Authentique Moves Online to Continue Offering that Perfect Gift

Story by Nancy Saunders

Authentique is a souvenir and gift shop located in the heart of Thunder Bay’s Bay and Algoma neighbourhood. The store opened in 1988 and after working there for 13 years, Danielle Roy and her husband Joey purchased it in 2018 when the original owners retired.

Roy describes Authentique as a unique store that offers something for everyone. “We sell ladies clothing, really unique pieces, jewelry. A big part of the store is Thunder Bay—especially when we had tourists. We carry a lot of locally made products, local amethyst, souvenir clothing; really as much as we can to promote Thunder Bay.” Roy says a lot of their customers are looking for a gift to send to someone, either a Thunder Bay souvenir, a baby gift, or simply something a little different. Authentique carries both upscale, higher-end items, while ensuring there is something for everyone and at every price point. As Roy points out, there aren’t a lot of gift stores in Thunder Bay anymore. “Our aim is to be the destination shop.”

When the Roys purchased the store, Authentique did not have a website, and moving online was not something they planned to do anytime soon: “To be honest, it wasn’t a priority for us. We had no plan whatsoever to go online. When the lockdown happened, we realized we were going to have to do something. It’s probably something we would have done ten years from now, or thought of doing, but this gave us a kick to get it together. It’s a big learning curve.”

The Roys chose Shopify to create their website because it was reasonably priced and user friendly. “We put as much as we could on there. By the beginning of May, we had enough to put it up. It’s been a slow build but we are getting traction on it. We knew the website needed fine-tuning but we didn’t know how to go about it. When I saw the (Digital Main Street) grant, applied for it and we got it, we went to Nalu Web Design and Development in the Bay and Algoma area.” A big change included organizing items into categories that include For Her, For Him, For the Home, Souvenirs and Baby/Kids. This makes it easier for customers to navigate through product listings and find items that fit their interests.

Roy has brought in some new products as a response to COVID-19, including masks for adults and children, and a hand sanitizer made by Naked Bee, a line of all-natural products that Authentique carries. Roy notes that clothing sales are down, and that they are looking for a nice loungewear line to carry that fits with the store’s aesthetic and provides options for people wanting comfortable and stylish clothing to wear around the house.

Authentique also added a mailing list and newsletter feature to their website. “One of the DMS training videos shared that it’s an easy way to get more people involved: to send out a newsletter if we have a sale or if there’s a new item to tell people out. We’re going to be developing that,” says Roy.

The Roys look forward to developing their social media strategies to make their content and posts more impactful. Roy says that it has been a big way to get the store’s message out during lockdowns. “I would post things about what we have on sale. Hair wraps were a huge thing—I posted about them, and it blew up! It was the first post during the lockdown last spring, and it made me realize I have to do that more. Getting the engagement, showing people that we are still here,” Roy explains.