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INTERVIEW: Watches of Switzerland Group UK exec director on strategy, communication and leading from the front

Craig Bolton Pic

The Watches of Switzerland Group has been very active during the lockdown, with a quick look on LinkedIn revealing staff feel extremely supported and connected.

From finding creative ways to communicate with staff – and ensuring they stay engaged with the business whilst at home – from investing time in ensuring the company is ‘most prepared’ for the moment the government lets jewellery stores re-open, UK executive director for the Watches of Switzerland Group, Craig Bolton, reveals what he and the team have been up to over the last month.

What are you doing to make the most of the digital side of Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths?

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We are very fortunate that we have fantastic e-commerce team and marketing team who are working incredibly hard during this time driving all of our digital channels. Our websites remain transactional and we are still processing sales. Our social media channels remain a hive of activity, we remain engaged with our customers via Youtube, Facebook and Instagram. Our CEO has done some Instagram live sessions which we have had a great response, and our brand partners continue to provide content for us.

How are you preparing for life after the lockdown?

As a business we are using this time to ensure we are ‘the most prepared’ after lockdown. We are very aware that as a business we need to remain adaptable to the ever changing situation and that requires preparation for every eventuality. Myself and the Board are leading from the front and are spending lots of time planning, playing out different scenarios. Our teams all remain 100% committed, they are getting themselves up to date with our eLearning programmes, ensuring all modules are completed. Our support service teams are working tirelessly behind the scenes ensuring every facet of our business is ready for the next phase.

Can you share anything of the strategy you are putting in place to keep business afloat during this time?

Prior to the unfortunate situation with COVID-19 we had already spent a lot of time developing our FY21 strategy. We have a very exciting year ahead of us and we are looking forward to the time when we can get started on activating all of the initiatives we had started working on.

Right now our teams remain dedicated to staying in regular contact with our clients, driving sales initiatives and generating sales to be processed once our stores reopen. As stated above, our support service teams are wholly devoted to ensuring we are ready to hit the ground running once able. We have an extensive refit programme we aim to deliver, brand expansions, new product launches to support.

How have you been communicating with staff?

Communication has been key throughout this period. In what is an unsettling and anxious time for many we’ve set to provide our people with regular, clear and engaging content throughout. Although we’re far apart in our homes, in many ways we’ve shown that our people are closer than ever. Our people have been our key focus, keeping them connected with the business and their fellow colleagues during our temporary store closure period.

    • We introduced ‘Keep in Touch Tuesdays’ with a weekly activity for colleagues and their children to keep them entertained. Our first activity was for the children to design a watch or jewellery collection to be judged by our own head of watch and jewellery Buying.
    • We produced a Clap for Carers video that was shared on LinkedIn that our colleagues created with their families, clapping at home to acknowledge the work of our front line workers. The response has been amazing, I found it emotional when I watched it.
    • We have our own online virtual pub called the Cog & Carat on Facebook for colleagues to interact. A place not to talk about work but to get to know and talk to each other. We’ve hosted live entertainment with music and quizzes being well participated in and it has built a great level of community spirit across all areas of the business.
    • I’ve also ensured that I continue to give colleagues weekly updates to keep them informed of key business activities but most of all to let them know that we’re here for them at this time.

What have you been doing personally to stay sane and make time go by a little faster during self-isolation?

Personally I am currently at home in Newcastle with my wife, my teenage son and daughter and two Pomeranians dogs. I stay sane by maintaining a very structured approach to my days, I have numerous calls with our brand partners, board and my teams that keep me busy. Of an evening, I am enjoying either walking my dogs with my wife or us all venturing out on a family bike ride. Whilst this lockdown situation has been less than ideal in many ways, it has been a unique opportunity for quality time with my family and reflection, for that I am grateful.

Tags : coronavirusCraig BoltonWatches of Switzerland
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The author Stacey Hailes

Editor, Professional Jeweller

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