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EXCLUSIVE: Lark & Berry and Astley Clarke have their say on the much-anticipated retail reopening

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In the past weeks Professional Jeweller has heard from a selection of retailers about their plans for reopening stores on or after the 12 April date in England and Wales (or 26 April in Scotland).

Now, on the anniversary of Britain’s first day in lockdown last year, we ask the best suppliers for their plans, what they are offering to retailers ahead of the date, and whether they have any advice for the big reopening.

In this edition Lark & Berry’s Laura Chavez and Scott Thomson of Astley Clarke discuss the much-anticipated date.

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Lark & Berry founder, Laura Chavez

PJ: Any forecasts for how the industry will fare in the weeks immediately following the reopening of non-essential retail?

Laura Chavez, founder, Lark & Berry: I believe it will be a slow but steady growth in terms of people going to shops and feeling as comfortable as in pre-pandemic times. As vaccination rates get closer to 50%, I think people will want to get out of their homes more.

Non-essential retail is something that will most likely recover much quicker than restaurants or bars as the typical social distancing you’d see in a retail space tends to be much higher.

In the luxury sphere this is doubly true as the number of people you get in a shop, even in pre-pandemic times, isn’t as great as your typical high street shopping.

I think we’ll see non-essential retail such as jewellers reach their pre-lockdown foot traffic much quicker than other spaces.

That will be even truer should there be a focus on pre-arranging one-on-one appointments with customers.

Scott Thomson, CEO, Astley Clarke: At Astley Clarke we are very confident of a strong opening month following lockdown. Stores have always been the main channel for our gold and diamond collections and we have delayed the launch of our new Comet collection so that our retail partners can benefit the most from any press coverage.

How best can retailers prepare for the upcoming reopening?

LC: Starting now, retailers can focus on having direct communication with their customers. I think it’s great just letting them know “we are thinking about you,” and that as soon as we can offer our in-store experiences, we will let you know.

Personalised experiences, in particular, are what people will seek as soon as places start to re-open. It’s easy to shop for lower-priced goods and other assorted basics online, but retailers who offer something intimate will fare better.

In our case, we really focus on our customers knowing we have unique piercing experiences and offer bespoke services for other jewellery items, such as engagement rings.

In regards of the piercing experiences, from the time you walk in and choose your jewellery from our award-winning collections to the piercing itself and the expert style advice you’ll get with it – it’s all an incomparable experience in luxury retail.

Lark & Berry’s bespoke engagement ring experience is a real stand-out as well, in which you can collaborate with our lead designer on any engagement ring you can dream up whilst sampling settings and all sorts of diamonds and stones in person. These are things that are very hard to fully grasp/experience online, so we can’t wait to welcome people back.

ST: For most of our locations, we called back stock and have inspected all the fine pieces and cleaned and repolished if required so we will be ready for when the curtain goes up.

Our own retail staff have been furloughed since December so we have devised an online training refresher that all the staff can do on their phones.

Will you be offering retailers any special packages or other support for the date?

LC: We are currently direct-to-consumer only, but we do have plans in place to begin working with retailers soon and will always offer all the support we can to them.

For now, we just can’t wait to see people come back into our store for an engagement ring consultation, a piercing or just to shop!

ST: We will be offering extended payment terms to our customers, as we know it will take some time to get on their feet and I imagine cash flows will be extremely tight.

Tags : Astley ClarkeLark & Berry
Sam Lewis

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