London 2012: Jamaican businesses were winners too

By Shamille Scott Business reporter

Sunday, October 07, 2012    

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The London Olympics favoured not just those Jamaicans who won medals; island businesses also triumphed.

"All suppliers got a fair share of exposure to the UK retail markets and noticed a general interest in the goods", said Janine Taylor, manager of Things Jamaican, part of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC).

Artisans, book and music publishers, and agro-processors gained exposure from the "Meet Jamaica Initiative" and Jamaica 50 celebrations held in Britain.

A few UK distributors bought stocks, said Harold Davis, JBDC's deputy chief executive officer. "The fact that they took some of the local products shows there's an interest," he said.

Agreements with four distributors in Britain to sell Jamaican-made items are in the final stages, Davis said.

The distributors were interested in teas, herbs, sauces and condiments, the JBDC said. One wants craft items.

The Olympic export push, which was staged in collaboration with private and public sector agencies, operated from major retail outlets in London's O2 Arena, built to celebrate the Millennium, and Birmingham Square.

Some 121 suppliers were exposed to the market and developed brand identification.

Of the suppliers, over 70 per cent were micro and small businesses, the JBDC said.

The stores presented merchandise in the fashion and accessories, food, home accents, aromatherapy, literature and coffee categories.

But, food, fashion and souvenirs had the highest sales figures.

The top sellers included T-shirts, herbal teas, sauces, baked goods and books. Visitors came from the Jamaican diaspora, Afro-Caribbean communities, the US, Europe and Asia.

Members of the diaspora also liked goods associated with wellness. Davis attributes the demand of the goods to the "feel good" aura that products such as castor oil give.

Preliminary reviews indicated a strong demand for Jamaican branded products in the UK market with significant market opportunities for retailing and distribution of Jamaican products, said the JBDC.

Some items, however, recorded low or no sales.

Partly this was due to buyers being unfamiliar with those goods, said Davis. The rush and traffic at the events didn't give customers much time to examine and read about some of the new products.

But, the delegation observed a genuine demand for authentic Jamaican branded goods.

Each generation of the Jamaican diaspora has different interests, noted Davis. "Persons who were born in Jamaica and migrated decades ago will crave a different product from the Jamaican who was born and raised in the UK," he said.

The herb cerasee - used for tea and to treat skin conditions - is an example of something a third generation member of the diaspora would not want, Davis said.

Aromatherapy products and Anancy books, on the other hand, were embraced by the third generation, he said.

The temporary Things Jamaican shops recorded over 15,000 visitors and over 11,000 sales in their ten days of operation.

"People in the Diaspora are excited about Jamaica, our products and the quality of our products," said Audrey Wilson, director of Wilpar Limited, manufacturers of Eyl Castor Oil. "We have a great brand. We just need to fine tune it."



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