Atelerie reopens with a focus
Tomorrow, in the midst of a global recession, Atelerie will reopen its doors with a focus on giving.
The Reid Street store has partnered with Lighthouse Connect and Government’s Mirrors Programme on a plan to donate a computer to all of the island’s public school students.
It seemed an apt project for Atelerie owner Heather Macdonald, who, with her team, created www.atelerietheshop.com during four weeks of the lockdown brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“After the painful struggles of the first quarter of this year we wanted to take the initiative to actively enrich and support Bermuda’s community and future,” she said.
“It is fitting we have partnered with Lighthouse Connect and the Mirrors Programme to aim to provide every student in the Bermuda public school system with a laptop computer.
“The recent experience of transitioning Atelerie from a bricks-and-mortar store to an online store in a matter of a months due to Covid-19 has tested the technical skills of my whole team.
“It is vital for Bermudian students to have access to laptops now, more than ever, in order to be competent in the technical skills that are sure to be required for the workforce of the future.”
Each computer costs $421. Ms Macdonald, who launched Atelerie out of a tiny workspace in Paget in 2008, plans to contribute 10 per cent of all sales from a collaboration with US brand, Mate the Label.
On offer is a Bermuda-inspired “capsule collection of tees and sweatshirts” made sustainably using “non-toxic, natural and certified organic materials”.
One of the designs includes artwork by American Daren Thomas Magee, who believes that “tracing back far enough, we’re all kin”.
The effort was appreciated by the Mirrors Programme.
“This means that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential by having the educational tools necessary for learning,” Iesha Musson said. “We are committed to see that no child is left behind.”
Ms Macdonald added: “We are strongly committed to Bermuda and helping the island to move forward during this difficult and trying time.
“Locals keep our business alive and it is a priority to give back as much as we can, especially in dire times such as these.”
Trying to keep pace with all the “uncertainties” the pandemic has brought has been tough, the entrepreneur added.
Spring clothes arrived just before the world went into lockdown. Like all retailers, Atelerie had to “re-strategise and discount brand new stock” after its doors were forced shut on April 3.
“Unfortunately, local retail was struggling long before Covid-19 and the pandemic has been the catalyst to accelerate any weaknesses in businesses,” Ms Macdonald said. “With so many uncertainties at play, Atelerie’s business model is in a state of fluctuation to adapt and adjust to these fast-evolving circumstances.”
The website www.atelerietheshop.com went live on April 30 after a “steep learning curve”.
“[It] has been key for Atelerie’s survival and I believe it will continue to be,” Ms Macdonald said. “Ci Ci Araujo, Krina Arorash, my mother Charlene Macdonald and I would FaceTime almost every day creating a plan and blueprint for Atelerie’s online presence.
“With no tech education, the four of us were determined to create a site that could match the aesthetic of the store.
“I am incredibly pleased with the outcome so far and excited for the possibilities.”
Having the website allowed the physical store to remain closed even after retailers were given permission to reopen their doors.
“We chose not to open during Phase 2. The shop is 2,400 square feet, with thousands of products. Alongside this, we are now running an e-commerce site with thousands of SKUs. When we renovated in early 2019, our ambition was to create a world-class shopping experience in Bermuda, artfully curated, with ambience and interesting merchandise.
“Bricks and mortar is my first love and we did not want to lose this to Covid-19, nor compromise the experience when we reopened after lockdown.”
In the long term, she believes that the combination of an online presence and a physical store will allow greater flexibility in Atelerie’s operations and give customers more choice.
Both, she feels, are necessary with the many challenges to come. “Many companies have been shut or have very limited staff. Shipping also takes longer as the global workforce is limited because of the pandemic. We have cashflow issues and need to be careful and cautious investing in new inventory or miscellaneous expenses.
“It has been a challenging, overwhelming and, at times, a painful transition for us — heartbreaking realities shared by many local retailers — but there has been a silver lining.
“With the website we learnt what product is important to our customers and we’ve been able to make fast, efficient, key decisions to meet these new needs.”
• Atelerie will open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from noon to 4pm at 9 Reid Street. Private shopping appointments are available via www.atelerietheshop.com
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