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How this Aussie gift store pivoted successfully during coronavirus

He was in his mid-twenties when he got back into helping his dad, who is now retired (and very proud). The Tourgelis family must have retail in their DNA – Chris’s sister Irene is store manager. He is now Group CEO, but his email signature reads “gift guru” and he still works on the floor at least every Saturday, greeting locals and trying to guess what they might be popping in to buy. His face is a familiar fixture for anyone who lives in the area – or, in fact, anyone who might be in the market for a cheeky birthday card pun, a decadent hand cream or a wind-up toy poo emoji.  

Almost immediately after taking over the business, Chris launched an online store. That was back in 1998 when e-commerce was still quite novel and he did almost everything himself, including the photography. The bricks-and-mortar store has always been a vital, celebrated part of their business, but Chris’s decision to “future-proof” his company set him up well for a global pandemic. 

“I am here now thinking thank god we invested in online early! It felt like an important thing for me to do at the time and over the years we’ve put more and more resources into that part of the business,” he says. 

“Any retailer will tell you that the last twelve months have been stagnant for the industry – and then the pandemic hit and I was petrified, to be honest. It was very stressful and that lockdown period was devastating for us. In the first few weeks, we saw a big drop in sales but not long after, our online sales just rocketed. By the third week of lockdown, back in April, we were leading into Mothers’ Day and we were nervous. We ended up having the biggest Mothers’ Day of all time, with online sales up by about 400% from last year, which was exciting.”

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