A mere two weeks after the reopening of non-essential shops, the city of Leicester has gone into the UK’s first local lockdown due to a spike in cases of COVID-19. Professional Jeweller spoke to three of the city’s jewellers to find out how they plan on surviving a second lockdown so soon after the first.
Carli Onguc, co-owner of Lanes Fine Jewellery, said: “There was a feeling of sadness today in the city. It must be especially difficult for hospitality businesses and hairdressers who were all geared up to open this Saturday. However I’m sure the people of Leicester will be back supporting small businesses once it is safe to do so.”
She continued: “Naturally it’s a little disappointing to be closing down again after only two weeks, but we will continue to sell via our website and remain connected with our customer base directly and through social media.”
Staying positive, she concluded: “The first lockdown was an opportunity to take stock and take a thorough look at our business, a chance to look at areas that could be improved.” Onguc said that Lanes has updated its website to include a full e-commerce offering, something many in the jewellery and watch industry have done in lockdown. I’m sure the people of Leicester will be back supporting small businesses once it is safe to do so.”
Meanwhile, Michael Grundy, founder of Michael Grundy Jewellers, concurred that, while frustrating, businesses will push forward and remain optimistic.
“We had been open for two weeks, and things seemed to be going in the right direction, so it’s very frustrating to have to close,” he told Professional Jeweller.
Referring to the feeling that Leicester has been somewhat singled out, he said: “The first lockdown was OK because everyone had to close their doors. We just had to reply to emails to keep reassuring people.”
Now, however, Leicester businesses risk falling behind their competitors across the rest of the UK. “I think it will be difficult but hopefully everything works out as planned,” he concluded.
“We had been open for two weeks, and things seemed to be going in the right direction, so it’s very frustrating to have to close.”
Finally, Dominic Gomersall, managing director of Lumbers Jewellers, summed up his feelings as, “Frustration, disappointment and rage.” He said that the city has been left feeling like a “scapegoat” in the Prime Minister’s “whack-a-mole plan”.
“The city centre is an oasis of safety,” Gomersall said. “Leicester residents have been responsible in their shopping habits, respecting social distancing, understanding the use of PPE and taking seriously all sanitising opportunities.
“The heavy-handedness and draconian measures of closing the city centre have far greater consequences than maybe two more weeks of lost trade. Large restaurant groups and retailers, including John Lewis, are deciding which outlets to cull – their decisions could be swayed by this government response.”
Like Lanes and Michael Grundy Jewellers, Lumbers is trying to maintain a positive outlook, though. Gomersall added: “Fortunately we, as a business, traded well during lockdown, and traded exceptionally well for our two weeks of opening, and will emerge a stronger and better business.”