A couple have been “overwhelmed” by the international response to an online marketplace which is helping Mull and Iona fight back after the pandemic stopped visits to the islands.
Joe and Chloe McFadden set up an online shop to showcase local crafts and businesses, many of whom were dependent on tourists.
The couple have now seen hundreds of orders, worth thousands of pounds, from across the world come through the virtual Mull and Iona Shop. In the last month alone sellers have shipped goods to the US, Canada, Australia and across Europe.
Mr McFadden, 29, works in freelance marketing and also part time for Destination Mull and Iona and Mull and Iona Community Trust. His wife, 30, works for the NHS as the islands’ occupational therapist.
Mr McFadden said they acted after seeing the effect the lack of tourism was having on the islands’ businesses: “When the pandemic swept over the country we watched visitors disappear and the community come together. Many small businesses on the islands depend on visitors; businesses which can rely predominantly on face-to-face sales and may not have needed an online presence before.”
He said they also wanted to reach people who have been unable to visit the islands. He added: “A lot of people are missing coming to the islands so it is nice to be able to send a bit of the islands to them.
“The feedback has been great from people who are pleased they can have some sort of connection with the place even if they cannot visit.”
The online shop features a wide range of products including art, books and guides, clothing, jewellery, local crafts, food and drink and garden and home décor products.
Mr McFadden said: “We opened in August and have been completely overwhelmed by the response both in terms of creators getting involved and from hundreds of customers from all over the world.”
Toben Lewis, from Baile More Books in Iona, said: “An unexpected silver lining of this pandemic has been the rise of online venues for rural makers, like The Mull and Iona shop.
”It’s opened up a new audience for my books that I’d not been reaching before. These two islands are so special to many people, it’s great that they can now find so many small businesses in one place and we can continue to thrive despite the current circumstances.”
Nick Ray from Life Afloat in Mull sells his recycled glass jewellery through the shop he said: “From the moment of doing so, I haven’t looked back. In fact I’ve likened myself to one of Santa’s elves at the moment, working hard to keep up with demand.”
Lynn Kitching from Drift Designs in Mull said she is confident the shop will continue to grow. She added: “It’s also lovely to be selling alongside other folks from around the island.”
Aska Marzec from Scottish Island Art in Mull said: “I am very happy to be bringing a little piece of Mull to the visitors who weren’t able to visit the Island this year.”
Dawn Reade from Biscuit Press Design in Mull said the island have a special place in the hearts of people who have visited and it makes sense that they might want special mementos of it.
She said: “Joe and Chloe have been working hard to promote the site, and they offer great support to makers and customers alike.”