Replacing mature shop floor staff poses conundrum for jewellers

Jewellery retailers are struggling to replace older members of staff, with more millennials applying for jobs than those with life experience.

During a roundtable with leading independent jewellers from around the UK, jewellers revealed that while they absolutely want the younger generation working in their stores as they really value their millennial employees, when mature and more experienced members leave, it’s hard to replace them like for like.

Dipples Jewellers managing director, Chris Ellis, explains: “If we have a more mature member of staff leave, I don’t want a 16 or 17-year-old taking their place because they are completely different. They are at different points in their careers, different points in their lives, they have different priorities, and customers don’t always want to be served by someone who knows nothing about what they are doing, and a more mature customer probably wants to be served by someone in their 50s or 60s.

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“We’ve had lots of people work way past retirement and go down to two or three days because they love the job, and they have so much knowledge and so much rapport with customers, which I think comes with age. And it would be nice to be able put out an advert that says, ‘We want a mature member of staff’, but we can’t. We are not trying to be discriminating, we are trying to give someone more mature an opportunity, and you very rarely get that person apply because they assume, because it’s a shop role, you are going to want to get someone young and pay them minimum wage.”

Judith Hart, of Judith Hart Jewellers, revealed that they recently hired a mature members of staff who told them at the interview stage that they were surprised to have been contacted because they thought the jeweller would be looking for someone younger.

Hart shares: “Recently we interviewed someone who applied in the end but when she came to the interview, she was an older lady, she said, ‘Oh I am so surprised I am here for an interview’, and we said, ‘Oh, but you applied’, and she said, ‘Well I very nearly didn’t because I was convinced you would want someone younger’. And tactfully you’ve got to say well actually you are here because you are not younger and she got the job and she is marvellous because she communicates.”

The independent jewellers revealed that quite often older customers want to be served by someone of a similar age, so they need to be able to cater for that.

Furthermore, older members of staff bring a variety of valuable skills to the team, such as communication and building long-term consumer relationships, that it’s important to have a balance of age and experience.

Ellis concludes: “You don’t get life skills without life. If you have lived for 50 years, you’ve got 50 years’ worth of life experience. You can’t expect someone in their twenties to have that same level of skill.”

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