Well, geewhizz. Where has this year disappeared to? We are more than halfway through 2020 and heading towards the tail end of winter already. Lake Leather’s back garden is full of spring bulbs making an early start already, heralding the promise of spring; new life and new beginnings. And couldn’t we all do with a do-over this year?
What a nightmare 2020 has been so far. Starting the year on the back of widespread droughts, the worst to have afflicted parts of Australia in living memory, we opened with the biggest, baddest bushfire season ever known. Huge swathes of Australia’s south eastern states went up in flames on an unprecedented scale. As a leather shop in Tasmania, us and our fellow Tasmanians were spared the worst of the season’s pain and suffering, but as we watched our homeland going up in flames, we certainly shared the heartache. Like so many others around the nation we did what we could by sending our love, our firefighters, and as much charitable aid as we could muster to help with the recovery. Lake Leather had a fundraising drive and we were very proud of our efforts, raising over $6,500 to donate. We had watched from afar but were ourselves directly affected by the carnage of the mainland’s fire season; Lake Leather lost much of its heritage in those fires. As the fires swept through the main street of Cobargo – a small country town on the south coast of NSW – the original space where the Lake Leather shop was established in the 70’s was destroyed by those fickle flames, along with so many homes and businesses in the town. We were heartbroken for the loss inflicted on so many people, families, and businesses in so many parts of the nation by the unquenchable hunger of the fires.
As if the damage done by the bushfires wasn’t enough to deal with, the emergence of the Novel Coronavirus at the end of 2019 has turned the whole world on its head. Nationwide shutdowns all over the world have left virtually no-one anywhere untouched. Whether it is restrictions on movement, not seeing loved ones, business closures and job losses or any of the other endless ways this unprecedented crisis has changed the world, no one has been unscathed.
Here at Lake Leather, it has affected us from one end of our business to the other. Not only did we close our shops for over two months, but all our suppliers have been affected too. Many factories and workshops have been
forced to close as social distancing rules were worked out. Production rates have decreased as businesses work out how to get back to it while maintaining safe distances between workers, often reducing production capacity; business closures, supply chain disruptions, slowing of freight and closed borders have all had an effect. As a small business we have been shaken dramatically by the effects of the pandemic. We closed our doors for more than two months and, like everyone, have been feeling the effects ever since. I had been saying “We’re all in the same boat” but as someone remarked to me, “We’re not in the same boat, but all our boats are in the same storm.” And isn’t that the truth? As optimistic types here at Lake Leather we have been trying to focus on the good to come out of this pandemic instead of all the bad.
The silver lining for us is that we have been given the time and energy and cosmic kick up the bum we needed to really knuckle down and spend some time working on our new website. We have always been a very traditional bricks-and-mortar leather shop in Tasmania, never feeling as if we needed a website as we had such a strong retail following at home down here in Tassie. Towards the end of last year though, we launched lakeleather.com.au just in time for Christmas. None of us here are natural computer whizzes so the work involved in building the website, taking images, writing the content, and initially getting the site ready for launch seemed an arduous task. We have also never managed a website before.
Although the website was already done when we met Alex Mileham from local company Online Marketing Group...we were relieved to offload much of the online marketing to him - including the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for our business. We wanted to start off small and simple, as we learnt how to manage our side of it all; stock management, wrapping and packing and safe posting etc and ironing out any kinks. We started our Covid shutdown with about 20 items on there. We have spent much time and energy during the past few months beginning to add our extensive stock range to the site.
We set up a photography studio on my kitchen table and were very fortunate to have been able to secure help from a skilled and talented local stylist Jessica Andrews who was willing to come and lend a hand. We are currently up to about 200 products and still growing. Keep on checking back to see new items all the time and of course, now we have started we will continue to add our new season ranges as they arrive.
This winter has been a pretty devastating time for many industries, ours included, and we expect to be feeling the effects for a long time to come. We have been delighted and humbled by the support we have had during our closedown and since we have been able to reopen the shops. Our island home is definitely feeling like a safe sanctuary in the storm.
Tasmanians did exceptionally well adhering to restrictions, sticking to curfews and, at the time of writing, we have not had a case on the island in weeks and months. Restrictions on movement have been lifted and so many people are heading out and about to travel the state, visit loved ones and spend some time anywhere but home for a little bit. All our businesses large and small will be kept going by the support of locals more now than ever. Get out there and travel about our beautiful state, stay in other people’s towns, eat out, shop local and support your states small businesses. Your support means the difference between survival and folding for small businesses like us! We have been shown so much love and support in the past 6 months that it really makes the hard times easier to bear. Thank you from all of us here at Lake Leather!