The conversation surrounding the marketing and sale of authentic Jamaican-made products in the high-end tourism retail industry is taking a promising turn. The Sandals Foundation, with part funding provided by the Jamaica Business Fund, is executing a supply chain program to train and empower Jamaican handicraft businesses to upgrade the quality and market-readiness of their products. This will increase their ability to steadily supply products to the island’s gift shops, including those at Sandals and Beaches Resorts.
The yearlong program, which started in July 2018, includes hands-on training and support in production planning and management, designing and finishing, marketing and packaging and principles of business strategy with active participation from the procurement team of Sandals and Beaches Resorts gift shops. Their participation ensures that a focus is placed on the purchasing needs of the high – end tourism retail industry.
Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke, said strengthening the linkage between local craftsmen and the tourism sector would be beneficial for all involved, however, local artisans must be able to supply products in the quantity and quality required.
“With intervention and the necessary training, we want to see an upgrade in the quality of the products of the craftsmen. With very minimal capacity building interventions in the last quarter of 2016 into 2017, we have seen where there was a 30% increase in the revenue of five artisans that we initially supported so we are very confident in the success of this program,” Clarke said.
With a focus on aromatherapy, ceramics, wooden products, and natural fibre, Clarke hopes that the success of the project will build the trust and confidence of hotel buyers and procurement staff of gift shops in the capacity of the artisans to deliver high-quality products consistently and on time.
“There is no doubt that here in Jamaica we have the talent to produce beautiful craft items that visitors will love. However, our research has found that the fallout in the handicraft industry over the last decade or two has largely been the result of the challenges to source consistent supply of quality, competitively priced craft items locally. The success of this program will see members of the supply chain working more efficiently and collaboratively, improving color and finishes and the ability of the artisans to expand and sustain business linkages in the medium-term,” Clarke said.
For the past nine months, the artisans have participated in several training and consultation sessions in areas such as quality and production management, design, business strategy, costing and cash flow.
Frazers Ceramics is among the nine businesses participating in the program. Production Manager Christine Reid said the almost 33-year-old company is expanding its product line based on direct consultations done with the Sandals procurement team and workshop members.
“One of the benefits of being in this program is how we are able to collaborate and share ideas among ourselves as craftsmen and women to make each of our businesses and products better. We are currently expanding our product line and we see how even younger companies than Frazers are able to learn so much and improve their overall output.”
Frazers Ceramics has been in operation since 1986, manufacturing ceramic products such as vases, figurines, cups and pots. In addition to resorts in Jamaica, Frazers Ceramics also export craft items to resorts in Barbados, St. Lucia and Turks and Caicos.
Affiliate artisans have also benefited from the interventions to such an extent that they have developed new and exciting products which were approved by Sandals Resorts Gift shops. These include products created by straw weavers based in St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland.
Fund Manager at the Jamaica Business Fund, Ronald Dubrisingh, said the JBF recognizes the important role a quality craft sector plays in creating entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for Jamaicans while serving to enhance the tourism product and increase visitor spend.
“We view the Sandals Foundation Supply Chain project as a critical intervention that will boost local artisans’ ability to sustainably participate in the tourism industry. Recognized weaknesses in the sector have been poor quality and unreliability of supply and designs that do not meet the needs of buyers.”
He continued, “This Sandals Foundation project addresses all of these weaknesses. It will enhance the capacity of local artisans and increase the local production of high quality and innovative products that are representative of Jamaican culture while meeting the aesthetic and functional needs of buyers.”
The nine businesses currently in the program are McIntosh Craft, Frazers Ceramics, Monex, SN Kraft, Treasure Beach Women’s Group, Bartley’s All-in-Wood, Starfish Oils, Superior Craft & More and Banyan Creations. The artisans will also be participating in upcoming trunk shows and workshops at Sandals Resorts in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Whitehouse where they will have the opportunity to come face to face with their potential customers. The program has a clear mission of increasing the revenue from craft sales for these businesses by at least 70% in 3 years and is expected to expand to include more artisans in the coming months.