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 first instalment of this second series of our Life After Lockdown series, we speak with Jonathan Hughes-Lewis, director of Jonathan David Jewellers, and Ashley Pugh, managing director of W Bruford, to find out how business has been and ask for their forecasts for the jewellery retail market in the coming months.
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?
JHL: We’ve had a huge amount of pent-up demand across the board in sales, mainly focusing around engagement and wedding rings.
Our on-site workshops have also had an influx of repairs which we would normally see in the build up to Christmas.
We did see a slight down-turn in sales after the first three weeks of trading for a 10-day period, but this would be compared to normal trading figures pre-pandemic.
AP: Business has been very positive since reopening, both instore and online. It has settled down to a more normal level over the last week but is performing well above expectation.
How do you anticipate business being through the rest of the year and what will you be doing to maximise sales?
JHL: I think in the coming weeks and months we’ll see a slow down in sales as the pent-up spending from customers eases, but overall I am optimistic that over the coming months we will start to return to the new normal.
We’ve seen an increase in larger-ticket item sales as well as diamond engagement rings which I think will continue in the coming months.
AP: We feel positive for the rest of the year. As people get used to the new norm, consumers are definitely wanting both jewellery and watches as they catch up on weddings, anniversaries and birthdays especially.
What do you see on the horizon that could have a big impact – positive or negative – on business in the rest of 2021?
JHL: Inflation! My biggest concern at the moment is the looming inflation that I believe will be with us in the coming months, and that will inevitably affect commodity prices which I believe will rise sharply in the coming months.
You can already see this happening in certain areas – you only have to look at the current price of rhodium for example.
AP: Obviously there will be headwinds. Things like business rates reform is something that is much needed and for the high street to regenerate it is essential.
From a retail point of view we are almost back up to normal trading with Covid restrictions not causing major issues.
I think there will be some uncertainty in the market regarding travel and holiday restrictions. This may or may not cause issues during the summer months.