MANCHESTER — For the second consecutive year, Vermont Country Store has been recognized by Newsweek as the best American Online Shop in the “Universal Provider” category, beating out retail heavyweights like Amazon, Walmart and Target.
Standing up to intense scrutiny and a comprehensive battery of criteria, the Vermont Country Store was considered the top dog in one of 39 online retail categories published in Newsweek’s study. The news is a positive development for the “Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-to-Find,” which announced the layoffs of 32 year-round employees just a couple of weeks ago.
“I just told the team I was very proud,” said Jim Hall, Vermont Country Store CEO. “This is surprising to me. I would have thought we’d be bumped off by now. I was very impressed.”
This isn’t the only honor the establishment, family-owned since 1946, has received for its online experience in recent years. They’ve been a finalist in the Markie Awards, hosted by computer software and digital marketing company Oracle, for several years now, including an award for best integrated mobile experience.
“The Markie Award is like the Oscars for commerce marketing,” Hall said.
While Hall was surprised to take the top spot for the second year in a row, he said Vermont Country Store’s fantastic online experience was no accident.
“I think the key to our success is that we’re authentic,” he said. “If you look at our website, we try hard to deliver a site experience that’s very consistent with what you would experience if you walked into the store.”
Hall said that the photos coming directly from their two brick and mortar locations in Rockingham and Weston are one of the things that sets them apart from competitors.
“When you walk into our stores, you hear the little bell ring, the floors creak, and it always smells like a combination of coffee and chocolate,” he said. “You can’t get that online, but you can get everything else.”
When it comes to going toe-to-toe with national and even global powers in the online retail market, Hall is thrilled with the results.
“When I learned from this, I told the team this is a classic example of David slaying Goliath again. I just think it’s great.”
Newsweek’s study, using Statista’s proprietary research database, narrowed down 9,500 online retailers down to a list of 1,000 to be studied more closely. From there, each business was graded on 51 separate criteria, 41 objective and 10 subjective.
The subjective criteria, using statements such as “the website is very clear and well-structured,” were compiled by gathering surveys from 6,000 American shoppers. Seven aspects of online shopping were weighted according to what was most important to consumers, with trust and security being the most heavily weighted, at 16.1 percent.
“We’re excited to be ranked first in the Universal Service category of Best Online Shops 2023 for the second year in a row, because it shows that we’re consistently focused on the right things – remaining true to our Vermont heritage and doing right by our customers,” said Eliot Orton, Proprietor of The Vermont Country Store.