Internet sales click for nonprofit

Foundation hopes to venture beyond state's borders

January 02, 2000|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

The Historic Annapolis Foundation's fledgling attempt at electronic commerce has brought the group a small windfall during the holiday season through online orders of books and souvenirs related to the state capital.

The venture signals a promising start in marketing the city's history to all who surf the Internet.

Lynn Manwaring, the foundation's marketing director, said the nonprofit organization's museum store has received about 100 online orders for merchandise since it launched its site, www.hafmuseumstore.com, Dec. 3. All orders, totaling hundreds of dollars, were shipped by Christmas, she said.

The group's online store is part of its push to market the history of Annapolis to a wider audience via the Internet. Manwaring said the foundation is working to put its architectural and historical records online so people across the country can retrieve that information.

"We're hoping to gain more national recognition and to expand our market here in the state of Maryland," Manwaring said. The online store's sales so far are "a wonderful beginning. It's very encouraging."

The foundation opened its museum store at the foot of Main Street four years ago. A year later, the group expanded the store, which brings in about $400,000 annually. Manwaring said venturing online was important to increase the group's revenue.

"What we're trying to do is get more earned income," she said. "When you go for corporate donations, they like to see an ability on the part of the nonprofit to also bring in money. So earned income helps us attract other income."

After nine months of research into the best-selling items at its museum store, the foundation launched its retail Web site last month, featuring nearly 40 items that include $14 sailboat earrings, a $12.50 crab-dip kit and a $700 wooden model of a historic sailboat.

Some items were so popular -- a $21 Maryland crab tile and a $34.95 coffee-table book, "Cruising the Chesapeake," for example -- that the store has temporarily sold out of them.

Manwaring said the group plans to expand items available online and market the Web site outside Maryland. Most of the online store orders were delivered within Maryland, she said.

Anedra Wiseman, spokeswoman for the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau, said she anticipates that the growth of the foundation's online presence will draw more visitors to the state capital.

"It's going to open the public to seeing a lot of their books and merchandise on the history of Annapolis from the distant past to the present," Wiseman said. "That's going to pull people in to seeing how much more there is here historically."

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