Continuing with our series on businesses in Majorca, I spoke to Meg from Stick No Bills.
How was the retail aspect of your poster art and poster design business before the COVID-19 Crisis?
Growing from strength-to-strength on the ground in both Asia and Europe. Thankfully our bricks and mortar trade has, since 2012, been overarched by e-commerce enabling fellow Majorca and Ceylon lovers all over the world (Brits, Germans, Americans, Scandinavians and Australians first amongst them) to order online when they cannot get to one of our flagship galleries or 42 authorized resellers’ points of sale (such as Barefoot Ceylon in Sri Lanka, Rialto Living in Palma and Lluna52 in Soller).
We are a boutique business positioned where the art and travel industries intersect; a British-owned, Sri Lanka-born, Palma-headquartered enterprise already hardened pre-Covid19 by the challenges that came with managing a decade of the rapid growth of a brand that originated in a volatile frontier market. So, in 2019, concurrent with our third and best summer season here in Majorca our Colombo and Galle based business partners had just bounced back better than ever in Sri Lanka post the 2019 terrorist attacks there, recording the highest ever sales across 21 outlets island-wide in the December - February 2020 peak season. Like so many of your readers, here in Majorca we were just gearing up for an excellent spring summer season here when the pandemic struck.
How have you been doing during the lockdown?
Ok! Grateful to be in good health, enjoying this especially beautiful spring/summer on the island and to be spending more time with our daughters. With cash-flow jeopardized and some of our key luxury retail and hotelier clients unable to settle their bills, we are also exceedingly grateful to those amongst our trusted, long term suppliers and partners in both Sri Lanka and Majorca, who have graciously taken the long view by accepting limited editions instead of monthly bill payments, thereby helping ensure we don’t get pulled under.
There are so many knock-on effects, it’s imperative that slack is cut and patience is shown across the board, wherever possible, to help the SME community stay afloat. Like Phoenix rising from the ashes we have also been humbled and inspired to observe our online sales undergoing meteoric growth, despite or possibly even because of the crisis. It would seem that a growing percentage of our clients that hitherto would want to hold off on making a purchase until they have seen our framed and unframed prints in real-life, now have enough confidence in our obsession with high quality and in our fulfillment capability to order online. We may not be offering an essential service, but what we do offer is to bring the luxury, the exhilaration and the freedom of travel home. I guess the surge in sales of our travel posters celebrating the beauty of Majorca, Ibiza and Ceylon reflects how many thousands of people there are on the planet are yearning to return to these paradise islands.
What about going forward?
Philip (my husband and the creative director of Stick No Bills) is medically at more risk if he catches the virus so we have been very careful about self-isolating. There is impatience in the community for everything to return to normal and I am concerned that people will become slap-dash about taking precautions. So we are going to watch how things go in this Phase One of the de-escalation very closely before we change the status of our gallery on Costa D’en Brossa from ‘By Special Appointment’ to regular Monday – Saturday hours.
In March we launched a fundraising campaign for the Red Cross concurrent with the fundraising we already do with proceeds on all sales for other vital humanitarian and conservation organisations on both continents. Until midnight on Thursday July 23, we are using our most prized framed assets in both the Balearics and Sri Lanka to raise funds to help the Red Cross fulfil their global mission to ensure the most vulnerable in our communities survive the pandemic without some of the many disenfranchised amongst them being forced to resort to crime. Clients investing in any of our framed limited editions before July 24 will receive a receipt from the Red Cross in a location of their choice for 30% of our net income from their purchase. This initiative has deepened our engagement with the resident community of almost one million people here on Majorca and we have been glad to donate locally to the Red Cross in Palma as well as in Madrid.
What can retail businesses do to help themselves?
Get online. Fast.
This is a sink or swim situation. If you are already selling online but only on your own website consider replicating your sales proposition on major, trusted e-commerce platforms such as Etsy, Amazon or, at the higher end, Maison & Objet or Saatchi Art. Offer free shipping (factor shipping into your price points) and consider frontloading stock to third party fulfillment partners in your core market countries so that you can courier faster to your key customers’ doors.
Look at your supply chains and simplify them. Resilience, resilience, resilience. Home brew with locally sourced, sustainably-sourced supplies wherever you can. Choose suppliers that are ethical, eco-conscious and demonstrate genuine Corporate Social Responsibility wherever practicable. We are so relieved to have established excellent relations with truly first-class local printing and framing partners here on the island so that we do not have to ship in stock that we sell locally nor rely on products coming in from overseas to innovate. This has reduced our carbon footprint no end and it feels great.
Keep promoting Majorca, Majorca, Majorca!
Keep talking to all of your far-flung friends who love this island so that the right kind of appreciative and respectful visitors do return here when it is safe to do so. Majorca practically invented hedonistic travel. There really is no compact, year-round destination better for vacations orientated around Wellness, Cycling, Tennis, Yoga, Surfing, Horse-riding, Canyoning, Rock Climbing, Trekking, Cliff Jumping, Cultural/Historical tours, Gourmet Food, Wine, Shopping …. Majorca is also home to a stable, fascinatingly hybrid and accommodating society that enjoys one of the world’s very best health services.
So this island stands to do well and be first in line as a preferred ‘sure-bet’ destination when the travel industry rebounds. And rebound it will. However, I expect the majority of the first returnees will be members of the higher-end 5 star market.
So …. Raise your game. Go Luxury.
Get your message out there amongst the ABC1 City Break and / or wedding / cycling / art buying / honeymooning boutique hotel-loving Jet Set. They will be the first to come back and the most likely to have purchasing power. Consider advertising and presenting your website and signage in German, Swedish, French and Italian as well as Castellano, Majorcan and English.
Target the resident market.
There is an existing market of highly affluent and discerning locals and internationals who are all fortunate enough to be among Majorca’s 980,000 year-round residents. Locked down they may be but life does go on and this market is exceptionally sympathetic. So engage with them in every way you can.
In the aftermath of the Tsunami in Asia I saw some strong independent grassroots brands and service providers come under one roof for the better of all parties concerned. Rents, storage and staffing costs were shared and the products became more accessible at a better price for the customers, often, in the case of retail and art, within larger venues that had more wow factor. I think we shall see the same positive merger activity happen in Majorca over the coming months.
Don’t wait to reopen your physical point of sale.
Tell senior citizen clients less inclined to buy online that you can come to their door, taking all requisite medical precautions. You would be surprised how many of us local business owners have adapted by providing services and products on wheels or via video call. We have many visits scheduled now the movement restrictions have been lifted where, taking all necessary mask and glove precautions we shall go to clients’ houses with framed or unframed prints and a credit card machine in hand. In partnership with our amazing framer we also provide hanging services for clients who want a truly turnkey interior design solution. I am confident we can, with positive thought and determination, all come through this pandemic stronger, more efficient and with more resilient and sustainable modus operandi than when we went into it.
Meg Gage Williams and Philip James Baber