Helsinki’s Cityshops network brings small shopkeepers together

With 318 members already, the innovative Cityshops network provides a welcome sales boost for small shops with joint online marketing and other benefits.

Many small shops in Helsinki have seen the number of customers falling in recent years. When Jorma Palkeinen’s sales fell by 90% in the autumn of 2009, he first blamed the weather and the bad weather before realising that people’s consumption patterns have changed. This prompted Palkeinen to established the Cityshops network, which entrepreneurs Can join for a monthly fee of about EUR 25. In return, members can place their products in the network’s joint online store, which will also include a video call feature to all the shops so their owners can provide personal service to their customers even online.

Other membership benefits in the Cityshops’ network include discounts on insurance, the possibility to take out a loan for EUR 5000, as well as visibility in a freely distributed advertising publication and an Internet television channel. So far 318 small shops, where the owners actually work in the shops, have joined the network. Mika Haataja, the owner of the interior design shop S.A.L.I, believes that within one year online sales will contribute about 20% of his turnover. He also thinks that the Cityshops network creates a sense of common purpose among the small entrepreneurs, which is very important for them.

Cityshops is bringing new digital screens to its members’ shop windows in December 2010, with content from the network’s CityTV channel that showcases the shops and their products. Jorma Palkeinen’s idea is to make the displays interactive in the future, so that people can touch the screen and search for information while standing on the street outside a shop. The screen could provide information about product selections and other shops belonging to the network.