Who could have predicted at this time last year what was to follow! For everyone across the world it has been a year we would rather forget but one that we never will.
I saw something on social media the other day saying "2020 - so bad they named it twice!" which I thought was quite apt.
As a small independent family owned British business, 2020 has certainly been a rollercoaster of a ride for us. Being an online retailer, you may think we would have no need to worry, after-all shops shut in the first lockdown countrywide, so surely that meant sales would increase for us? Sadly not, if you aren't allowed to go out then who needs a new handbag? Not just that but travel all but died and of course our travel bags are our biggest seller!
We entered lockdown at the end of March and for the whole country it was a frightening time when none of us knew what to expect or how it would affect our lives. We all had friends and family who were struggling, furlough was tough and the worry of what was still to come made everyone cautious (rightly so). With this mood of uncertainty came a visible drop in sales for the business. In fact during this quarter we were down a massive 50% from the previous year.
The thing is, it's not just about continuing to need customers to buy in these very strange times, it's also about all the behind the scenes stuff that needs to happen to enable us to get product to the website. Our bags are made in Vietnam at our factory and so we were in the hands of Van and her amazingly dedicated team to continue to produce when they were able to.
Moving from production, we are then reliant on shipping, ports across the world have struggled with the pandemic. British ports are no different and we have had delays in docking and transporting our containers throughout the year. It's certainly been a fly by the seat of our pants kinda year for us!
As Summer turned to Autumn we realised that although during this quarter we were only down 25% instead of the previous 50% things were not going to return to "normal" any time soon. With that in mind, we started looking at the business from an outside perspective. What did we want when shopping online?
We know our customers trust us as a brand, we give exceptional customer service and our products are made to the highest quality and exacting standards that we are very proud of. We decided that being a brand name that gives customers peace of mind leant itself to expanding our product range. Of course, Mia Tui will always be about the bags. But with a trusted name we knew we could offer customers a wider range of items to order from the comfort of home.
No one particularly enjoys going "out out" to the shops any more, so now was the time to look at what we could bring to the website to help with gift shopping for the upcoming Christmas shopping period.
We had many requests over the first few months asking us to make face masks. It wasn't something Charlotte felt would work for us to manufacture but after doing a lot of research, we found a supplier of a range of masks that after trialling we had confidence in. So they were the first step to strengthen the business moving forward.
What started as a test to see if we could indeed sell other products to our customers soon became something we knew worked! We expanded our accessories collections, with more gorgeous jewellery and a range of luxury scarves, gloves and hats. Not just that, we bought Noble Isle on board with their luxury Bath & Body fragrances and then we ventured into stationery and rounded the year off with our very own bespoke collection of Home Fragrance Candles and Reed Diffusers.
To give you a little insight into how bringing these new products on line have helped our October - December quarter was still down on last year 27% but imagine what we would have been looking at if we hadn't thought outside the box and looked at our products!
During 2020, sales of our Travel Bag range which was once our hero collection have been down 60%! That shows exactly how tough this year has been for Mia Tui. Charlotte has climbed what must seem like a multitude of mountains this year. She has led the business through unprecedented times and with foresight has managed to continue to steer Mia Tui through the storm.
So what does this mean for the brand in 2021? Well we don't see things changing overnight and so Charlotte has decided to continue to diversify and bring customers a wider range of top quality products for your home and garden.
Alongside this, we have plans to continue with our Home Fragrance range and develop further fragrances and products in the collection. We will always be predominately "about the bags" but we understand offering you, our wonderful customers a larger range means you can shop with confidence from the safety and comfort of home.
So let's look forward to 2021, Mia Tui will continue to be THE best independent brand there is and have THE best customers a business could ask for.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all for your continued support not just with the orders you place but with the emails, messages and comments on our social media platforms.
* On a positive note - Charlotte managed to build her new house in lockdown (in which she discovered new skills in navigating Wicks website and getting daily collection slots! After her house sale falling through weeks before completion she actually managed to sell and complete in November with the help of www.homesonweb.co.uk who managed to keep her calm (no mean feat!)