Caribbean Nostalgia Online – A Potential for Profit
Author: Sonja Dumas
It’s been decades since Nap Hepburn sang his classic Christmas calypso, Tell Santa Claus, but more than ever, in a pandemic world, the practice of purchasing has certainly been transformed. Today, the song’s little boy, of course, now all-grown-up, would start by Googling “trumpet” 🎺 and “concertina” to find this bit of memorabilia from his childhood and most likely end up purchasing it online. According to Caribbean Insight, “e-commerce…went from constituting 21% of manufacturing sales in the US in 2003 to a massive 64.8% in 2016.” And that was before any pandemic was predicted or experienced. One of the ways in which the Caribbean is capitalizing on this increase in online sales is by offering items that constitute nostalgia.
Let’s revisit the little boy in the song. His “tabanca” for his friends is something to which Caribbean people can relate. Regardless of where we call “home,” we often have a craving for the trappings of home. From a business point of view, this is a prime opportunity for anyone with that entrepreneurial spirit to position and promote items that bring people joy and a sense of belonging to the Caribbean community. 🌴
Slowly but surely, regional e-commerce platforms and those highlighting Caribbean cultural staples are emerging. One example is shopcaribe.com. The platform highlights artisanal products, including art, crafts, cosmetics, and more, made in Trinidad and Tobago by local micro-entrepreneurs. It’s a prime example of one set of entrepreneurs providing product distribution for another.
Of course, Caribbean e-commerce isn’t restricted to gift items. D’Market Movers is an online grocery that delivers fresh goods to Trinidad and Tobago’s businesses and individuals. They have broadened their reach to Barbados and are looking to expand even further. The business was recently highlighted in Time Out Magazine as one of the women-run enterprises that’s revolutionizing the food business.
Diaspora initiatives to serve the Caribbean community via online distribution are also happening. Take the case of Malaika and Jamila Crichlow, T&T sisters who lived in New York and wanted to find a way to deliver a taste of home to diasporic Caribbean folk via packaged boxes and more. According to their website, Callaloo Box’s “themed monthly boxes create that nostalgic feeling of ‘being back home.’” The Caribbean immigrant population stands at more than 3.5 million in the United States alone (and we ain’t even start to count all the cousins in the other parts of the diaspora) longing for something from “home.”
There is enormous potential to have local, regional or diasporic online stores run by Caribbean-based entrepreneurs that deliver homegrown products which serve the Caribbean’s love of its own identity. There are profits to be enjoyed – literally and figuratively.
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