For the last six months or more the jewellery and watch retail industry has been awash with news of shop refits across the board.
The bigger multiple retailers have, unsurprisingly, been the ones to hit the headlines with their mass redesign projects, but the smaller independents have quietly been investing in improving their in-store customer experience too.
This has meant good business for Parify Group, made up of Parify Retail Design and Parify Lighting, one of the industry’s foremost players in the shop-fitting arena.
Here Scot Walker, founder of Parify Group, tells Professional Jeweller in which direction the brick-and-mortar retail world is heading and why the company is so passionate about its mission to help jewellers not only survive but thrive through the next decade.
How has business been for Parify Group?
Busy. Very busy. I think a lot of people at the higher end of the market are investing to try and make this Christmas the best that they possibly can.
Not all of the independents are doing this, but the bigger players in the markets, the big watch and fine jewellery sellers, are absolutely killing it. A lot of expenditure.
They realise that unless they up their game in their respective communities they may start losing sales to other companies that are upping their game.
Do you work with the bigger multiple retailers as well as smaller independents?
We work with Beaverbrooks, Chisholm Hunter, F Hinds and most of the Houlden members, the likes of [London jeweller] Pragnell…
We do a lot of work with the higher end of the industry but, what really is our passion, also help the smaller guys compete.
What permanent changes have been made to the retail landscape as a result of the pandemic? How can shops adapt?
I think people have a short memory. I think people think everything’s going to change, but three weeks later it’s all back to normal.
Some of the bigger players understand that the changing demographic of their buyer warrants a change in their business setup.
By that I mean that, in lots of the old-style shops, you could barely see through the windows; they were covered in graphics, curtains up everywhere… You couldn’t see in.
Now we’re seeing a monumental shift towards more open-plan stores where people can see through the windows to see how busy it is.
“people should be treated to an experience when they enter a shop”
We’ve seen a lot of the older retailers – people that have had family jewellery shops handed down through the years and are now getting into their early sixties – retiring and closing shop, having made enough money over the years.
But aside from that kind of shift, we’re seeing the bigger players in the market going to more experience-based models, so we’re seeing dimmer lighting being used, more controllable lighting to create mood and ambience, and people tend to research more on the internet then go out and buy, rather than walk round shops browsing.
Buyers know what they want, select a retailer that’s in their price range, make an appointment and go in and buy. So I think the clever retailers are making this an experience for people and looking after them very well while they’re in the shop in the hope that they’ll go back in the future.
Where does Parify fit into that?
It has been our business ethos from day one: we always believed that people should be treated to an experience when they enter a shop that makes them feel very much at home – relaxed, calm, not pressured…
And we’ve always gone about the way we design shops – from our shop-fitting company, Parify Retail Design, to Parify Lighting – we’ve always believed we should create spaces where people are not intimidated by incredibly bright lights.
The light has got to be great for the product but the rest of the store needs to have a certain degree of ambience to it.
So we’ve always been of this opinion but it seems to have taken the industry as a whole a long time to jump on board.
“our whole ethos is about creating an experience”
Many people in the past have created these kind of environments – Pragnell are very good at it, Beards of Cheltenham are another.
They’re very good about the experience side of sales, making the customer look forward to coming to the shop, because an awful lot of them out there miss it.
Retailers sometimes invite us to their shop and say, ‘How can I transform it? I want to upgrade. We need to make it a little more modern – what do we do?’
Then our whole ethos is about creating an experience – what do you want the customer to feel, what do you want them to go through? How do you want them to feel when they walk through the door and what is the customer journey?
And so does your course of action depend on their answer to those questions?
We have what we believe works, but what we believe works and what the retailer wants are often polar opposites.
They tell us they want people fast in and fast out, easy to serve… The customers, on the other hand, perhaps don’t want that.
“we believe we know how to help the retailer stay alive”
The job is often understanding the demographic of the retailer’s particular customer base, and providing them with a solution that will drive sales and drive business.
What does 2022 hold for Parify Group?
We are going for the opposite of consolidation. We’re investing into other areas in the business.
There’s a few notices that will come out over the next couple of months as we plant the seeds of what we’re going to be doing for the next 12 months.
We’ve got some new products in development. We’ve got new staff on board. We’ve got a strong vision and I believe we know how to achieve it now. All of our efforts are focused on our core business.
We’ve certainly seen a change in the market and we believe we know how to help the retailer stay alive, to give them shop-fits, lighting, e-commerce, to give them the tools to be able to survive the next five to 10 years, which means then that we have a customer base that we can sell to.
If we can help them survive then it’s great for everyone in the industry, not only ourselves.
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