Mirta Retail deals with the distribution and sale of Italian handicraft products. Founders Martina Capriotti and Ciro di Lanno talk about it
Mirta Retail e-commerce
With 2020, the use of e-commerce platforms increased, due to the prolonged closure of physical stores. Statista estimated that same year more than two billion people worldwide made purchases online. Amazon was already creating a section dedicated to made-in-Italy products in 2015, including handcrafted accessories. Martina Capriotti and Ciro Di Lanno founded Mirta Retail in the summer of 2019. The platform now sells quality Italian handicraft products made by small and medium-sized companies in the Italian territory.
E-commerce does not intervene in the conception and development of the product and its manufacture. These, in fact, are left to the autonomy of the artisans. Mirta Retail aims at «enabling artisans to reach markets and people that they could not reach on their own», says Martina Caprotti. Small and medium-sized Italian artisan companies often do not have in-house skills to carry out a series of services that are, however, necessary to approach the e-commerce world. «Mirta Retail works on the steps that products must take «to reach the final consumer. Taking care of the distribution, logistics, marketing and customer care part».
Mirta Retail’s business model and inception
During the first six months, investments of two-and-a-half million euros have been collected. Access to the platform and its services is free for artisans. Mirta, in fact, bases its business model on earning a percentage of products sold based on the services offered. These consist of «product selection services, product shooting to upload photos on the site, the creation of a page on the site dedicated to each artisan», in which photos and videos portray the company’s story.
The idea for the startup was «born between 2018 and 2019», when Mirta’s founders were abroad. They both have a background in strategic consulting, the work field where they met. Later their paths eventually separated. As Martina Capriotti told us, «I moved between South Korea and Japan, to work for Korean fashion brands. While Ciro moved to the United States for two years to attend an MBA (Master of Business Administration) at Stanford University and worked within Silicon Valley. When I was in Asia, I observed the appreciation of international consumers for products made in Italy. Then, the idea for Mirta was born».
Mirta Retail’s clientele and selection
Mirta Retail caters to a foreign clientele, primarily from the U.S. and Asia. The first handicraft items offered for sale on the platform were products belonging to the leather goods sector, such as leather bags and belts. The choice of the Mirta Retail team was to start «with a focused approach on one category. The aim was to try to learn a methodology to be applied later to other sectors of handicraft products». September 2020 saw the «launch of the other category – cashmere – which has seen growth in sales this 2020 Fall/Winter. We are now working to add more categories».
Artisans cannot put up for sale on the platform any product they want, as is the case in other e-commerce like Etsy. Mirta Retail team, in fact, makes a selection from the products made available depending on what might work best in terms of sales on the platform. The selection focuses not only on the products, but also on the artisans who join Mirta Retail. For this reason, Di Lanno defines the platform as a curated marketplace.
The artisans’ selection process begins with an «examination of all potential artisans in the industry. We get to know them, see their products and make a selection». At the beginning of Mirta Retail’s operations in 2019, they had to convince artisans to put their products up for sale on an online platform. «Not only because of digital skepticism, but also because e-commerce requires artisans to work differently than they are used to».
Lampoon review: Mirta Retail’s digital supply chain
Many Italian artisans, although they have an independent line of products, work mainly as producers for other brands. The traditional supply chain «goes through promotion at trade shows and then producing for physical retailers around the world. This means designing and producing prototypes of new products two times a year, at trade shows, when artisans collect orders from companies, and producing to fulfill orders in the remaining months».
Mirta Retail instead, being an e-commerce, requires artisans to produce every day, based on orders placed on the platform. Mirta, as is the case with many e-commerce, shortens the physical supply chain. It skips many steps of intermediation. Further, it allows «to optimize the price and bring together these two parties, the producer and the consumer, which in the traditional supply chain are at the opposite ends».
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Mirta Retail
The healthcare emergency has changed Mirta Retail’s business. Last spring’s business lockdown was a setback for the physical stores of the artisans who collaborated with the platform. They also had their orders cancelled by historical B2B customers. How was it possible, for this sectoral e-commerce platform, to carry on business during the lockdown period? Di Lanno says, «During the lockdown period, we disposed of all the orders that had been cancelled for many of these artisans. By including a pre-order feature on the site, we gave the customer the opportunity to pre-purchase and then have the product in production once the labs reopened».
The pandemic has been a game changer for Mirta Retail and the craft industry. According to Di Lanno, more and more Italian and foreign consumers are looking for a return to exclusive, customized products wanting to support small businesses. The health emergency and the blocking of the physical supply chain have also changed the willingness of artisans to join an online shopping site. According to Mirta’s founders, while before the pandemic there was a «skepticism towards digital», now the situation has reversed. As Di Lanno explains, many artisans are looking for a way to sell online.
Mirta Retail is an commerce platform by Martina Capriotti and Ciro Di Lanno in the summer of 2019. It now sells quality Italian handicraft products made by small and medium-sized companies in the Italian territory. Their mission is to connect people seeking unique high-quality goods with the best made in Italy artisans, at a fair price.