Brooklyn app helps small businesses compete with Amazon and helps you find the perfect gift

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BROOKLYN — In the day of Amazon and online shopping, mom-and-pop shops have a tough time competing for customers.  But a new app is helping small boutiques do what they do best right on the phones of their shoppers.

While some think brick-and-mortar stores will go the way of the horse and buggy, one developer is giving retailers the chance to reintroduce themselves to customers through an app with a personal touch.

"What they have is different, what makes them different is the human interaction," said Pierre Giraud.

Giraud is the CEO of the "Hi" app. It allows customers to post a description of the person they're shopping for and a few categories that they're interested in.

"From clothing, to home decor, to baby and gifts, to jewelry, wine and specialty foods, kind of like your neighborhood you know," he said.

From there, local store owners, who pay a small fee to be a part of the app, respond with their suggestions that they have in their stores.

"I like the idea of being online but also being a small business," said Valeen Bhat who owns Private Picassos in Park Slope.  "Because I know I own a business, but as a mom I go to Amazon way to quickly if I'm in a rush to get something and I hate that."


​"It allows our businesses to do what they do well, and that is interact with customers," said Mark Caserta, Executive Director of the 5th Avenue BID.

Giraud has partnered with the 5th Avenue Business Improvement District and has plans to expand to Flatbush, Williamsburg, Chelsea and Paris soon.

Caserta says keeping these boutique shops alive is vital to the neighborhood.

"It's important for people who own their businesses, it's important for the people who live here, it's important for the schools, it's all part of the community."

And let's face it, we've all got that one person on our list, or maybe an entire list of people, who are just so hard to shop for during the holidays.  Well Hi lets local shop owners do the work for you, suggesting the perfect gifts for those hard to please people.

"As a business owner you're reaching people that want to support you, but you're making it easier for them to support you," said Bhat

And helping provide great, unique gifts in the process.

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