Monday, April 13, 2009
Global Business Today
For some of the artisans in Florence, Italy (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence), the global slowdown,( crisis or meltdown depending on your choice of vocabulary) is a daily reality, not simply a concept covered in the news.
We talk about business being connected around the world. But how that reveals itself may be a surprise. Would you think that a shop in Florence would be having trouble because people in the US aren’t shopping as much at the New York speciality store Barneys? (www.barneys.com) It's true for a Florentine jewelry maker who uses glass beads threaded together to create elaborate pins, bracelets and necklaces that sparkle under the lights. A favorite of visitors who (did) flock to Florence they now struggle. Fewer tourists in Florence and fewer Americans buying imported jewelry at Barney’s NY adds up to their challenge.
For the mask maker Professor Agostino Dessi (www.alicemasks.com) there are still a few special orders with packages being sent as far away as Iowa but the daily tourist business has almost vanished. Other than a group of US students learning how masks are made in the traditional methods, the store stands empty, waiting for tourists to appear. Business is badly down he says and isn’t optimistic that it will pick up soon.
The downturn here is evident in every conversation, every place in the city. Restaurants and streets seem empty. You hear very little English, some Germany, a bit of French, Japanese but it's mostly Italian that surrounds you. Compared to last year or the one before, the city feels quiet. You can walk the streets without being crushed by a group following a tour guide holding an umbrella raised to the sky or visit the Uffizi (www.uffizi.com) and see the paintings up close.
Being globally connected is wonderful when the tourists arrive and shoppers fill the stores. When times are challenging the global connections aren’t always joyful. We can only hope that the streets will be full and shops crowded soon so that these special places will still exist for us to enjoy.