As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold globally and the corresponding unforeseen restrictions impacted the local importation industry, needless to say, there has been a somewhat negative flow on effect in the luxury interiors market also. The widespread instability in the global markets has invariably impacted domestic policy. The roadmap currently is not entirely clear in Sri Lanka, as is the case in many other countries.
The policies which have brought about the harsh importation restrictions are borne out of a desire to thwart currency leakage. It is very much my view, as a Sri Lankan, that we absolutely do need to act to prevent currency leakage as much as possible, but in doing so, we must still ensure that the local market remains innovative and inspired. There is, of course, a fine balance which must be struck.
In the short term, and whilst international travel is seriously impeded, restricting imports does minimise the risk of currency leakage, however, as soon as travel restrictions are eased, the local market will once again have to revert to the years before, when the only way to obtain ultra-luxury furniture and homewares was to travel overseas, source and purchase those items at astronomical expense and then proceed to have them shipped home back to Sri Lanka at further monumental expense. This used to be the only way for Sri Lankans to have access to high luxury, but back then currency leakage was far more marked.
In order to not just function but thrive in the current Covid-impacted markets, we have been once again drawn to improvise and pivot as best as possible. For example, we have been importing unfinished items and elements of furniture and completing the production process locally by employing a few handpicked artisans. In this way, we have been able to keep providing high quality products to our clientele whilst maintaining the business viability of Clove Republic in the domestic market. Once import restrictions have eased locally, we will recommence our bespoke, ultra-high-end projects which we are well-known for. Importantly, it goes without saying that we will also continue to employ and support these few local artisans who have been instrumental in our progress during this pandemic period.
As a risk minimization strategy, a long-term growth strategy and, also in order to ensure the immediate continuity of our local business, albeit under extremely difficult restrictions, we determined that launching Clove Republic in suitable international markets is also of key importance.
Clove Republic is always growing, improving, refining, innovating and disrupting the industry. Our main goal has always been to ensure that the market is presented with much greater, previously inaccessible, options when it comes to furniture and homewares, and we have most certainly achieved that in Sri Lanka, with Clove entering into the domestic market five years ago with a never-before accessible, extremely luxe offering to the local clientele.
We have always known that we would pursue a similar strategy in Australia, a country where I have spent much of my time as well. Having considered the options available locally to the Australian market, it became very clear that Australia is the next market where will pursue and achieve our strategic goals. As such, we have been working steadily in launching in the Australian market and are in the process of securing and locking down the opportunities for disruption in the Australian market. Despite being a modern, cosmopolitan and diverse demographic, the Australian market is also faced with a lack of a complete offering when it comes to ultra-luxe high end furniture and homewares and we have made leaps and bounds this year to ensure that 2021 will see us offering these to the Australian market. Needless to say, we are extremely excited to see what 2021 brings for Clove Republic both domestically in Sri Lanka and internationally in Australia.
Covid-19 forced people into restrictive lockdowns and people longed for the simple freedoms that we all took for granted prior to going into forced lockdown. However, as we also spent more time within the constraints of our own homes, we realized the true value of our homes. Our homes became our haven, our sanctuary, and with that came an immense desire to shape our homes to achieve this to an even greater extent. The pandemic has unsurprisingly triggered a renewed admiration for natural colours and textures, yet still in a way which is both high end and ultra-luxe.
I expect to see the interior spaces mostly featuring products which honour the more Earthy elements and styles. We are moving further towards natural tones and textures but we will be moving away from too much heavy, stark, shiny metals, such as the gold and stainless steel finishes we have seen largely favoured in more recent years. In my view, it will be a more balanced style. One that will pay homage to the Earth’s natural elements whilst still embracing the more traditional elements of luxury. In keeping with this shift, we will see more minimalistic, yet luxurious, trends back for 2021 to make homes feel more open, more spacious and more freeing.
With international travel off the table for at least the medium term, there has been a positive flow on effect over in the construction and development industries. This industry has been paying close attention to and taking notice of the shifts taking place within our homes. Interior designers, architects and developers are finding that they are inundated with work coming from people who would otherwise have spent their money on international travel but are redirecting it into their homes, their havens.
Work is also coming from people who are finding a more flexible, less centralised work environment is a more suitable and welcome reprieve and are, therefore, moving away from the central business districts into the more spacious, more affordable outer suburbs, freeing up funds for interior design and renovation plans. This is not entirely surprising but, nevertheless, a welcome knock on effect from the global pandemic.
In terms of real estate pricing, what we have seen emerge throughout the latter months of the year is a clear trend towards pricing increases in the outer suburbs, whilst pricing is generally holding in the more traditionally high-end real estate markets.
This will undoubtedly influence the Sri Lankan workforce and real estate markets too and, as an added element, I foreshadow that we will be seeing much more of the expat community living internationally returning to Sri Lanka and investing in homes in Sri Lanka, thereby driving up the local markets comparatively also.