Photo Credit: Andy Barnham

Ten jewellery retail directors reveal the lessons they learned while their stores were closed…

Anna Blackburn, Managing Director, Beaverbrooks
“One of the key things lockdown has taught us is to take time to slow down and reconnect with our loved ones. Spending more time at home with family has been a positive outcome, and something I know our people have really cherished. Communication has always been key at Beaverbrooks, but during lockdown staying connected with our Beaverbrooks family has been more important than ever. Yammer has been a great tool to keep people informed, motivated and inspired. Lockdown has also proved that anything is possible; we hosted our 38th annual Beaverbrooks 10k Fun Run as a ‘virtual’ event, with almost a third of our colleagues running, which was a great way to boost physical and mental wellbeing, and raise money for charity.”

Dominic Gomersall, Managing director, Lumbers
“I sat with my son, Freddie, over the weekend. Unfortunately we had just helped a friend clear his restaurant as the business was an economic victim of the virus. Freddie, being just 14 years of age, was displaying some anxiety to our own financial position due to seeing our heart broken friend. I reassured him that his Lumbers had been adaptive and innovative during lockdown. That we had confirmed the importance of customer relationships and that the one biggest thing we have learnt is that we will come through this a better and stronger business. Personally, I will never be as stressed as I used to be before this adversity – I never would have thought I could survive a quarter of a year with a closed business – but we have flourished and nothing will ever test us like this again.”


Harriet Kelsall, owner, Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery
“We have an amazing team (I already knew that) but the way people have been pulling together to get through this and keep us operational is inspiring. Some people have embraced extra responsibility and shown themselves to be even more proactive than we already knew which is wonderful and will help their career progression. It is also so much better to be able to see somebody when you are talking to them when they are working from home rather than audio-only calls and as we do quite a bit of home working we will be carrying this on in the future.”

Jo Stroud, owner, Fabulous Jewellers and Mantra Jewellery
“We were very fortunate to already have a busy e-commerce website for Fabulous, which we launched 15 years ago, at the same time as our first store. We have also seen a real growth in online sales for our Mantra brand during lockdown, as its message of positivity and motivation seems to have resonated with people looking for thoughtful gifts and uplifting products during such a challenging time. This has meant that we held onto 70% of our forecast revenue in May, even with the store closed. So, the biggest lesson for me is the importance of our online channels, and the huge opportunity that social media brings to talk daily to our customer base. A key takeaway for me is to ensure I remain as fully involved in our social media once my team are back from furlough as it is the most direct way to communicate with our customers and followers.”

Craig Bolton, UK executive director, The Watches of Switzerland Group
“Over this period of lockdown in the UK, the Watches of Switzerland Group has learned many valuable lessons and new ways of working, which we will take with us going forwards. This period of lockdown has given us time to reflect, learn and develop and we are excited for our next chapter as our stores reopen. For example:

• Communication with our teams has been key. All store colleagues have been invited to partake in new channels of communication – we have our own private social media group in which our colleagues can network, communicate, enjoy the musical and theatrical talents of one another. We have used this platform to download vital company messages inclusive of Q&A sessions with myself and our CEO. It has been a really positive way for us to stay in touch with on both a personal and professional level with colleagues, particularly those who are on furlough.

• It feels as if we have moved into a new way of working in terms of hosting meetings crucial to our business, we have been using tools such as Skype, Webex and Zoom. Virtual meetings have now become the new norm and no doubt will be for the foreseeable.

• Whilst our stores have always been the key to our selling, over this period of lockdown our teams have used other methods to communicate with our clients and successfully sell. The development of these clientelling tools and the continuation to use them over the weeks and months ahead will be of great benefit to us.”

Helen Molloy, director, Forum Jewellers
“Three things I’ve learnt during lockdown: I make a rubbish school teacher; how lucky I am; and to take one day at a time. My takeaways for the business would be: 1) it’s the suppliers that have offered support or communication during this time that I will continue to work worth going forward and 2) how vital it is for independents to have access to buying groups such as The Company of Master Jewellers for support.”

Anja Potze, owner, Anja Potze Fine Jewellery
“I have learnt the importance of online business and have spent time throughout lockdown updating our website, investing in our social media channels, and trying new things like IGTV to stay in touch with customers. I think this pandemic will motivate the shift to online sales and I have prioritised this moving forwards.”

Harriet France, director, Jeremy France Jewellers
“Lockdown has made me realise how bogged down in day to day we can get and the importance of stepping back and reflecting on people, processes and stock. It has allowed me to review everything and reflect on what we could be. It has also reinforced the importance of communication; how my customers want to communicate, how much my staff want to communicate with me and how much they want (or don’t want) to know. This is our opportunity to come back with a changed culture, a changed attitude and a changed way of doing things. This is our opportunity to move forward and leave old habits behind. The importance of keeping staff in the loop, listening to them and taking on board their feedback is vital. This is our opportunity to be better.”

Stuart McDowell, retail director, Laings Jewellers
“During these challenging times, we have all been forced to change our way of thinking. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can be healthy. It is how we choose to embrace these changes that make the difference. Being open to making adjustments is paramount and in these exceptional times, this has been more important than ever. We have all adjusted to a new way of working and communication has been key. This has been especially important within our management teams as we’ve re-opened stores. Now that we have a strategy in place this need for communication extends to our customers. We will be keeping them informed of the new normal that they can expect in-store, ensuring that they feel safe and comfortable throughout their experience with Laings. With these changing times, we can no longer solely focus on a luxurious retail experience and safety comes first and foremost. We now need to reassure our customers that along with hosting a welcoming and enjoyable shopping experience, most importantly Laings is a safe and hygienic environment.”

John Henn, company director, T A Henn
“I think we have all learned how fragile we are in the face of a catastrophe. One month of poor trade is survivable like the beginning of March as we headed for the iceberg and sales started to fade. I thought I’d learnt that lesson when Pandora opened a store in our city with minimal warning, just after delivering a large order to us the month before and due for payment. Not sure there is another Covid-19 out there but we better be prepared for number 20 just in case. On a personal note it has helped me sort out my priorities, a Buddhist saying, ‘If you want to be free you have to let go’ has had me thinking.”