status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
Decision-making time is fast approaching… and sadly it is the fate of my little emporium that hangs precariously in the balance.
Since I officially opened in October 2012 I have been cruising along a fun, but terrifying, retail learning curve.
WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT appears to be one of the most frustratingly arbitrary questions the owner of a retail establishment can ask herself – for no matter how varied your stock might be, you are still beset on a daily basis by requests for that very thing you don’t happen to have on your shelves.
Shelves sans the obvious, apparently
TENA Lady, for example. Or special paper with which to line drawers. Posters of Spiderman, or bicycle pumps (apparently some locals have taken the name of the shop a little too literally).
One must of course speculate in order to accumulate, but as I now find myself with a shed full of Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and carnival party accoutrements that did not meet the favour of the local youth (“this is crap, haven’t you got so-and-so instead?” whilst knowing perfectly well that so-and-so will almost certainly be off their wish list by the time I get my hands on it), I have to ask myself; will I ever be certain enough of people’s tastes not to keep throwing money away?
Christmas, although not the disaster I began to fear it might be, was by no means the success it could have been either: December proving to be nail-bitingly quiet until a last-minute rush on the 23rd, saved also by the orders I had coaxed some customers into making from my German toy supplier – the delivery of which screeched in on December 24th by the skin of its teeth and thanks only to the extreme kindness and dedication of a particular DHL driver…
Xmas delights which fell short of delighting
New Year’s Eve was another disappointment: the eagerly ordered sparklers, party poppers, table fountains, jolly hats, confetti guns, squeaky trumpets and colourful paper balls to be shot out of cardboard pipes at unsuspecting bystanders, all being greeted by groans and the endlessly repeated “but haven’t you got any firecrackers?”.
Petardi: those deceptively innocent-looking twists of paper that when thrown at the ground emit an ear-splitting BANG, those little cones that when lit and placed on the ground emit an ear-splitting BANG, those cigarette shaped objects that when lit and thrown at the ground emit an ear-splitting BANG… No colourful lights, no special effects, no exciting whizzes. Just deafening explosions. And having witnessed first hand the terror of pets and elderly ladies alike when confronted with these abominations, I was not about to stock them myself.
Not petardi enough
I had prepared for the first three months of the year being deathly quiet – nobody ever has any money left after the excesses of the festive season and those dank months are certainly not conducive to touristy activities, so I reduced my hours right down, closing after mid-February’s carnival in order to head back to the UK for a month with the Mothership.
Returning just before Easter; perky and ready for the building crescendo to summer.
But at Easter it rained, so nobody came.
And then rained all through April, so ditto.
It went on to rain through most of May as well…
We are now into June; some people are still having to light their pellet heaters in the evenings and I am still sleeping under my winter duvet, bedsocks firmly on my icy tootsies.
The tourists – able to assess the temperature and precipitation levels of their holiday getaways prior to getting away, thanks to the internet, have sensibly kept their distance from My Little Italian Village and thus my little emporium is now into its sixth month of not making a bean.
Even if a meteorological miracle occurs and July and August are transformed into a spectacular summer, I’m not sure a shop that works for a mere two months out of every twelve only could ever really be a viable concern.
Add that to the fact that buying wholesale in Italy is an almost impossible task – the wholesale prices being but a whisker below the retail price, the quality questionable and the choice even more so.
Then add in the fact that buying from other, better prepared, EU countries involves (conveniently for the Italian government) vast amounts of “import” taxes.
Wonderful wooden toy company in Germany gets around the import tax problem by having an Italian bank account
Multiply all that by the surprising number of customers who imagine that a tiny shop at the top of a hill should be able to produce postcards, calendars and handmade souvenirs for the same price as the mass-produced tat on sale in the hundreds of identikit kiosks along the coastline, and you have quite a serious impediment to success.
Postcards by the talented Simone Chanaryn
Unfortunately it matters not a jot to the Italian government how much money I am not making – my taxes and social charges remain the same (high) whether I am open or closed, selling lots or nothing at all. There exists no fiscal flexibility for activity of a seasonal nature: you continue to pay up until the coffers run dry, and then you close.
And whilst I am not quite at that point (for as long as the locals continue to exclaim how lovely it is to have a gift shop actively promoting their village with its bags and postcards, artwork and tea towels, books and knickknacks, it will be hard to turn my back on it) I am certainly casting around ever more desperately for a solution to a potentially impossible problem…
Little Italian Village stuff
This is Status Viatoris, would pray for a miracle except she doesn’t believe in praying, or miracles for that matter in Italy.