All Sliema needs is a little ‘TLC’

Theresa Bartolo Parnis and Jackie Scudamore Urpani, Directors of Monsoon – Accessorize Malta

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 January, 2021 at 11:27 am by Andre Camilleri

Monsoon ladieswear shift to online

Monsoon ladieswear shifts focus to online, private viewing and personal shopping.

“Covid-19 has prompted us to reassess and rethink previous models, as I’m sure every business in every industry has done,” says Theresa Bartolo Parnis, co-owner of Monsoon and Accessorize in Malta.

Speaking to The Malta Business Weekly, Bartolo Parnis explained the reasons which led to the transition and the closure of the Sliema ladieswear store, “For Monsoon Ladieswear, we felt the customer had shifted focus, and there was a demand for a more personalized service.  Unlike Accessorize, which operates in seven different locations (Sliema, Valletta, Pama, Pavi, Paola, Bay Street and Gozo), and Monsoon Children, which you can purchase from four stores (Sliema, Valletta, Pavi and Gozo), there was only one Monsoon Ladies shop in Malta, located in Tigne Street, Sliema.

This was originally a strategic decision, as Monsoon Ladies products are often very distinct, emphasizing pattern, colour, hand beading and attention to detail. We didn’t want to flood the Maltese market, which is relatively small, with too much of the same product.  We strived to keep Monsoon Ladies exclusive and unique, a concept that was much appreciated by our clientele.

“However, with the growing popularity of online shopping and with customers leading increasingly busy lives where convenience is key, we decided the time had come to take a different tack.  Also, with people staying home and most occasions such as weddings and parties cancelled due to Covid-19, the high rent and costs didn’t make sense at this time.  Add to this the fact that Sliema can be difficult to visit due to roads being closed and constant traffic diversions.

 With regards to Sliema, Bartolo Parnis explained “Sliema as a location is loved by tourists and locals alike.  The seafront promenades, spectacular views of Valletta, the many shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels make it an obvious place for people to go and pass some leisurely time.  But unfortunately, Sliema does not get the attention it deserves.  Authorities need to work to freshen up the place and create a hive of activity for when business returns to normal.”

 She continued “retailers invest a fortune in international standard shop fits to ensure that shops look fabulous, but we need much more support when it comes to Sliema as a shopping destination, and it’s something that is not difficult to achieve.”

Asked what would support Sliema as key shopping destination Bartolo Parnis explained “There just needs to be some commitment to better planning and traffic management. This could be that projects and road closures are spaced out and/or done after retail hours to ensure that it is not a nightmare to take a trip down to ‘The Ferries’.  A small investment in cleanliness, upkeep, embellishment and activities such as live music, festivals, and art exhibitions would go a long way towards creating a pleasant atmosphere.

This happens in most cities in Europe, and even in other local locations such as Valletta and Birgu. Sliema would benefit significantly from incentives such as these, which would be appreciated both by retailers, café owners and visitors to the location. 

She concluded, “Covid-19 gave us the opportunity to experiment with our brands online, and the response has been great.  Monsoon as a product, especially when it comes to ladieswear, lends itself very well to the medium, because the customer can see the item of clothing and its many features much more clearly on a screen.

 However, there will always be people who prefer the physical shopping experience. For those, we have set up a shop environment in our store in Swatar, where a customer can make an appointment and view, try and buy the new collection at their leisure.  We are also working on a personal shopping venture, where we would handpick a selection for a customer based on her needs and tastes and deliver it to her home”.

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