We understand that small businesses are facing an unprecedented time of disruption resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While sadly many businesses have no option other than to close their doors, here at the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) we are hearing about business owners who have been able to innovate and find a new direction. This series of posts is about sharing ideas from WA small businesses that have found a way of doing business differently.
Justine Barsley founded Perth Upmarket in 2008 to offer public access to high quality, local goods designed or made in WA while giving small creative businesses a retail outlet. Perth Upmarket holds quarterly markets at UWA featuring more than 180 small business stallholders and attracting around 10,000 visitors to each event. Special events such as an annual Wedding Upmarket and Art Upmarket, pop-up shops and events are also held throughout the year.
When official restrictions on gatherings were put into place due to coronavirus, Perth Upmarket’s March market was cancelled and the Wedding Upmarket planned for May rescheduled to October. The likelihood of the winter market going ahead in June is also uncertain at this stage.
Within a week of the March market being cancelled, Justine organised a ‘Virtual Upmarket’ online event, involving 150 of the stallholders originally booked to take part in the physical event. Taking place over 36 hours, the Virtual Upmarket attracted more than 10,000 visits to the website, from where visitors could connect with individual online stores to make a purchase. Many stallholders offered incentives such as free shipping or a discount, which could be claimed using a special code from the Virtual Upmarket portal, assisting in both encouraging and tracking sales.
A post-event survey reported $53,000 in sales were achieved from the two-day event, although the actual figure is probably higher than this due to a survey response rate of only 50 per cent.
Building on the success of the first online event, another ‘Virtual Upmarket’ is planned for Sunday 26 April. The smaller event will involve 50 stallholders with products suitable for Mother’s Day gifts. Other changes Justine is considering through the disruption include:
- Focusing on Perth Upmarket’s sister business, Growth Quarters, which helps creatives take their businesses online. This includes helping members to optimise their websites to give them other avenues to sell outside physical events.
- Exploring selling educational business programs for creatives at an affordable price, to encourage micro businesses to upskill and expand into new markets.
- Considering holding Virtual Upmarket events, in addition to live events, in the future.
Justine says, “The cancellation of our events has certainly been challenging, both from a personal perspective and for our stallholders, many of whom who rely on the Perth Upmarket events to reach their buyers.”
“My main focus for now is to keep creative businesses going so they are still operating later in the year, when hopefully our Perth Upmarket events can resume.”
Thanks for sharing your ways of doing business differently Perth Upmarket!