First of all, we’d like to say a few words about the last two weekends between the end of February and the beginning of March… it was such an incredibly busy period. There were masses of people raring to get out on the slopes – just like the first day of the ski season. So, with the first anti-Covid-19 measures to limit capacity starting to kick in, long queues formed at the ski-lifts and cable cars. Some skiers were even getting taxis to take them up to Bormio 2000 so they could get onto the perfectly groomed slopes as quickly as possible and enjoy the wonderful sunny weather. It was really crazy. Then, on the 8th of March, everything suddenly shut down: it was surreal, hard to get your head around. So that’s how our lockdown began, and it lasted until 18 May. During lockdown we stayed in contact with our customers by mail or phone, mainly to organise the return of rented equipment and, in particular, the seasonal ski gear used by families and children. We were asked all sorts of questions: about the weather conditions, and even about the various alleged sightings of the Trentino bear in Bormio… it was clear there was a strong desire on the part of our clients to keep in touch with us. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to adapt our website to e-commerce quickly enough (it remains restricted to booking rentals), which would undoubtedly have given good results. Without any money coming in for over 2 months, the lockdown period was really tough for us. We were also very concerned for our staff and co-workers, primarily as regards their health and safety, obviously. We decided to keep our workforce on until the end of the season, because we are convinced that the success of our business is also partly due to them.
We were asked all sorts of questions: about the weather conditions, and even about the various alleged sightings of the Trentino bear in Bormio… it was clear there was a strong desire on the part of our clients to keep in touch us.
Our prime concern on reopening was to ensure the maximum safety of our customers. After sanitising the entire store, we created a signposted pathway to guide customers around the premises, with hand sanitizer stands, gloves and plexiglass barriers. All with the aim of making our customers feel safe and protected in our store. After reopening, we noticed a desire on the part of our customers to converse and interact with us, to talk about their experiences during this period. On the whole, the attitude of people is warm and friendly and they spend more time in the shop. This is perhaps partly due to the fact that we have always tried to make our customers feel they are “amongst friends”; over time this has created real customer loyalty, unlike many other stores where the buying experience is faster and less personal. Over the last few weekends, we have had a steady flow of customers from the surrounding valleys, and holiday home owners from Milan and Brianza have also arrived. Many of these have popped in to see us, and to buy something while they were about it; some were looking for discounts on winter wear and others for summer items. There is definitely a great deal of interest in sports and activities such as cycling, running, trail running and trekking. I think that these first few weeks have been positive; they have given us confidence in the future. We hope that further benefits will come from the reopening of the borders, because our area is fantastic for road biking, with 3 great climbs – the Stelvio, Gavia and Mortirolo passes – normally frequented by cyclists from all over the world. Obviously we won’t be having many foreign visitors this June, but we hope that if the weather stays fine the season can extend well into September; and seeing as the Giro d’Italia has been moved to October and is due to pass over none other than the Stelvio…
In the period immediately after lockdown, we realized that we still had several deadlines for winter goods to meet for March and April, and others were also scheduled for the summer season. I have to say that our relationship with suppliers remained solid and mutually supportive: we tried to help each other out by finding solutions that were satisfactory for both sides and we hope that this relationship will continue in the future. For sure, the situation over the next few years is not going to be easy: we have lost the certitudes acquired over the years (ours is a long-established business that has been in activity for 58 years). We also think that companies are going to change their approach in the future, that they will try to have greater visibility in certain specific well-located shops, perhaps adopting hybrid retail solutions combining online with physical stores, and strive to have a closer relationship with shop owners. For our part, we will increasingly represent a real, physical showcase for brands, rather than a virtual one.
As retailers, we will have to become more and more multitasking, offering different types of sales channels and services
During this lockdown we realised that not being able to sell our goods online penalized us heavily in terms of revenue. This situation has certainly made us think a lot, and we are already preparing to implement an e-commerce platform shortly, also because it is in any case a good way of increasing our shop’s visibility. As retailers, we will have to become more and more multitasking, offering different types of sales channels and services. For example, during lockdown we faced the problem of not being able to show our cycling clients, who come from all over the world, the new Ciclo collection which features bike-maps of our three famous mountain passes. Despite everything people wrote to us, to show their solidarity perhaps, and seemed keen to look around our store and perhaps even buy something… We undoubtedly need international tourists to come back as soon as possible because, in our case, foreign clients represent around 70% of the total. We have to try and work out what is going to happen this winter, since at the present moment there are no certainties… the media and doctors talk about a possible second wave of the virus and this sort of talk is certainly not good for our kind of tourism, which requires advance planning and set dates. We hope that with the arrival of a vaccine, travel planning will become more stable once again.