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 second instalment of this second series of our Life After Lockdown series, we speak with Roseanna Croft, founder of her own eponymous bespoke design service, and John Henn, managing director of Henns Jewellers in Wolverhampton, to get their take on post-Covid business.
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?
RC: Having started to see a shift in buying behaviours pre-pandemic, I had already traded my high-street shop for a London-based studio; subsequently losing the footfall that a physical store facilitates.
Currently operating exclusively on bespoke commissions, I anticipated a slight decline in sales with the return of non-essential retail, however this has totally not been the case.
A shortage of opportunities to spend disposable income during lockdown paired with an appetite to get ‘back to normal’ has resulted in a surge of consumers planning proposals and weddings reflected in our commissions. People want to spend!
JH: For the first few weeks of reopening the store we were really encouraged to see customers returning to us for some retail therapy.
They were wanting to treat themselves but also we saw an overwhelming amount of customers bringing in items for repair and refurbishment, remodelling existing jewellery and selling precious metals. I definitely think the lockdown had everyone organising their belongings and having a clear out.
Online sales dropped once we were back open but many customers were coming in with their mobiles asking to view or purchase products they had seen on our website.
How do you anticipate business being through the rest of the year and what will you be doing to maximise sales?
RC: We have seen a huge rise in the ‘ethical shopper’ post-lockdown, focusing less on ready-made and off-the-shelf and more on unique pieces.
I anticipate (and hope!) business will continue to thrive throughout 2021, with conscious consumerism being a trend that’s here to stay.
Lockdown has given me the opportunity to create two new collections, so I’d love to throw a launch party to showcase what I’ve been working on.
I really believe the charm of a piece of jewellery is seen and felt up close through the delicate cut of the stone, or the texture of the metal so it will be amazing to be able to allow customer to experience that once again!
I anticipated a slight decline in sales with the return of non-essential retail, however this has totally not been the case.”
JH: I have decided that I cannot predict how business is going to be as we have all seen how the pandemic has affected trade and our own personal lives. There are simply too many factors to try and predict how the rest of the year will go.
Our plan, in spite of this, will be to cautiously bring in some new and exciting products to keep the windows and online presence fresh, and to communicate with our customers through email marketing and social media.
We will also move on some older lines and continue to put money into the tills throughout the summer to hopefully have a brighter idea of the second half of this year and look at autumn and winter plans then.
We will see how customer shopping trends have evolved and changed and adapt that for a good Christmas trade.
What do you see on the horizon that could have a big impact – positive or negative – on business in the rest of 2021?
RC: With social-distancing, reduced capacity, and limited opportunities for in-person events, bespoke pieces were the key to unlocking experiential customer opportunities during Covid-times.
With the easing of restrictions, I imagine that there will be a flurry of consumers desperate to spend money on experiences and travel rather than physical possessions.
That being said, I really believe that the retail sector has entered a new chapter, turning its back on the deep-rooted issues of fast fashion and mass-production.
By putting the power in the hands of the customer we are allowing space for a personal and authentic customer experience.
I really believe that the retail sector has entered a new chapter, turning its back on the deep-rooted issues of fast fashion and mass-production.”
I’m not sure the negative impact of the ease of restrictions will be felt for businesses like ours, as think that need for bespoke pieces with a story behind them will remain for the foreseeable future.
JH: I believe restrictions may be with us a while longer with regards to mask-wearing and social distancing and even if the government lifts these restrictions I think some customers will still be weary in retail environments this may have some effect on shoppers.
Whilst we have had customers happy to treat themselves instead of travelling abroad on holiday, lifting the overseas travel restrictions may have customer spending go in another direction.