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Like most independent shoe retailers, Van's Fine Men's Shoe Shop caters mainly to a local market. So how does the store sell to customers in Japan and Saudi Arabia?
The Internet. Last fall, Van's launched an e-commerce Web site, allowing it to sell its shoes nationwide and even internationally.
"That's found money," says Van's owner Larry Reese. "These sales that are coming in-from all over the country, I would never have had them, nor would those people have ever heard about me in a million years had it not been for the Internet."
The Internet has been viewed as a threat to many small, independent retailers amid the growing presence of large e-commerce sites like Amazon.com and eToys.com. Yet small merchants like Reese see the Internet as a way to blast through …