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  • March 08, 2021
ldquo;Wersquo;re not just competing with the gym down the street. Titans like Peloton and SoulCycle, they are true beneficiaries of this pandemic,rdquo; said Amina Daniels, owner of a cycling and yoga studio.
Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times

E-commerce saved many retail companies over the past year, as online shopping provided a lifeline after stores were shut, city centers went vacant and customers stayed home.

But for small businesses, the benefit was wildly uneven, Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst with eMarketer, tells Amy Haimerl of The New York Times. There were winner sectors, such as grocery, health and fitness, and direct-to-consumer brands, but apparel boutiques and other specialty retailers — especially those without existing e-commerce platforms — struggled.

The experience of Amina Daniels, the owner of Live Cycle Delight fitness studio in Detroit, underscores the logistical challenges small businesses faced building and competing online.

To produce on-demand video classes, she built a mini production studio inside her spin room, investing thousands in microphones, lights and a film crew. Still, it’s hard to go up against Peloton, which has entire teams producing its digital classes.

About 30 customers left Live Cycle Delight for Peloton, Ms. Daniels said, but she found support in other ways. With the movement to support Black-owned businesses, people donated to her, and there was healthy demand for the studio’s branded merchandise, such as Pilates balls, T-shirts and booty bands, the stretchy bands that add resistance to a workout.

Between the products, outdoor classes in the summer and memberships, she has been able to keep the three-year-old business open. The shift to e-commerce hasn’t been perfect, she said, but it’s been worth it. She reminds herself why she started the studio: to make fitness more accessible and inclusive.

“Peloton is just one kind of experience,” she said. “We’re still here providing clients with an option to join us on the quest of better.”

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