England’s retailers have finally been given a provisional date for the reopening of bricks-and-mortar stores.
If the Government is happy with the Covid data over the coming weeks then retailers will be permitted to reopen their doors to the public on 12 April.
Much as after the UK’s first national lockdown last spring, and after the second English lockdown in November, the return to physical shopping is likely to be a reluctant one on the part of shoppers.
Not to mention, health and safety restrictions will still be in full force in stores.
With this is mind, and with little more than a month to go, what are jewellery retailers planning for the big reopening?
Professional Jeweller has spoken to some of the UK’s jewellers to find out.
PJ: What plans have you put in place for when non-essential retail is permitted to reopen?
Adam Jacobs, partner at Jacobs the Jewellers, Reading and Berkshire: The updated tried and tested version of the same plan as the last 2 re-opens! The big difference for us is that we have just completed a full shop refurbishment, inside and out, so our re-opening will coincide with first views of this.
Judith Hart, company director at Judith Hart Jewellers, Derby: Hopefully we will now have the opportunity to re-open on 12th April and I am in conversation with my management team to plan a return two weeks prior to that date with some staff members to prepare the store.
We are planning, as I am sure are many other retailers, to have re-opening offers and promotions to encourage members of the public to return to shops feeling safe and comfortable with incentives to drive business over the summer period and ultimately the all-important Christmas trade.
Obviously the first weeks of trading will still be subject to social distancing guidelines and although many people want the lockdown period to be over I suspect that they will still be cautious and wanting reassurance that shops are doing all they can to ensure their safety.
Do you have any concerns about the reopening stage?
AJ: The only minor concern is that re-opening comes too soon. It’s draining on all concerned to be opening and closing in a repetitive cycle. At this point, I think the plan – all things being equal – should Re-opening is permanent with no return to complicated tier structures.
JH: Concerns around the re-opening are to the hope that people will return to the high streets and shopping centres and that they can be made attractive and enticing when so many big names have been closed and lost over the last year.
Online shopping has seen such an increase, which given the pandemic was always going to happen, as by closing non-essential shops there was no other way for people to buy what they wanted.
Let us hope the Government and local councils will realise the genuine jeopardy that is facing bricks and mortar stores and do something to level the playing field.
Competition is a good thing and lifts the levels of choice and service but if people want to enjoy the shops in the future something clearly is going to have to be done to equalise the costs endured by the shops.
There was a great meme going around social media during lockdown basically saying “close all the online stores for a year and give the shops a turn”.
What can brands do to support retailers at this time?
AJ: Be able to deliver stock quickly to support demand.
JH: Support from brands could be essential to retailers as we sit on last seasons stock which we have been unable to sell.
It is great to bring out a new range but I would say keep it smaller and integrate with last year to enable margin to be maintained and stock to have the opportunity to sell through.
“Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity,” is so true, and more so than ever before, if we are to survive and thrive going forward.
As an alternative the brands could offer a buyback or even assistance with social media and marketing expertise.
Many small businesses struggle in this area and help with images, etc., not only help the retailer but add consistency to the brands overall strategy.
How do you see business faring in the first few weeks back?
AJ: Busy! After each of the past two lockdowns pent up demand was high.
JH: The first few weeks I think will be busy as many people have orders and repairs waiting collection.
In addition I think bridal will have an important role to play as so many weddings have been put on hold or set back.
In theory we should have two years weddings rolled into one year with many engagement rings also in the mix as prospective couples will have delayed purchasing to enjoy choosing a ring together.
I am positive that provided the virus is kept within acceptable tolerances we can have a good return to work and start to return to better levels of trade immediately. Think positive and the future will be positive.