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EDITORIAL VIEW: Retail doors once closed are not so easily opened

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Retail doors once closed are not so easily opened.

This is a challenge being faced by retailers up and down the country, not just because of the long shadow of the covid quarter, but because sales through traditional brick and mortar stores have been falling for years.

In some ways, Coronavirus has done the industry a favour by forcing businesses to look at alternative ways to serve customers when their stores have been shuttered for months.

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Beaverbrooks and The Watches of Switzerland Group — home to Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths — have both reported massive surges for their ecommerce operations.

At the higher end of the market where independents like Pragnell, Berry’s DM London and Laings operate, ‘clienteling’ is the new buzzword (so new, my spell checker does not recognise it).

Clienteling means mining an existing database of clients, and reaching out directly to them with irresistible offers for the rarest diamonds, the most exquisite jewellery or the hottest luxury watch. Meetings and sales take place in people’s homes.

It is a practice that has been going on for decades — centuries even — but lock down gave it rocket boosters and pushed far more retailers to look at how they could make it work.

There are security concerns driving five- six- or seven-figure gems to a client’s house, but that is the only serious wrinkle in a strategy that delights customers and breaks the lock between highly effective sales consultants and their physical presence in a store.

Ben Bridge, a 100-door multiple on the west coast of the United States, had so much success with the concept during lock down that it is piloting a new breed of consultants that have no home store at all.

Real estate is expensive. Rents, rates and the constant need for refurbishments made them albatrosses around the necks of jewellers this year.

Being a jeweller has always been a people industry. The future will see far more of these people out in the community not tied to an unprofitable high street store.

EDITORIAL VIEW: Investing in a ‘digital-first’ strategy will prove key to survival

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder

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