Petra Jewellery in Basingstoke is a family-run jeweller with an unusual offering and business model that owner Mitch Lloyd feels has only improved during the pandemic.
She tells PJ how taking control of the company’s own digital marketing is paying dividends, and discusses the benefits of a mother-daughter working relationship in the industry.
Almost every retailer, irrespective of industry, has had to make serious adaptations to its business model in the last 12 months.
On top of the implementation of Covid safety measures, most businesses have been forced to drastically increase their reliance on online sales, even during those times when lockdown measures have eased enough to allow non-essential shops to open.
One family-run independent jeweller in Basingstoke, however, believes so strongly in the effectiveness of its new by-appointment-only business model that it is considering keeping it in place long-term – even post-pandemic.
Petra Jewellery owner Mitch Lloyd, daughter of the eponymous founder, describes the business as “a forward-thinking independent jeweller, specialising in repairs and commissions”.
She says: “We have an on-site workshop and an in-house team of seven staff, plus some wonderful outsource suppliers for specialist work too.”
Traditional retail actually makes up only part of Petra’s overall business model. “I much prefer the creative and advisory side to being a jeweller,” Lloyd reveals.
With such a varied offering, the business performed better than could have been expected amid a pandemic. “2020 turned out to be a pivotal year for us,” Lloyd says. “We actually had our best December ever.
“We learnt that we can offer an exceptional customer experience and still reduce costs. Covid has forced us to look at many things differently and I’m grateful for that.”
A strong financial performance in any year would force a business owner to ask what they have been doing right, and in 2020 doubly so.
With this in mind, it still comes as a surprise when Professional Jeweller asks Lloyd about the retailer’s reopening plans post-lockdown and she reveals: “I’m not sure we’re going to reopen as such,” with the explanation: “Being by-appointment-only has radically improved our business model.”
She adds that, in regards to its repair and bespoke design services at least, a return to face-to-face appointments will be more than welcome.
In addition, Petra Jewellery customers will still be able to book virtual video call appointments if they prefer. “We have proven you can work around all challenges remotely, and Zoom has been brilliant.”
The power of digital marketing
While Petra Jewellery was utilising social media to reach its customer base before 2020, it doubled its digital output when lockdown kicked in last March and face-to-face conversations and sales were no longer a possibility.
The first such effort resulted in an educational video series for children that Lloyd posted on YouTube.
The ‘After-school Jewellery Design Club’ saw Lloyd and her 12-year-old daughter Heidi step in front of the camera during the UK’s first lockdown to offer other children the chance to learn the valuable skill of jewellery making.
Despite the closure of non-essential retail proving an understandably demoralising experience, Lloyd says: “I wasn’t going to sit in a metaphorical ditch and wait for business to come to me.
“Going back to basics and focusing on offering value, I knew how hard it was home schooling and entertaining children, so I decided to do some video design tutorials along with a competition.”
Running a business is one big experiment; you have to keep trying new things.”
Some independent jewellers might wonder how effective a couple of YouTube videos or a few Twitter posts can be. Lloyd believes the answer to be ‘very’.
On the cost-effectiveness of her self-marketing, she gives an example: “Two weeks ago I posted a one-take video promoting a new idea. Even with my limited editing skills, we had 16 genuine leads with an almost 100% conversion rate, mainly for remodelling and restoration work. The video cost me nothing more than my time, so that’s a pretty good return on investment.”
By way of advice to small business owners who perhaps do not know where to begin with digital marketing and social media, she adds: “Just start and it will develop. You need feedback from your audience, so listen to them. We now have a loose formula we follow, and my team help provide ideas for stories and posts.
“We review it weekly. Also, don’t over think it: you know what your customers value and what your team enjoys, so do more of what you’re good at.”
Aptly, given this is Professional Jeweller’s International Women’s Day special, Mitch Lloyd is a woman business owner with a mostly-female team of employees.
This should perhaps be of little surprise, though, given that the business was in fact founded by her mother, who also gave it her name.
Mitch Lloyd was four when Petra Jewellery was founded in 1979, and grew up watching her mother take the business from strength to strength.
She says: “My German mother has exceptionally high standards, but also gave me free rein with introducing business ideas. Running a business is one big experiment; you have to keep trying new things.”
Discussing whether being such a tightknit family unit has been a help, especially this past year, Lloyd is quick to answer in the affirmative. “Definitely,” she explains. “The role of business can be really lonely, even with a fabulous team.”
As for whether 12-year-old Heidi will take up the mantle and go into the family business, Lloyd is leaving that entirely in her daughter’s hands. “Heidi is a bit like me – a creative geek,” she says. “I think it’s important I set zero expectations, but the business can certainly support any underlying passions she wants to develop.”
Moving forward, Petra Jewellery is looking to explore more avenues as a business, not wanting to pigeonhole itself as a bog-standard local jeweller.
It plans to introduce customer experiences like new gemstone viewing sessions – “with Champagne and canapes”, says Lloyd – as well as mentoring sessions with the on-site master goldsmith.
“I’m an ambassador for Basingstoke College of Technology, so their students can get hands-on with various stages of the design and manufacture journey,” explains Lloyd.
“I know how hard it is to find skilled goldsmiths, so these are ways of inspiring people to consider coming into the trade. This does all have a commercial benefit too,” she adds. “The more people we speak to, the more relationships we develop and the serendipitous byproduct tends to be more business – way more fulfilling than paid Google Ads and click funnels!”