sort of thing. Last week was stocking stuffers and the last few weeks (before Christmas) we’ll offer gift ideas.”

The store also distributes an “almost monthly” newsletter to its e-mailing list. The newsletter and social media, Moretz said, all help keep customers up on in-store events, as well as many worthy causes in local communities. “We try to be good ambassadors to the community,” she said.

So, in this age of mass consumption at the speed of light, what will be the hottest sellers at the Mast General Stores this Christmas season? The latest smart phone, perhaps? Moretz said the smart money is on red union suits – bright red one-piece long johns with a flap in the seat – and rag wool socks.

The long johns have become a popular gag gift, Moretz said. “Those things – every year they sell out!”

Rag wool socks, with their red and green holiday motif, are quickly becoming a tradition with many of Mast General’s customers. “They’re nice and thick and warm,” Moretz said. “So everyone gets up on Christmas morning and pads around in their Christmas socks. It’s a lot of fun.”

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