REVEALED: Why staff reluctance, generational struggles and customer engagement issues are keeping jewellers on their toes

There is no denying the high street is a challenging place to be doing business at the moment, but side from slow footfall and a drop in consumer confidence since the UK voted to leave the European Union, what other trials are independent jewellers facing?

Talking at a recent roundtable held by Professional Jeweller, independent jewellers didn’t even mention the ‘B’ word (Brexit), when asked about the biggest challenges they are facing at the moment.

This is likely to be because Brexit is out of their control, but there are other problems they are experiencing that can be solved.

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“Ageing staff is a big problem for me,” shared John Henn, company director of T.A. Henn. “Ageing staff who are struggling with the changes in the industry regarding any sort of technology, and they all seem to be struggling to understand that it is a service to our customers that we establish what they are interested in and offer to supply them with information regarding their interests.”

With the law surrounding data about to change because of GDPR, it’s more important than ever for staff to openly talk to consumers about capturing contact information, and how the store will be using that data on file.

“We’ve had some staff who have felt very uncomfortable asking for email addresses and the way that we have trained our staff is to say, ‘What gives you the right to take away their choice?’ Because by sending them an email saying, ‘We have a Ti Sento pre-launch preview event coming up, you’ve bought Ti Sento in the past, would you like to come and view the collection before it is available to the general market and pre order items from the SS18 collection?’, who are we to look at a person and think they email will not want to leave their address and therefore not want to see the new collection,” added Jeremy France Jewellers director, Harriet France.

France also revealed the company struggles with engaging and retaining millennials whilst keeping older staff happy at the same time – a sentiment shared by all around the table.

“What the older generation want and what the younger millennials want seems to be something very different,” explained France. “It’s quite difficult to treat two very different age ranges in very different ways but not ruffle the feathers of one side or the other.”

She continued: “How do you train all your staff in one day? How do you engage with all of them and keep it interesting? It used to be that you would have a training day and you would pass round the box of donuts to keep everyone happy, but for one of our girls we did a training day and it was her fasting day because she has one or two days a week where she only eats 300 calories. How do I train and keep this person interested in a day’s training when she is not keeping her sugar levels up?”

“It’s really tough with millennials,” added Judith Hart, director of the namesake retailer. “They learn differently as well. I’ve got age ranges from a 16-year-old Saturday girl right the way up to a lady who has been with me 30 odd years, but I think if you are a small business it is possible, you just have to perhaps split the training a little bit.”

Away from the challenges of keeping staff of different ages engaged, independent jewellers are having to deliver a service that appeals to a variety of ages as well.

While it’s important to evolve and become relevant for the millennial generation, jewellers cannot avoid the ever-loyal older consumer.

“The physiology behind the different ages is so different,” shared Dipples managing director, Chris Ellis. “I see that in my son and he is only ten. How do we target the younger generation through marketing because the way that they look at marketing stuff is completely different to how I would. It is trying to work out how to target them because at the end of the day, in the next 20 years, they are going to be the ones with the money who are going to come in and buy engagement rings and they need to know about us rather than go onto the internet.”

Ellis touches on the next biggest challenges for independent – the internet.

Online shopping is problem jewellers have been fighting to overcome for a few years now, with many improving the omnichannel experience to capture shoppers wherever they are.

While independents feel jeweller still remains a purchase consumers ultimately want to buy in store, especially up to a certain price point where pieces are best invested in ones they have been tried on and seen with the naked eye, the worry is what will happen when other stores start leaving the high street?

Ellis explained: “People want to see a diamond. You can’t see what it looks like and a lot of people can’t trust what they are buying online at that kind of level. But the issue is more what happens when there is a tipping point in the high street and most other retailers don’t need to have shops because they are doing so much more on the internet. If there aren’t shops on the high street people aren’t going to come into Norwich to come to my shop if there is nothing else in the city. So I think where we might be safe, we are also not safe because of what is happening in other retail sectors.”

This news story has been taken from a roundtable debate. Read the full discussion in the April issue of Professional Jeweller.

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