Jakarta. The long-standing tradition of sending packages of goods to relatives in the days leading up to Idul Fitri served a different purpose this year: rather than merely for maintaining good relations it also breathed new life into struggling small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Instead of sending the usual dinnerware sets or assorted cookies, customers this put in orders to their favorite restaurants or online shops for parcels to send to their friends and families.
Ana, a 25-year-old housewife from Bekasi, ordered parcels of "pempek," traditional fried dumplings from South Sumatra, from an acquaintance to send to relatives for Idul Fitri.
"I usually bake [cookies] for Idul Fitri, but I had no time this year so I sent pempek hampers. Besides, frozen foods seem to be a good choice to gift to people when they spend most of their time at home," Ana told Jakarta Globe.
"The store owner is a relative of a good friend of mine so I could be sure the food was hygienic as well," Ana said.
Ana was among thousands of Indonesia who sent non-traditional hampers for Idul Fitri this year, not only to show they still think of their families and friends during the pandemic but also to help their new small businesses, many of which were started when they lost their jobs from the coronavirus crisis.
The hamper trend also offered a critical lifeline to struggling SMEs.
Proza Yulisman, who runs the Katalogue bakery and coffee shop with his wife and more than a dozen staff, had to turn to online sales to save his business after the large-scale social restriction decimated sales from walk-in customers.
Sales from his chain of shops fell 80 percent and Proza was forced to close three branches and put staff members on rotation in the remaining two shops.
They now make bottled lattes to sell on Tokopedia. Close to Idul Fitri, Proza started offering hampers combining the bottled coffee with cookies from the bakery.
The online turn proved a success. "Sales have almost returned to normal. Around 20 percent of our sales come from customers making bulk orders to send to friends or relatives," Proza said.
Crazy for Hampers
Depok-based handmade soap maker Skindazzle also had a similar experience. "From March to April, our monthly turnover dropped almost 70 percent," owner Ayu Ratna told Jakarta Globe.
"People would think twice before shopping skincare because they didn't see it as essential. But then we tried to get creative after seeing similar businesses to ours offering parcels of beauty products. Now in May, 75 percent of our sales came from hampers," Ayu said.
Even though at the moment she intends to focus on restocking – thanks to the craze for hampers – Ayu said she plans to continue selling hampers for as long as she could.
"We plan to continue [selling hampers], we won't stop after Lebaran. We've had orders for birthday gifts, and we're planning to create a special edition for Christmas. We will also take orders for custom-made goody bags for birthday parties and baby showers," Ayu said.
Show of Love
Ice cream parlor Amame Ice Cream Therapy in Bintaro, South Jakarta, has been even more aggressive with their hamper promo.
Co-owner Alanda Kariza and her team designed a "Self Care Package" and later hamper for Ramadan and Idul Fitri for people stuck at home during the pandemic.
The idea was to encourage customers to send ice cream hampers to themselves and friends as a show of love.
"Who doesn't love ice cream on a bad day?" she said.
The products were successful enough that Alanda has had to rehire four employees she furloughed a few weeks ago.
"Sales of these hampers make up almost a quarter of our entire sales in 2019," Alanda said.
Water Hyacinth Baskets
The gain from the hamper craze spilled over to basket makers as well. It became an Idul Fitri boon for more than 20 artisans and tailors at Bengok Craft in Semarang, Central Java, who make souvenirs from water hyacinth in the area.
Bengok Craft spokesman Asta said sales had plummeted to zero in April, and the shop had to turn to sewing masks to make ends meet.
In May, Bengok Craft was offered a chance to sell hampers with other SMEs under a training program run Bank Indonesia's Central Java office.
Bengok Craft made the baskets for the hampers, while the other SMEs make local traditional snacks to fill them in.
"In November, Bank Indonesia invited us for an exhibition. They also curated other SMEs to make the hampers with us. We were told to do the packaging because according to them our baskets were unique," Asta said.
She said they sold 100 hampers in ten days. The profit was enough to pay the artisans and tailors.
After Lebaran, Asta said seasonal hampers might not be as popular. But, apparently impressed by their unique baskets, more customers are starting to order their water hyacinth handicraft again.
Thank You, Come Again
Ana said she sees herself buying more parcels and hampers from shops or restaurants in the future to celebrate special occasions with faraway friends and relatives.
Knowing first-hand about the quality of the products in the hampers is the most important consideration for Ana, one that would actually make her press the Buy Now button, according to her.