In this new series, PJ asks jewellers how they will be spending their time in lockdown now that non-essential retail is closed around most of the UK, and what we can expect from them when business opens back up in the hopefully not-too-distant future.
Here, Harriet Kelsall of Harriet Kelsall Jewellery and Helen Molloy of Forum talk online consultations, website improvements and furlough woes.
Harriet Kelsall Jewellery has studios in London, Cambridge, Hertfordshire and Winchester. Founder Harriet Kelsall says that the business was planning a return to full-time working hours for most of the team in January, but was disappointed to find all stores closed once more and most staff furloughed.
She told PJ: “Business had been steadily building up last summer and autumn, and despite the November lockdown December had also been very good up until we had to close our studios again.
“So it was frustrating to now have to re-furlough some of our team members and close all of our stores again.
“But of course it is nobody’s fault. This is what we have to do as we are going through lockdown again for very good reason, and the health of community is the most important thing.”
Explaining what the remaining members of the company will be doing through lockdown, Kelsall continued: “We have been doing online consultations for many years successfully so we are already happy with these, but I am sure information and tools about them can be improved and we are always working on this.
“It is hard to focus energies on anything at the moment, but just keeping as much revenue coming in as is possible during lockdown because we are missing some team members.
“We are already really missing our newly furloughed team members and our main focus will be building back the business to welcome them back as soon as we possibly can.
“We also made a video on Christmas Eve on Zoom showing our online consultations which was quite fun – very strange to edit Zoomed recordings together, but it kind of works.”
Happy New Year! We have been connecting with our valued customers all over the world for years, offering guidance in an informal and relaxed way with our talented designers on-line, watch this little video about how easy the process is! #teamwork #designers #awardwinners #bespoke pic.twitter.com/HKqUw8cRx3
— Harriet Kelsall (@HKJewellery) January 5, 2021
Finally, Kelsall added her overall approval of the government support offered to businesses so far, but did have one gripe: “The one thing I think really could have been improved is that the government could maybe have insisted that the landlords of shops reduce their rent significantly when the shops had to be closed.
“It is completely unfair for landlords to expect full rent when we are not able to be open. The government grants are great but not anything like enough to cover high retail rents and they still need to be paid.
“Some of our landlords have been extremely helpful but others have certainly not.
“It seems very unpleasant that the rental income for these landlords is totally unaffected by this pandemic, whilst we tenants all do our best to keep the business alive and flourishing with no help at all from them.”
Helen Molloy, director of Forum Jewellers in Broadstone, revealed that surprisingly strong in-store sales when shops have been open in 2020 have pulled the company through the more difficult locked down periods.
She explained to Professional Jeweller: “For the months we have been able to open this year we have matched 2019/20 figures each month, which we hadn’t expected.
“We expected to be trading down by 25-30%, so this has been a huge peace of mind.
“Obviously we can’t recover the lost months, but it shows the public are happy to spend when we are open.
“On top of this, I personally cannot fault the support we have received from the government.”
Molloy added: “Our main focus now is to push online sales, and more importantly give our customers the confidence to do this as jewellery is such a personal purchase.
“We are working on a new, more consumer friendly website and planning a campaign for Valentine’s Day which will hopefully solve the problem of not being open to purchase an engagement ring instore.”