Jewellers in England have now been open for a couple of weeks, giving them time to adjust to a new way of selling jelwellery and interacting with consumers.
As expected, the first week back on the high street was a busy one for many retail businesses up and down the country, with customers quick to enjoy the easing of lockdown restrictions.
But, as other countries have shown, initial high footfall has not remained and online shopping has continued to rise. So the question remains, what will the rest of the year hold for jewellers in the UK?
Summer is usually a slower month for jewellery retailers, but the usually earlier in the year proposal boom is expected to take place over the coming months as the pandemic has made many Brits feel ready to take the next step, and new guidelines mean they can finally look at rings and plan a more romantic gesture than lockdown originally allowed.
Furthermore, the second half of the year includes the golden quarter and many have been showing an interest in spending more on loved ones and marking special occasions with presents that will stand the test of time. The hope is this sentiment will continue into Christmas.
So how are jewellers feeling about the future?
The UK director for the Watches of Switzerland Group, Craig Bolton, believes retail in general is in for a bumpy ride, but he is confident the jewellery trade is on for a sparkling year, as long as businesses remain agile.
He tells Professional Jeweller: “There is no question it is going to take a long time to get back to the ‘normal’ we knew, if indeed we do. The future for our industry is very positive I believe. We deliver experiences via our product, whether that be a watch or piece of jewellery, people will always want to celebrate or recognize key occasions and that’s where we come in. Retail in general is in for a tough ride for a while but as long as people and businesses remain coachable and adaptable, they will be fine.”
Managing director of Eastbourne-based W.Bruford, Ashley Pugh, echoes: “I feel it will definitely be a bit of a rollercoaster over the coming months, but our staff have been fantastic in embracing the changes we have made to working hours and practices and I definitely think that a new normal will develop very quickly.”
While a few jewellers understandably say it is too early to tell what the rest of the year will look like, many are finding their confidence in what they have seen so far.
“It’s too early to know at the moment but it seems our loyal customers are keen to return so we hope for many more anniversaries, birthdays and missed holidays people want to celebrate with Jewellery,” shares Jeremy France director, Harriet France.
Harriet Kelsall of the namesake jewellery store adds:
I feel it will take some time for consumers to feel safe to go out shopping and therefore it will take time to see a constant increase in footfall, but people will be more decisive in what they want so we believe sales conversion will be faster than pre-lockdown. We also think people will want to buy or create more jewellery for their loved ones after not having been able to see them for such a long period of time.”
For other jewellers, online has been so successful during Covid, they are hoping to see sales continue to rise via omnichannel.
Jo Stroud, managing director of Fabulous Jewellers in Leamington Spa, shares: “Our online sales initially quietened down last week, for the first time in months – I presume with the novelty of shops being open, and fewer people sitting at home. I wondered if this would be the new normal, so I was starting to get a little concerned. However, after two or three days, they have bounced back to higher than lockdown levels, so I continue to feel very optimistic that we will have a record year online.
“In the store, I have set a very conservative forecast all the way through to October, and I am confident we will beat my forecast. The challenge will come closer to Christmas, and I am really not sure yet how that will pan out. I think it’s too early to take a view.”
Many feel their businesses will be able to bounce back, notably due to the support they were able to receive from the government.
John Henn of T A Henn reveals: “There is no question that some of the work we do has a lead time and the work we undertook at the start of the year has come back to life, whether there is a three month lag before new work comes in, time will tell.
“This has put the company back financially by three years, however we are still in the game and in a much better place to recover than before. Thanks to the government support, without which it would be quite a different story.”
One things for sure – business has not slowed down yet and jewellers are willing to give post-lockdown trading all they’ve got to ensure a positive rest of the year.