Global access and sourcing vintage treasures in pandemic times

Global sourcing vintage and antique doors from China

Our passion for sourcing vintage treasures from far-off locations hasn’t stopped as borders have closed. Our decades-in-the-making relationships have allowed us unique access—access we can bring to you.

One of the things that we love most at Watertiger, is that we can bring our customers, here in Australia, the most incredible, one-of-a-kind vintage and antique treasures—pieces as unique and as individual as the people that who add them to their homes, and bring into their personal style.

And part of that experience was the ability to travel to remote and exotic locations, where we were welcomed into communities and cultures—and sometimes even into the private homes—of the suppliers that collect and protect their ancient arts.

It’s from this, sometimes humbling, access that we can bring our customers timelessly beautiful pieces for their homes—from places like India, Turkey, Morocco, China, and Indonesia.

But as COVID hit, it challenged everything. Here, our founder, Kathy Bruce, shares how she’s been able to create new access and relationships to keep sourcing from around the world, in a time of pandemic and locked borders.

Q: How did it feel when the reality of global sourcing during a pandemic hit?

Kathy Bruce: At first, it was challenging. It made me re-evaluate how and what I was doing. Initially, the challenges presented a pretty major roadblock, given that I would normally travel every six weeks to source new pieces. I had to relearn how to find products without physically being there.

What helped us most was the fact that we had 20 years of experience doing this and being able to trust our suppliers wholeheartedly. If there’s a silver lining that has come out of an otherwise awful situation, it's shown us the power of technology and our ability to adapt to a new workflow.

Q: Given that the pieces you source are so tactile—they’re pieces you want to touch and feel—how did you manage using remote technology?

KB: Although we’ve had to re-evaluate and adapt, I feel like I’m actually sourcing products in a better way. The power of the internet and instant photographs means that I get exposure to hundreds of products from suppliers across the globe.

Though this has been beneficial for our business, our suppliers and our customers, I can’t help but miss some of those more quirky, unusual and unique pieces that I would find when visiting. And I hope that time comes soon.

Q: Some of the locations you source from have been hit hard by the pandemic. How have your suppliers been so accommodating in such a time?

KB: It’s been extraordinary to experience working with people, even if their countries were far more affected than Australia.

China seemed to adapt quite quickly, as well as India at the time. However, with our suppliers' situation in India right now, we can only imagine how overwhelmed they must be feeling. Indonesia has probably been one of our hardest-hit suppliers because their country relies so heavily on travel.

Although there is little we can do about the rapid spread of the virus, we believe that our sustainable business model sourcing global home decor from China, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Morocco is playing a small but significant part in our suppliers' livelihoods and their countries' economies. And for that, we have our customers to thank.

Q: How did it affect your customers and their own dealing with lockdown?

KB: For a lot of our customers, travel wasn’t an option anymore. I think they were looking for comfort and were choosing to restyle their homes with furniture from places they’ve been and loved, or places they’ve been longing to visit.

Being homebound for an extended period of time during the pandemic, their attention turned towards restyling their homes. During this time, we were receiving a great deal of demand for our global pieces—a slightly sentimental shift in consumer demand.

Q: How has the pandemic affected your relationships and how you deal with your customers?

KB: What’s been interesting is that people have shown a lot of trust in Watertiger—a lot more than they ever have. Because our customers have been unable to travel and see our pieces in person, they’ve obviously got a lot of trust in our website and our product.

I’ve always stood behind everything I sell, and if people continue to trust purchasing their product from the pictures on our website, I know personally that they’re getting a beautiful piece of well-sourced furniture or homewares and that’s incredibly rewarding.

As business begins to feel more ‘normal’ here at Watertiger, we’ve learnt that our customers truly believe in us and our products, and we can’t thank them enough for their support throughout this journey.


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