Lincoln is a historic city in the East Midlands, with lots to offer tourists visiting anytime of the year. Major landmarks include the Lincoln Cathedral, a renowned example of English Gothic architecture, and Lincoln Castle.
The city is also home to two universities, attracting students from all around the country to ascend on Lincoln and enjoy its wealth of independent boutiques, restaurants and arts and culture as they study for their degrees.
The main shopping centre is easily walkable, with most shops residing on the main high street, which links to the Cornhill Quarter and the popular Waterside shopping centre.
Walking along the pedestrian high street you can forgive yourself for forgetting you are in a historical city as it offers all the multiples and department store one would expect to find in a modern town. However, when you take your eyes off the diverse selection of shops and take in the surroundings, the cathedral can be seen even from far away. Then, the nearer you get to the cathedral, the older the city feels.
The high street has a lot going for it, from independent stores and coffee shops, to market stalls and a scenic river running through. There is plenty to do and navigation is notably better than any other city Professional Jeweller has visited this year. Easy to read signs run all along the high street directing tourists to all the main attractions.
In terms of visitors, tourism organisation ‘Visit Lincoln’ hailed 2015 as a bumper year for tourism, not least due to celebrations for the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Research showed the visitor economy grow to £190 million last year, a rise of nearly 8% in 2014.
To boot, visitor numbers increased by nearly 9%, to 4.1 million throughout 2015, compared to 3.8 million in 2014, and employment also improved by over 3%.
The city certainly hasn’t reached its peak either as Lincoln is currently in the midst of a redevelopment plan dubbed ‘Linking Lincoln’. The City Council has partnered with Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire Enterprise, to engage in a joint project to develop a master plan for the future development of the city. The master plan includes redeveloping Lincoln’s current shopping areas and introducing a new shopping centre called Lindongate.
Over many centuries the city centre has changed to answer the needs of the local economy and some of the changes have proved detrimental to the current and future needs for the development of the city. Therefore, the team behind Linking Lincoln has looked at the issues which have caused problems and is now working towards overcoming these and boosting business in the area.
In terms of the current jewellery offering in Lincoln, the city is home to a selection of multiples and independents. Multiples include Goldsmiths, which is the only jeweller inside the Waterside shopping centre and H Samuel and Ernest Jones. The Signet-owned jewellery retailers are a stone’s throw from each other on the high street.
Unlike some other cities Professional Jeweller has visited, Lincoln only has a handful of independent jewellers. In addition, each store has its own niche and something unique to offer the city’s shoppers.
Being home to two universities, jewellery retailer’s in the city have a large millennial customer base, who not only shop regularly in the city, but also invite their parents to join them on trips to the high street when they are visiting.
In addition, people will also travel to Lincoln from around the Lincolnshire area, as the city has made a name for itself as a ‘hot’ shopping spot.
John Greed, the founder of John Greed Jewellery, moved to Lincoln 25 years ago and saw it as a “city of opportunities”. He explains: “I come from West London, and at the time Lincoln was incredibly cheap. My wife and I own our corner store [located on the cusp of the high street and Cornhill Street] and to actually own a building of that size, in that location, in the city centre, is exceptional. We wouldn’t be able to do that in London, so to be able to do that I feel very fortunate.”
John Greed monopolises the branded jewellery market in Lincoln. Not only does it stock popular brands such as Swarovski, Links of London and Thomas Sabo, it is also the only retailer to sell Pandora and this month it will be opening a Pandora concept store on the high street, after moving John Greed Jewellery to Cornhill Street and dedicating the corner store space to the Danish jewellery giant.
“For what we sell Lincoln is a very good area,” explains Greed. “We don’t have a lot of very highly paid professionals in Lincoln, but there is a lot of people with enough money to buy jewellery from £30 to £100, which is what we specialise in.”
Daniella Draper only opened its two-story Lincoln store just over a year ago and is enjoying using the space as the brand’s flagship.
Founded by jewellery designer Daniella Draper, the modern boutique only sells the brand’s jewellery collections and bespoke pieces.
“We have a wide variety of different customers but they tend to be probably more kind of 40-50’s couples that are treating each other
“We have a wide variety of different customers but they tend to be probably more kind of 40-50’s couples that are treating each other,” shares Daniella Draper. “About 30% of our customers are tourists, and then the rest are local. We also get a lot of our loyal customers from Cleethorpes make the effort to come and visit Lincoln because we offer a different collection there.”
Daniella Draper chose to open a store in Lincoln as it is the closet and biggest city to her home. She also feels like the city is up and coming and the next place she needed to be.
“I know they have invested a lot of money into the university and all the roads and connections into Lincoln, so hopefully it is only going to get bigger and better,” Draper remarks.
For family-owned business Colonia, which is located in the historical area of Bailgate (just past the high street), the owners experience a good mixture of tourist and local custom.
The Bailgate has one of the largest concentration of independent shops in the country, and many people will continue on from the high street, walk up Steep Hill (which really lives up to its name) and past the cathedral to visit Bailgate’s fine selection of independent tea rooms and boutiques.
