England’s retailers finally have 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, one month from today.
Much as after the UK’s first national lockdown last spring, and after the second English lockdown in November, the return to physical shopping could 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 top jewellers to find out.
PJ: What plans have you put in place for when non-essential retail is permitted to open?
Anna Blackburn, managing director, Beaverbrooks: From the day we made the decision to close our 72 stores early ahead of the government’s first lockdown announcement in March 2020, we immediately started work on comprehensive plans for reopening which would ensure customers would be able to shop safely in store and still receive the high level of personal service they expect from us.
We will be reintroducing the same Covid safety measures when we reopen in April, including daily temperature checks for team members, hand sanitizer stations throughout every store, protective Perspex screens at consultation points and reduced store capacity.
Customers will be able to book one-to-one appointments with our store colleagues, and we will also be continuing to offer click-and-collect and mail order delivery services at selected stores.
Kyron Keogh, managing director, Rox Diamonds & Thrills: We are ready and waiting to open our stores again. We’ve continued to trade online during lockdown 3.0 with encouraging sales across all of our categories.
We will be approaching the re-opening of our stores in the same way as last year. We will focus on operating as safely and efficiently as possible whilst safely maintaining our trademark “diamonds and thrills” customer experience that we are synonymous with.
We will continue to operate our popular in-store appointment service alongside walk-in visits.
Do you have any concerns about the reopening stage?
AB: Preparation has been absolutely key for ensuring both colleague and customer safety, and the extensive measures we implemented last year have now become intrinsic to the operation of our business, meaning we are more than ready to reopen our 72 stores as soon as guidance permits.
We’re confident that ensuring consistency in these measures will provide customers the reassurance to return to shopping in store safely, while still enjoying the same level of quality service that is key to our offering.
From the day we made the decision to close … in March 2020, we immediately started work on comprehensive plans for reopening.”
KK: We are looking ahead with hope and anticipation. We expect consumers to be ready to shop again and we expect trade to bounce back quickly. Of course, we’re also realistic that there is still uncertainty that may change and affect consumer behaviour for a long time.
Like so many other luxury retailers, we have had to adapt to a very different trading environment and become more digitally focused than ever never before. This pandemic has shown us new ways to connect with our clients. We will continue to invest in our digital channels as well as our bricks and mortar stores moving forward.
What can brands do to support retailers at this time?
AB: We have great relationships with all of our brand partners and have strategy meetings at the start of every new year which help us to collaborate and plan together. It’s more important than ever for brands and retailers to align on strategic planning to be successful in an ever-changing retail landscape.
KK: We’ve been working closely with all of our brand partners for the past 12 months and navigated these uncharted waters together.
Like everyone else the power of technology allowed us to continue to communicate and collaborate.
We’ve just launched a new IGTV series Rox Talks and our first ever podcast series to allow us to connect with brand partners and tell their stories better to our audiences. We have some exciting interviews lined up over the coming months so watch this space!
How do you see the business faring in the first few weeks back?
AB: It’s hard to predict what’s round the corner, and there will inevitably be changes to the retail landscape, particularly the way customers shop.
Although our e-commerce business has performed well throughout the pandemic, the response we saw when stores reopened back in June last year demonstrated there was absolutely a demand for a physical shopping experience, and we’re confident that this will be the case in April too.
It has been a challenging time for all of us, but we are feeling cautiously optimistic about the future and can’t wait to open our doors to customers once again.
KK: We are anticipating the first few weeks to be extremely busy and we’re already experiencing a surge in appointment bookings at our stores in England and Scotland.
We are staying focused and cautiously optimistic that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we look forward to the second half of 2021.
We hope that a successful vaccine rollout will boost consumer confidence and kick-start the recovery of UK luxury retail.