Relaunched business finds positives in crisis
When Cathy Ferreira Roberts closed her St George store Bermuda Linens and Gifts last August she thought it was the end.
Then a better location opened up further down Water Street and she thought she'd try again with an improved, trendier store.
On March 2, she launched again at 9 Water Street in the old town.
“When the Covid-19 pandemic shut Bermuda down, I felt sick,” Ms Roberts said. “But, I kept my head up and I decided to make use of the shut-in time by hunting and finding more interesting and sensational gifts for my customers and getting ready all of the new goods that arrived in April. I love my business and want it to thrive.”
She reopened, again, on May 4 during phase one after lockdown, doing kerbside pick-up.
“Customers are thrilled,” she said. “I've been online since 2000, so both my online and walk-in customers are relieved I'm back because Bermuda Linens and Gifts has such a unique mix of products; it's like no other gift store in Bermuda.
“I spend hours researching unique gifts that have style, are practical and have their own sense of humour. People love what we sell.”
She is currently selling everything from themed tea towels and linens, to kitchen items, seasonal gifts and decorative ornaments. Gifts are aimed at everyone from parents to teachers to girlfriends and cat lovers.
“One new line, that I am proud to carry, is 4Ocean bracelets,” she said. “Every bracelet purchased funds the removal of one pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines. I've also been sourcing sustainable reusable food packaging and opting for vendors that give back to worthy causes.
“One company gives 5 per cent to save the turtles for every turtle-themed clothing piece or accessory that I buy from them.”
While some local establishments are only now creating a website to generate online sales, Ms Roberts said she had had hers for the past 20 years.
“I now spend my life updating mine to keep it lively, current and exciting,” she said. “I believe that the one good thing that has come out of this pandemic is that it has made people look at online shopping in Bermuda. I have also continued my social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”
She also sends out an e-mail newsletter for those not on social media.
Ms Roberts said her biggest challenge going forward will be the freeze in tourism on the island.
“The tourists have been an essential part of my livelihood,” she said. “Without tourists here, I need to reach them overseas. I don't want to close my doors so, as always, I need locals and tourists.
“When I source my items I am thinking of everyone. All of us in retail must be much more patient and do everything to help our locals learn how to shop online and on the phone.”
She said St George's retailers have been hit hard by the pandemic.
“If Hamilton coughs, St George gets pneumonia,” she said. “But, what's beautiful about St George is that it has an amazing spirit. Many of us are plugging our social media and getting a good response from people who want to support small Bermuda businesses.
“The business Long Story Short, right next to me, is taking items from other St George's shops and adding them to their gift package offerings. How wonderful and community-minded is that?”
She said after the “shelter-in place” period, many people want to get out and take a drive.
“What better place to go to than St George?” she said.
Ms Roberts said if the Government wants to help St George business owners, they need to let them open up again as soon as possible.
“If everyone will listen to the government's safety plan, then we can do it,” she said. “We need to get back to work.”
• For more information see Bermudalinens.com, call 296-0189, or see Bermuda Linens on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter