With the government providing a long list of rules for jewellery retailers to abide by, store owners would be forgiven for not considering the impact coronavirus might be having on crime.
Security, however, is something that must be taken seriously, with the global pandemic posing new risk factors for retailers stocking high value goods. That’s why Professional Jeweller partnered with Warrior Doors to host a virtual roundtable with industry leaders before stores reopened. Here are some insights from the first part of the discussion.
(Please note, this conversation took place the week before stores reopened.)
In general, how are you all feeling about stores reopening next week?
Attila Sereny, sales manager, Leonard Dews (AS): Good, I don’t see any issues. Other retailers and other businesses are open and I think we need to go back to some sort of reality and open up.
Stuart McDowell, retailer director, Laings (SM): For us it is about reassuring the staff – especially as a lot of these guys are coming off furlough. We have been lucky enough where we have been in the stores, we’ve been prepping things, and we’ve been used to it. So for us the challenge is dealing with the staff and making sure they feel secure and happy to get back to work.
Craig Bolton, executive director UK, Watches of Switzerland Group (CB): From our stand point there is a real positivity about coming back to work. The teams have been well looked after while they have been off and they are as keen as we are actually. All bar the devolved countries will open on Monday (June 15), we are just going to open all stores and then see how the land lies overall in terms of traffic and conversion. My confidence is taken from the performance of online since we’ve been closed – it’s been pretty amazing, particularly in luxury watches, but in jewellery too. I think there is definitely a desire for a return to retail and it’ll be less traffic but higher conversion. So we’re very positive about it and our teams are too, and as Stuart said our focus has been on assuring them and our clients that we’ve done everything we possibly can and more to make sure our stores are safe for them to return to.
Are you planning to open all hours with all staff, or will business be scaled back?
CB: We are running reduced hours. Ideally we want to run one shift a day. And we’ve gone through every single store and looked at the maximum occupancy for each store based on seated areas and branded spaces. And that’s our limit. We’ve coupled that up with the number of clients, with the number of team members who could possibly then be serving them. We have then allocated jobs for everybody else, whether that be a greeter or a cleaner. So we’ve calculated the amount of people we need to run the store initially and then we’ll just review it week on week. We are kind of running it like a hotel would run it – in terms of here’s the number of slots you’ve got in a day and what’s your occupancy levels against those slots, and if we need more we’ll look to open longer hours.
SM: Exactly the same for us. As we’re concentrating on one shift everybody will be on reduced hours. We are implementing appointment-only at the beginning, which again is just so we can control the amount of people in store and also so as we’re not having VIP clients queuing outside. So we’re trying to manage it with appointments and like Craig says, we’ll just monitor it daily and everything is set up so we can flick a switch and go to queuing if we need to or open the for longer.
AS: Same – we’re coming back on skeleton staff and we will be doing appointments-only from the beginning, with reduced hours. We always generally opened 9 to 5, but we will open 10 to 4 and then re-evaluate as we go. We will have a maximum of two customers in the store and we will have someone monitoring the door all the time to make sure that the customers will be communicated with before entering. We will be dealing with both sides of people’s attitudes – there will be customers who won’t care about all this and there will be customers that will be very cautious about this, so we have to ensure that we communicate with everyone.
Obviously the government has given you guidelines to abide by, but I just wondered whether you had given security much thought – particularly how Covid-19 might have an impact on crime?
CB: We will be maintaining our security people and we have done throughout lockdown, particularly in London. But security around our stores and personnel-wise will be back when the stores reopen and they’ve all been trained the same ways as our employees. One of our biggest concerns is probably more around snatches as that’s become a bigger issue for us over the last couple of years then our stores physically getting broken into. And one of our big concerns is if people start wearing face masks we will have a more difficult situation trying to identify them if they run off with a piece of stock. So we have trained our people and if people wish to come into our stores with a face mask, we are going to ask them to remove it just for a couple of seconds so we can get a good picture of them and then they can put it back on. We just want to make sure that our cameras can pick up their face. We’ve also gone through the general security rules again with our people who have been out of stores for nearly 12 weeks – you know these things just get forgotten about or people get a bit lax, or if there’s less people in the stores they might think there’s less risk but there might actually be more.
SM: One of the reasons of us going to appointments was so we could almost vet people before they get into the store at the beginning. And as Craig says, our biggest concern is snatch and grab more than anything else at the moment. We have security on doors and reduced amount of appointments going on. We’ll also have free members that’ll be monitoring and watching desks, so security wise will be more visible. The concern is recognising people with masks on. I think it’s very difficult to be commanding people to remove masks – some people will be quite nervous of it, so it’s how we handle that. How are you training your staff to do that Craig?
CB: We are going to have a meet and greet in every store, so those people can ask customers before entering. And our teams can also have PPE if they wish to. We’ve got everything – both what the government has asked for plus gloves, masks and temperature checks. We are not insisting upon any of it – we’re only insisting on our team members wearing a mask and gloves whilst they serve product. So I think if we’re doing all of that, we can build into that a nice way of speaking to our clients to be doubly sure we can we can check them too, in the nicest possible way. It’s all about the wording, rather than necessarily forcing them to remove masks.
AS: We will also ask them to remove the masks so we have a full view of their faces before they come in. It will increase the risk of snatches because people will have an opportunity to cover their faces, so there’ll be a bit of a challenge, especially with skeleton staff. We will need to make sure that everyone’s vigilant.
Brett Barratt, managing director, Warrior Doors: I think speaking clearly with people is going to be important too. I’ve noticed as people have been coming and bringing deliveries sometimes they come to close and you have to find a nice way to tell them to keep their distance. But when you’ve got to engage in close quarters, so showing someone a ring or a watch or something to try on, it’s much more difficult isn’t it? Therefore clarity of speaking will be key.
CB: I think everyone’s pretty much going to use protective screens too, because obviously having masks and gloves is not going to be great protection for us when we put a watch on somebody’s wrist, but the screens will be that added benefit. And I think we’ve seen enough evidence already of those who have started trading in Europe or Asia that it all seems to be going relatively smooth. It is just a bit of an odd period we are going to have to go through but it shouldn’t stop customers feeling really great about their purchase – and it is really important that they don’t feel like they are coming into a doctor’s surgery.
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