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[excerpt from the Honolulu Advertiser, Wednesday March 9, 2005]



Web sites key tool for businesses

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Patrick Ching knew Waimanalo wasn't the busiest retail or tourist spot on O'ahu.

Patrick Ching, owner of Naturally Hawaiian Gallery & Gifts in Waimanalo, says his Web site has "become a significant part of my business."

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

But he loved the country feel to the sleepy town and decided to open his gallery there.

Nine years later, Naturally Hawaiian Gallery & Gifts, which sits on the site of a former gas station, has lured a steady flow of loyal customers, even the wayward tourist, searching for unique, locally made gifts and Ching's artwork.

But it wasn't until he launched his Web site six years ago — then updated it a few months ago — that his customer base began to grow. Exponentially.

"I didn't do it primarily to see how much money I could make from it," said Ching, 42, who also moonlights as a rodeo clown. "But it's become a significant part of my business."

He has received orders for his artwork and books from all around the world. Recently, he sold a large painting of a horse for $1,200 to a man in Texas who wanted to build his house around it.

"That was a good sale," Ching said with a smile.

Businesses, no matter how small, can benefit from having some sort of Web presence, experts say. Not only is it a way for companies to advertise their products and services, it's also become an expectation of consumers who often turn to the Internet to research their options.

"In today's competitive marketplace, it's a way of communicating to customers that can't be ignored," said Dana Alden, a marketing professor at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa. "Just about every business should have a Web presence, for no other reason but to provide information to the person looking online and let them know they're there. It's become an expectation. People are actually surprised when they don't find a Web site."

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