“We get a large visitor and tourist trade but we also have our local and ‘regular’ customers,” shares Colonia managing director Helen Stobie. Colonia stocks a mixture of gold, silver and branded jewellery.
While all the jewellers are proud to have lots of loyal customers, and do not have to heavily rely on tourism — tourists certainly make the city a great place for an independent jewellery retailer to be.
And with Christmas just around the corner, Lincoln is about to welcome thousands of tourists, especially during the first week of December when the city hosts its infamous Christmas market at the cathedral.
“The tourism that Lincoln benefits from now is amazing,” says Scott Ward, manager of independent, long-standing Lincoln jeweller James Usher & Son. “We’ve got the castle, we’ve got the cathedral, we’ve got the heritage with Lincoln, so we’ve got lots of reasons for people to want to come.
“At Christmas there is a lovely Christmas tree in the city centre and reindeers in a parade with Father Christmas. They also put an ice rink up and try hard to create a nice family feel.”
James Usher has been established in Lincoln for a long time and stocks traditional jewellery pieces such as engagement rings, wedding bands and upper market brands.
During the Christmas trading season James Usher doesn’t run any initiatives, but focuses on what it does best — providing excellent customer service. With numerous seating areas inside the store, staff can treat customers to a personal and comfortable service, with the store being known to pop open a bottle of champagne for celebrations every now and then.
At Colonia Jewellers, managing director Stobie starts preparing the store for an influx of tourist over Christmas well in advance.
Upon visiting, the store had just completed an extensive refurbishment focusing on lighting and contemporary fixtures in a hope to attract some new customers during the festive season.
Elsewhere Daniella Draper spends a lot of time and money on its store Christmas decorations. Draper invites a local florist to do all the store’s wreaths and window displays, and she makes homemade mince pies to lure people in to enjoy a special Christmas experience.
“We also do a shopping evening where it is invite only and we offer champagne, to make it a nice exclusive event,” Draper continues. “We also open longer hours so we can cater for those people who finish work at 5pm and can’t get to the shop.”
Daniella Draper is not the only store to open longer hours either, James Usher also opens three extra Sundays to maximise on Christmas sales.
“At Christmas we don’t need to do anymore initiatives to get people in. We will be doing the opposite, we will be keeping people out.
At John Greed Jewellery though, Greed’s biggest concern is keeping people out. Greed shares: “At Christmas we don’t need to do anymore initiatives to get people in. We will be doing the opposite, we will be keeping people out. We will have a queue outside, with people managing the queue. We will have a barrier system and we will have one in, one out.” This Christmas will be John Greed’s first one in the new space. On the day Professional Jeweller met with Greed, the founder and his business development manager were working at how they could get two more tills in and manage the queues most efficiently.
“This will be our first Christmas in this space and we are really worried. So that’s why we are wondering where we can add two more tills,” shares Greed.
He adds: “Nothing unusual happens over Christmas, it’s just the same, which is lots of men shopping, lots of people buying, but it is not impulse purchasing, they’ve got the list.”
When it’s not the most busy shopping season of the year though, what challenges do jewellery retailers and independent businesses in Lincoln face?
While the future looks bright for Lincoln with strong development plans currently in motion, retail jewellers and other businesses in the city have been facing infrastructure problems.
“Customers have issues with parking and getting in and out of the city, they are the biggest problems,” explains Ward. “I think the Business Improvement Group have tried very hard to put Lincoln on the map, but have forgotten about how to get here.”
Ward says the Group are now looking at the infrastructure within the city, and despite this causing initial disruptions, he is hopeful the final results will see Lincoln grow and thrive.
Greed’s main challenge when it comes to owning a retail store in Lincoln is not a problem which comes with the city growing, but rather the obstacle he faces as his business grows.
He explains: “The biggest challenge is, we have a population of 80,000 people which is good enough for retail, but once you build an organisation of a certain size, to get managerial staff in a certain calibre can be quite challenging because you are trying to get them to come from London, or Manchester or Birmingham, or big cities like that. So that’s the main problem, to get the good staff in at the top of an organisation is difficult.”
Delving further into John Greed Jewellery’s growth, Greed reveals he is currently looking for another unit in the Cornhill Quarter in order to create “retail gravity” in the area his store’s reside. “Retail is still very much alive, you’ve just got to work with it,” Greed positively concludes.
With the City Council focused on boosting business, and a solid plan in place to do so, it is clear that the retail scene in Lincoln might be quite different in a few years time.
However, even without any changes being made to the city, Lincoln appears to be a fantastic city to have a jewellery retail business in. Each store Professional Jeweller editor Stacey Hailes visited had very little complaints, and an abundance of praises.
The diversity of jewellery stores reflects how shoppers in Lincoln appreciate having a variety of options to choose from and each jeweller has a unique offering to present visitors to the city throughout Christmas and beyond.