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Online move gives accessories enterprise a boost

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Online move: Mary Ann Wales with some of the items on sale at Wales Accessories (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Mary Ann Wales, left, and mother Genevieve Wales with some of their jewellery, which is popular with visitors (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

For years, Wales Accessories was a hotspot for Bermuda’s visitors during the high season.

Tourists loved the popup stand’s tropical jewellery, Bermuda magnets and waterproof mobile phone cases.

“They would be amazed when we strung necklaces for them, right there at the stall,” said Mary Ann Wales, daughter of business founder Arthur Wales Sr.

But business was rudely interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic this year.

“We were in Florida,” Ms Wales said. “We had been there since November and were scheduled to come back to Bermuda on March 20.”

It was months before Ms Wales and her mother, Genevieve, could return to Bermuda.

And then they found that the tourism season was virtually cancelled. There were not enough tourists on the island to make setting up the popup stall profitable.

“It was hard when the pandemic hit,” Ms Wales said. “We had bought a lot of extra accessories to sell this season.”

So they took up friends’ suggestions and put their business online. Ms Wales had to put into use marketing and economics courses she took in high school.

“We had to think of a way to show our products online to people,” Ms Wales said. “We started building a Facebook page.

“It was easy making it. The challenging part was thinking of catchy tag lines to catch people’s attention. Some people online have the attention span of a five-year-old.

“When they see your stuff it has to grab their attention right away. Instead of saying we have genuine leather handbags, you have to say we have the perfect thing to carry your essentials, genuine leather handbags. You have to choose the perfect photos to showcase your products.

“You have to show that the item is perfect for them. That is the challenging part of having your stock online.”

Their online customers are not so much visitors, but friends in the Bermuda and Filipino community.

Ms Wales, her mother, Genevieve, and older sister Angelica, are originally from the Philippines.

“Our dad (Arthur Wales) met our mother, and they got married eight years ago,” Ms Wales said. “He adopted my sister and I, and we have Bermuda status.”

And so far, sales are going well, but the hot ticket items are not so much magnets with lighthouses on them.

Their leather hand bags and winter workout attire are now their bestselling items.

“We hadn’t even put the workout clothes online yet and people were messaging us,” Ms Wales said. “It got sold out before we even posted it. We had limited stock with huge demand. We took pre-orders. We have had people tell us they have looked in town for workout clothes and couldn’t find what they wanted.”

Their jewellery has also been doing well with people looking for inexpensive Christmas presents.

“Our jewellery goes from $8 to $30,” she said.

In more typical times, visitors enjoyed watching them string the jewellery in front of them.

“Sometimes they would ask for a different size chain or different things on it,” Ms Wales said. “They would often take a walk around St George’s while we did that for them.”

Mr Wales started Wales Accessories in a physical store in St George’s 16 years ago, but later turned it into a popup stand. During the summer they spend one day a week at Grotto Bay Hotel, one day a week in Dockyard, and the rest of the time in the town square in St George’s.

Ms Wales and her sister started helping six years ago.

“At first I was just a cashier because I was afraid to interact with people,” she said. “My sister Angelica did all the customer service work. Angelica is 21. I was a bit shy at first. I have evolved through the six years of being in the business.”

In January, Ms Wales plans to begin studies in actuarial science at the Bermuda College.

“I took a gap year for two years because I helped my parents with the business,” Ms Wales said.

She found that while she enjoys the challenge, she really does not want to go into retail as a career.

“I want to be a business analyst in an insurance company,” she said.

For more information see Wales Accessories on Facebook, call 518-8724 or e-mail walesaccessories@yahoo.com

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Published November 09, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 08, 2020 at 2:41 pm)

Online move gives accessories enterprise a boost

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