I’m having coffee at an Airbnb near Sorrento enjoying a beautiful view of the Naples coast. My family and I decided to spend the holidays in Italy this year as a gift to each other. It’s hard to believe it was only a few days ago I was welcoming countless customers to our store, fulfilling online orders, and frantically reordering best-selling merchandise. While I’ve enjoyed every minute of the holiday selling season, I’m grateful to enjoy much-needed time off with my family in this beautiful country.
It’s moments like these that remind me of how important it is to recharge and take time off. It’s also the perfect time to look back at the year that ended and reflect on our accomplishments and our missed opportunities. It’s a good time to celebrate important milestones and to think about the year ahead. And most importantly, it’s the right time to express our deepest gratitude to you, our customer, for your ongoing support of our business and the countless fair trade producers we partner with.
Every day last year brought something unexpected (another reason to love my job!) and I’d like to ask you to indulge me in listing some of the highlights that made 2017 such a wonderful year.
Our South Grand store celebrated its 3rd Anniversary on November 8. This is truly remarkable and validates my belief there is a growing need to make ethically sourced gift-giving available to more customers in the metropolitan St Louis area.
Our online presence showed healthy signs of growth as well. We shipped a total of 283 online orders in 2017, that’s an increase of 48% compared to 2016 (5.7% of total sales). As customers continue to shift to online shopping, I want to continue to allocate the right resources to figuring out ways to reach and find new customers across the United States and around the world. Today, you can shop our unique, handcrafted and fair trade products at zeebeemarket.com and at social media platforms like Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.
We donated over $4,100 in 2017 to St. Louis-based nonprofit organizations through our Giving Back Days campaign. It is a joy to partner with amazing organizations that are doing amazing things here in our community, and support their work. I look forward to welcoming new organizations and share the love.
2017 was really, really good to us. We received amazing press throughout the year and especially in the fourth quarter. In April, Town & Style Magazine highlighted our fair trade model with its wide audience. The following month, MapQuest Travel included us in their Out-of-the-Box Stores in St Louis that keep you out of the Big Box Stores article. South Grand released a long-awaiting marketing video in July. We love it and we're sure it made a difference in traffic flow the balance of the year. It was an honor to be the Fair Trade Federation's August Member Spotlight that gave our business national recognition.
The BEST press really started in November, led by RTF's 40 Locally Owned St. Louis Shops to Visit Right Now. We were honored to be included alongside so many other South City stores. Later in the month, St Louis Post-Dispatch featured our store in a Small Business Saturday article that featured our store plus the subsequent 2017 Gift Guide. November was also special as we were guests along with Center for Hearing and Speech staff at one of Fox2Now segments. It was a wonderful opportunity to showcase our Giving Back campaign.
So if you visited our South Grand store in 2017; bought a fairly traded item from us; placed an online order at zeebeemarket.com; liked, shared or commented on any of our social media posts; wrote a product review on our website, added a Yelp or Google review of our business; mentioned Zee Bee Market to a relative or friend, then YOU made a big positive impact in the lives of countless artisans & farmers the world over. For this, THANK YOU!
While 2017 will undoubtedly remain in my memory as a wonderful year of growth, I'm excited to say hello to 2018. This New Year brings new feels, new chances, same dreams and fresh starts. It also means expanding and growing the Fair Trade movement in St. Louis. I'm delighted to announce Zee Bee Market is opening its second store this Spring 2018. We very much look forward to joining the thriving Maplewood business community. Follow us on social media for updates as we prepare to Get Our Kicks on Route 66!
Thanks again for celebrating the beautiful work of human hands with us.