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Boutique in Gruene embraces Cyber Monday amid tough pandemic economy

This year, BarBelles Boutique is letting customers shop small on Cyber Monday. The idea was another new way the owner is trying to stay in business.

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — This Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest day for online sales in U.S. history. 

Adobe analytics is predicting retailers will pull in $12.7 billion in sales, a 35% jump over last year. 

Big retailers aren't the only businesses hoping to cash in. A boutique owner in Gruene is holding her first Cyber Monday sale.

Holiday shopping in Historic Gruene is full of Hill Country charm. But this year, with a pandemic underway, some shoppers are choosing items online instead of in-store.

“I've never done a Cyber Monday before,” said Sara Howard. “It was completely new.”

She opened BarBelles Boutique on Hunter Road a few months before the pandemic hit. Howard has been using online sales to survive.

“We’re still about 47% down,” said Howard. “[Online sales] kept us afloat.”

Last year, New Braunfels retailers made over $521 million in sales between October and December. 

This year, the industry is hobbling along after taking an economic hit with the start of the pandemic. 

The latest report for New Braunfels is promising, showing an uptick in online sales. 

Local retailers took advantage of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

This year, BarBelles Boutique is letting customers shop small on Cyber Monday, too.

The idea was another unconventional way Howard is trying to stay in business.

“We've been forced to think outside the box when it comes to bringing people our way,” said Howard.

The boutique also hosts goat yoga on the lawn, works with neighboring businesses on promotions and is planning a socially-distanced outdoor market in a few weeks. 

The next Gruene Lokal Marketplatz is planned for December 12th.

“Especially this year, it's crucial that we invest in our economy. When we shop small, we are supporting a family behind the business,” said Howard.

She says there are lots of ways to show that support.

“You don't have to spend a dime to be able to support a small business,” said Howard. “Just by engaging in any of their social media aspects or even leaving a quick google review.”

Howard is a wife, mother and breast cancer survivor. BarBelles Boutique specializes in fitness apparel and athleisure wear. 

The small business features brands that give back, including Free Spirit and Halio. 

The brick-and-mortar store is open Wednesdays through Sundays 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Howard’s daughter, Jesi, runs the Guadalupe vintage & Co. shop next door to BarBelles Boutique. 

The shop was visited last month by artists Lana Del Rey and Nikki Lane.