Stuart McDowell, retail director, Laings

Around this time last year, PJ ran a series of stories in which we chatted with jewellers to find out their thoughts and predictions on the post-Covid era.

The idea that the pandemic was behind us after only the first national lockdown may have turned out to be overly optimistic on our part, but now, a year later, we hope that is actually the case.

In the third instalment of this second run of our Life After Lockdown series, we speak exclusively with Stuart McDowell, retail director at Laings – one of the UK’s foremost jewellery retailers, dating back to 1840 and boasting stores in Cardiff, Southampton, Edinburgh and Glasgow – to find out its business strategy moving forward into a post-pandemic world.

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Now that we’ve had several weeks since the return of non-essential retail, how has business been – both in-store and online? Was there a drop-off after the initial rush?

Laings has performed well since re-opening and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. We were predicting a larger drop in online sales, yet online interactions are stronger than ever.

During the pandemic, we dedicated more time to ensuring our online client journey offered the same luxury experience as our showrooms, and we are still seeing the results of that now through the sustained activity.

By investing more in our website throughout the year, we hope to grow the traffic even further.

How do you anticipate business being through the rest of the year and what will you be doing to maximise sales?

We will continue to provide an unforgettable experience for our clients, while always ensuring their comfort and safety.

For now, that means working on an appointment level basis and regularly looking at new ways to build and maintain strong relationships.

With all our knowledge gained during the Covid restrictions, we know that our strong relationships are our biggest opportunity – they’re what’s steered us through.

What do you see on the horizon that could have a big impact – positive or negative – on business in the rest of 2021?

There will always be bumps in the road – Covid was one of the largest in my lifetime. We now know not to fear these, just to be willing to adapt and innovate quickly.

Part of working in retail is being reactive to the landscape. Laings used this time to analyse our ambition, and we’ve outlined some exciting new developments for the company over the next few years which we look forward to announcing shortly.

Read the previous entry in the Life After Lockdown series below:

LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN: ‘Retail sector has entered a new chapter’ post-lockdown, say jewellers