The Malta Independent 14 December 2018, Friday

The Sicilian invasion

Thursday, 12 July 2018, 10:17 Last update: about 5 months ago

We have been talking for quite some time now about being invaded by boat people. But now we have an invasion in reverse.

Those who visited the Trade Fair at MFCC in Ta' Qali last week, and presumably those who visit Il-Fiera l-Kbira at Montekristo Estates in the coming days will once again experience an invasion by Sicilians, all wanting to sell.

This is not the trade fair as we know it. In the old days when it used to be held in Naxxar, and when there was only one trade fair, it used to contain mainly white goods in stands set up by reputed Maltese importers. That was before everything changed.

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Nowadays the visitor rarely finds white goods and/or cars as the importers have their own sales strategy and they no longer reserve a special sales pitch for the trade fair days. Or else they say they have trade fair discounts but do not go to the trade fair.

Impressions may be wrong, but an impression one got was that most of the Maltese importers were selling photovoltaic panels which seem to be the main craze nowadays even though electricity rates have gone down.

Then there were the Sicilians, plus a smattering of Italians. It would seem they began coming these past years ever since the old trade fair at Naxxar closed down and the one at MFCC opened.

There is now a really strong contingent. Some even drove down in a caravan and stayed for the duration parked at Ta' Qali. Some offer Sicilian delicacies and some, with microphones attached as otherwise they would get hoarse, offer a round-the-clock sales spiel mainly selling gadgets that make housekeeping easier.

Others offer furniture including transport and assembly at really cheap prices, offering a stiff competition to Maltese importers or furniture makers.

It would seem these Sicilian sellers have found it profitable to come to Malta. Not even the language difficulties seem to bother them. As usual, one finds some Maltese joining up in joint ventures with them or helping them in their sales appointments but rarely does one find a Maltese that takes over, for instance, part or all of the manufacturing segment.

That may be a bonus for the Italians, as far as one could see, have advanced technological features that maybe can be found in advanced imported furniture, sold at a higher price, at high quality outlets.

On the other hand, one today can just go over to see the many shopping complexes in Sicily and today many sellers offer to come and install the furniture themselves.

We call this globalization. In today's world the frontiers have disappeared, unless Trump reinstates them. Sicilians and/or Italians can come over and make a profit. But we too can go over. Only, it does not seem like happening. That is something to think about. Nor do we seem to be getting the transfer of technology in most of the sectors on exhibition.

Malta has become a consumer paradise but this process cannot go on for ever without we improving our industry, our trading abilities and our flair for design. And, when we copy, we must be careful that we present an improved and upgraded product rather than a watered-down version. 
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