Makin’ Waves’ Christmas at Cup Match
Retailers threatened by the rise of e-commerce need the Christmas holiday shopping season more and more to rescue their financial year.
Increasingly, they have welcomed the added feature of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday boost.
But not Makin’ Waves on Church Street.
They need strong sales in the summertime to guarantee their good year.
Christmas? Bah Humbug! End-of-year business is just gravy to them. Just kidding.
Their Black Friday sales, in-store and online, were just chugging along after the nearly 35-year-old company had already had a good year.
Of course, retailers are comparing 2022 with 2019, the pre-Covid year Bermuda began digging itself out of the tourism-challenged mess that had been closing Bermuda retail for years.
But tourism woes are here to stay for years ahead, at least until we can find the beds to accommodate them.
And for retail, less tourism spending, traditional Bermudian overseas shopping trips and the booming trend in online overseas shopping combine for a gloomy outlook.
But in a challenged economy, Makin’ Waves does not depend on tourism to make its bones – at least not in the company’s flagship store in Hamilton.
It is geared to local customers, including Evernell Davis, who was there when The Royal Gazette visited to check on Black Friday sales.
Ms Davis told us with a satisfied smile: “I’m happy with my purchase.”
It is not just a surf shop, with diverse outdoors merchandise including seasonal fashions. The operators have been grateful for their local clientele loyalty.
Co-owner Douglas Patterson said Black Friday worked out quite well, the same as last year.
And any talk of lean times raises the ghosts of the challenges they faced shortly after the company began in 1988.
“The leanest years were in the Nineties,” he recalled. “The early Nineties. And then in 2009, after we had the exodus of what, 10 per cent of our population, after the 2008 market crash. That was when you had to build back up.”
The pandemic was the latest challenge, but he feels that, and the ensuing supply issues, are mostly behind Bermuda retail.
“I hear stories of others who still have difficulties in getting certain items. We’ve had to source different suppliers, different brands, because some brands let us down. But then, we had to move on.”
Mr Patterson is happy for the Black Friday business and the company will make every effort to maximise the holiday shopping seasons right through into the new year.
But he said: “Any period is important, but we are a summer store. So for us, ‘Christmas’ is over. Cup Match is our ‘Christmas’. That’s when we target. We don’t target Christmas as our biggest time of year, because it is not. The summer is. That’s the make-or-break deciding factor for our year.
“This has been a solid year. We have to be thankful that locals continue to support us because we are primarily a local store.
“We don’t get a lot of tourists. And we don’t really cater to them, here. But we do have a store in Dockyard that does cater to the visitor. But that’s a different beast.”
He concedes it is expensive to operate as a Bermuda retailer, with the significant carrying costs for items such as customs duties.
They are paid upfront and you can only recoup that money, together with other costs, if and when, you sell the item. That’s unlike a sales tax which is applied at the time it is collected.
But he said there was more.
“You’re also going to pay a government pension, a private pension, health insurance and the hospital levy and yes, all those carrying costs, too,” he pointed out.
“And then there is this crazy belief that you have to be competitive with Amazon on price. It just doesn’t work.
“There is no way that you will ever compete with Amazon, which doesn’t have any of those upfront costs.
“So, you have to segment yourself as a speciality store, which is what we do. Then you provide good products at good prices.
“I think Bermudians know. They are not expecting it to be the same price. They know what it costs in the US, and have an idea what it should be in Bermuda.”