ASWOT Corporation sells imported artisanal food and beverages from European countries such as Spain, Italy, France, and Malta. With their standard model of selling at department stores and events being blocked during the past two months, ASWOT owner Mako Aonuma developed her own way to turn things around.
Connect caught up with her over email to learn more about her experience.
How did you run ASWOT during the two-month lockdown?
We started to feel the effect of the lockdown when our scheduled events at locations such as the French Fair and department store basements were canceled.
At first, I was waiting to hear about the reopening schedule of those events and was making the necessary preparations. However, things turned for the worst with the more intensified lockdown and social distancing rules. To make sure that the products I imported for the initial events did not expire, I quickly created a website and started online ordering.
Tell us about your pop-up store.
I opened my pop-up store on the basement floor the day after Isetan Shinjuku reopened, which was May 30. We are going to run it for one month.
Now Isetan’s business hours have been shortened—they are operating from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m—but the pre-lockdown hours may be resumed, as the situation is getting better [normal operating hours of 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. will resume on June 13].
As far as what we’re selling, we have rum baba and hazelnut chocolate spread, which are original products we had planned to sell at the French Fair. On top of that, we are also selling Spanish and Maltese patties that we planned to sell at a wine event, as well as crackers, almonds, and pasta sauces that you can eat at home.
What safety measures do you have to take?
Currently, at Isetan Shinjuku, all employees have their temperatures checked when they enter the premises. Also, both employees and customers are asked to disinfect their hands and wear masks. All furniture is wiped down and disinfected hourly. Most importantly, food sampling has also been prohibited.
What has changed for ASWOT in the wake of Covid-19?
I used to sell at department store events, but that may be difficult from now. During the lockdown, I sometimes wondered whether I should continue to import and sell food. But for now, I am leaving those negative thoughts behind as I think of my customers. I will try to bring in food and other products from my trading partners in countries that have suffered even more from Covid-19.
Even though the exchange of people and goods is more restricted due to Covid-19, I will do my best to promote other countries’ cultures through my imported goods!
Offer for Connect Members
If you like artisanal food and beverages from Europe, make sure you check out ASWOT’s offer on Connect—you can take 10% off their regular prices.