COVID-19 Fiji: Hot Glass notes huge impact of pandemic on sale

Some of the glass pieces created at the Hot Glass Fiji studio in Korotogo,, Sigatoka. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

The second wave of this pandemic has hit businesses hard, especially some micro, small and medium enterprises.

Hot Glass Fiji is one such business which has been affected in terms of loss of income and disruptions to operations.

Alex Hill, who is one of the owners of the business, said the loss of Fiji’s tourist visitors had a huge impact on their sales and experiences.

“Whilst we had a thriving local market, tourists and overseas visitors were a major market for us, and as the loss of this sector has had economic impacts throughout Fiji, our local and corporate clients also have less money to spend,” he said.

According to Mr Hill, the second wave has certainly compounded problems because as a result of the necessary restrictions on travel and social contact, not only can they no longer even have local visitors to the gallery or for glassblowing experiences, but they have also had to postpone “Born from Fire”, their main annual exhibition which was scheduled to be held at the Grand Pacific Hotel in mid April.

“All the work had been done and we were all set to go, so we hope to be able to hold it when things improve.”

Before the second wave hit the country, Mr Hill said while they had made changes to the business to adapt to the situation, and were getting by, they still had a huge gap in their income that they needed to fill to get back to where they were pre-pandemic.

“We are still in the process of implementing our adaptation plans and hopefully the changes and pivots we have made will bear fruit at some point in the future, although obviously the timeline remains unclear.”

In terms of assistance for the business, Mr Hill said there had been some great support out there and they had been really helped by access to a soft business loan from the Fiji Development Bank, and by some initiatives funded from overseas.

“An incredibly helpful grant towards our business adaptation plan from Business Link Pacific and financial assistance towards our shipping costs from PTI Australia.

“All this assistance has been invaluable in helping us adapt the business, keep our heads above water and keep employing our staff, albeit on a part time basis, as well as prepare for a bright future!”

Meanwhile in terms of shipping costs, Mr Hill confirmed that while costs had increased, it’s hard to know exactly what impact this was having on their e-commerce and export sales as this was something that Hot Glass Fiji was really focusing on more on now than beforehand.

“However, it’s safe to say that shipping costs from Fiji to many areas are comparatively high, and this is a competitive disadvantage for Fijian exporting as a whole.”

During this time when businesses are shifting more towards the digital platform in terms of marketing and sales, Mr Hill said as part of their pivot to e-Commerce, they had created an online store on their website, to enable both local and overseas buyers to buy their Fijian made hand-blown glass and have it couriered to them.

“A vital part of e-commerce is a payment gateway to be able to offer potential buyers a simple and secure way to be able to pay for their goods. We have one in place now but this was challenging to set up as there is a lack of affordable, reputable payment gateway options available to smaller Fijian businesses and a lack of information about possible options.”

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