With the tourists gone, local stores are reaching new customers by trading online.
In a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, the need for local businesses to start thinking outside the box has become more apparent.
Island Craft is doing exactly that. The company, which has been running since 1943, has put resources to bolster their presence to reach out to visitors who cannot come to the Cook Islands due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Fletcher Melvin, the managing director of Island Craft, says online business is the way to go in situations like this.
“We are losing 180,000 tourists so Cook Islands have to reach out to that amount of tourists online,” he explains.
“Probably for the next six months the social media and websites is where all the businesses will be generated so you need to jump into that flow.
“You don’t have to worry about bricks and mortar stuff anymore, you can have the same structures but I think online is the way to go.”
Melvin, who is also the president of the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce, says putting their energy and resources into e-business will help them retain their staff.
He doesn’t plan to lay off anybody and hopes sales generated from online will keep his workers employed.
“We have only so much work we can do in maintenance and planting stuff, we need to start thinking about doing what we are good at and hopefully this platform will give us an opportunity to continue that.”
The online e-gate system implemented by Island Craft is also open to other businesses whose sales have suffered from this crisis.
Melvin says those who want to promote and sell their products online are free to use their platform.
Island Craft will charge a small fee in exchange for promoting and selling their products.
“We understand many businesses may not be able to afford such service especially in times like this. What we want to do is post other companies there as well so if you for instance have six items that you are doing for the market we will put all those online and create your own page.
“If you have a website but doesn’t have an e-gate facility then we can look at using that website images and products to run through our system. It’s an idea that is win-win. We are making a margin on it but the main thing is they are getting profit.
“They are not giving up their businesses, merely using our platform to highlight their products.”
Melvin says the companies that are interested to join them in this venture will retain their products until it’s sold online.
“They will be getting their money before it leaves. We want to feature their products and we will only get it from them when there is a confirmed sale.”
Website developer Byron Brown says this year’s Valentine’s Day provided a perfect opportunity to test their platform.
“We really promoted and pushed to see how it was performing. It’s got a track record behind it now. We are getting orders from Europe as well as New Zealand and other places.”
Fletcher Melvin says they take local and overseas orders, adding shipment cost is calculated as per the weight of the product.
“Last year we have seen 50 per cent increase in our sales online, so we are getting a lot better at dealing with online orders. We have people who are dedicated just for online sales and promotions.”