The Shoal Plans First Trip to Sicily

Having set the business up in the darkest days of 2020, it's a pity that we couldn't travel to meet the artists and our business partners in Sicily yet.  It has been a challenging time however we have had a pretty good first year of trading.

The Shoal has taken on dozens of new retail and gallery customers who stock our ceramic marine art around the South West of England and up North in Scotland, the Highlands and Islands.  We have appeared at many festivals selling direct to the public from our little gazebo.  We exhibited at two trade shows.  We won Best Product Award 2022 at the Spring Fair in Glasgow.  Diane has done a great job on the website and social media.  Pete did a podcast interview!  There's more of all this in the pipeline for 2022/23.

We have met some amazing people on the way, from fellow traders offering encouragement and advice, to retailers and small businesses getting as excited as we do when they start to stock our range.

We have had our 'what on earth are we doing' moments alongside 'let's just give up' moments, however it's fair to say that the business has gone better and bigger than we had imagined.  We had fantastic support from the small retail team at fishhouseart in Ortigia that helped to get us off the ground and we shall be forever grateful to them for that.  

The missing piece has been meeting the artists and the team that create this wonderful art.  Only then can we determine the plan for the next months and years, once we see with our own eyes the creation of these marine creatures that we have been buying ourselves for the last twelve years as customers and now selling into the UK as The Shoal.

This is the primary reason for our visit.

We hope to see new products, come up with new ideas, be inspired, find new ways to work, identify the opportunities and identify the challenges.  Stock levels, shipping, availability, pricing, all these things seem to be harder to manage these days than they used to.  At The Shoal our desire is to continue to grow and evolve our business that can support the artists and artisans with whom we work, that can support us, that can support our customers and our families in turn.

We know we will only be a small business, for ever.  These pieces are unique, handmade, there's only so many that can be made.  There is no automated production line in the near or far East churning these out.  If you have some of our products then you are pretty lucky as they are all limited editions!  There is an intrinsic value to this and that is our model.

We have a small but regular direct business, we have a small but growing wholesale to retailers business.  We want to develop a specification business working with interior designers and brands creating unique marine art installations.

With this in mind we are off to the beautiful island of Sicily for 6 days!  It won't all be work, I'm sure we will find time to go up volcanoes, visit Greek and Roman temples and sample some of the culinary pleasures.  Might even find time to go to the beach...

Pete Earle
30th May 2022
Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK

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