Lockdown has highlighted how face-to-face interaction and the sharing of best practice between colleagues is crucial to the success of the jewellery sector.

Spurred on by the desire to keep the industry connected, Judith Lockwood, director at Mesmeric Distribution, launched a Zoomcast to educate and engage retailers and customers whilst stores remain closed. 

Why was Sparkling JAM created?

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The idea for Sparkling JAM came about during the second lockdown last year. The team (Angela, Micheline and I) would look forward to seeing each other a few times a week on Skype or Teams.

It gave us something to get excited about. It gave us the opportunity to make an effort with how we looked, to wear jewellery, to chat about business, life and each other’s lockdown situation. It became important to us.

As it was a short lockdown there wasn’t the time to fully implement the Zoomcast concept, but I stored it and created a name, Sparkling JAM (the JAM stands for Judith, Angela and Micheline) and this name was important as none of us wanted this to be a commercial or selling platform.

Hannah Buckle from Waldock & Buckle made our logo and I made our theme on Garageband.

The idea was to create something normal, to be impulsive, off the cuff, to capture the mood of the moment; sometimes it is sad, emotional and personal, one-liners and longer stories. Created with no agenda or plan, the conversation goes where the conversation goes.

How do you decide who to invite as a guest?

I usually propose who I am thinking of to Angela and Micheline. It is usually someone I know pretty well and they know too.

We want to create something magical by having the right person on; characters and people with personality who we can bounce off and who are happy to share their stories with us via Zoom.

Each weekly Zoomcast is different and I am seeing already that each one really reflects the personality of our guest and the tone of our week – they own it.

I am always sad when a week ends as I feel I have spent all week with our guest, listening to and watching them while editing for the week. But then I get excited with the thought of the new guest or guests and what they will bring.

What have been some of the key talking points to arise from the sessions?

The conversations that have arisen (based on comments and feedback we receive) seem to mirror the lives of the people who are watching at the time that they go out.

Whether it was too much eating and drinking over Christmas, Dry January, Veganuary, missing loved ones and friends, working from home, schooling the children and normal routines, loneliness and mental health.

What are some of the main challenges facing the jewellery industry right now?

The whole jewellery industry (suppliers and retailers), as well as most of the country, has the same issue of being closed and not trading. Many people are furloughed or working only one or two days a week.

A larger proportion of retailers do have transactional websites this lockdown as opposed to the first lockdown; some businesses are active with click-and-collect and delivery and are actively engaging with customers through their social media platforms. However, many have disappeared from their businesses.

It is pretty tough for many people at present for various reasons and we should be reaching out to our colleagues and industry friends to make sure that they are supported with messages and telephone calls, as I think mental health is very important at present.

This lockdown has given many suppliers and businesses the chance to find their route out of the maze that this transition has created for everyone.

What are some of the major concerns that retailers have ahead of reopening?

Concerns vary from ‘Will I get my EORI number?’ to ‘Will people want to come out and shop?’ How will it be to those who we know are decorating, updating their windows, changing their systems and working on their websites?

Transactional websites could and will need attention and lots of work, as orders do not necessarily arrive by luck or magic, so I think the next phase in re-opening is about helping our retailers and them learning how to use the available tools and methods to drive business to their online site, whether they are open or not.

The conversations that have arisen seem to mirror the lives of the people who are watching.”

It is mixed, but at least we all know how to do it – we know where to get PPE from, the shops are safe and ready with messages and stickers of what to do and where to stand. Staff can hopefully feel safe and comfortable to welcome their clients back to store.

How have you as a business had to adapt during the pandemic?

We have been open every day through each of the lockdowns, as has the TI SENTO – Milano office and warehouse. During the first lockdown we started a YouTube channel and made product and brand videoo.

We also joined just about every Zoom and webinar there was to try and find answers at that time.

Angela, Micheline and I speak every day and Skype nearly every day to discuss ideas, options, ask questions and to update each other.

This time it is different as we are working hard to be ready for when our retailers re-open, which could include safe store visits, and if not we have options for how we can work with our customers we cannot see in person.

We are very aware of who is active on social media and who is not and the same with their websites.

TI SENTO – Milano has fantastic web assets, so we are able to provide everything a retailer needs and have been working on files for a number of our retailers who are updating their web sites.

This has also given us the time to research, create plans, know our prospects better and to target where and who we want to be with and why.

What feedback have you received for the Zoomcast?

Nearly every day I have someone I talk to on the telephone who will refer to a clip they have seen and either say how it made their day or they learnt something new.

Without a doubt, everyone has been complimentary. It actually takes an awful lot to put yourself out there, to be videoed, to see and listen to yourself.

It’s not a natural thing that anyone would want to do. We talk about many subjects and at the start we don’t even know what we are going to say or even a subject matter.

We have been complimented on how we are brave and honest. And if we manage to lift someone and make them smile then that is a massive achievement.

What are you plans for when stores are able to reopen and how will you support retailers through this transition stage?

We have worked hard since January on how we will work with the transition stage and I have talked to lots of our retailers who understand what we are aiming to do.

I am not at liberty before this goes to press to announce what we are looking to do, but our aim is to make life as simple as possible for every customer that we have and that is what we are working towards presently.

When the stores re-open we will be out presenting our new SS20 collection for TI SENTO – Milano.

It’s still under embargo, but I can tell you that there will be 150 x new pieces again and the colours and styles that we have been teased with are incredible.

At the end of the first lockdown we were not sure how well-received store visits would be, but our retailers did not let us down and welcomed us with relish.

We are very fortunate to work with the businesses that we do, businesses that have a passion and a love for the brand and already many are asking for hints of what is to come, so we do have a feeling that they will welcome us again.