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Eileen McClelland

More Than a Few Things to Keep in Mind as You Reopen Your Store

Balance customer and employees’ concerns with a strong business strategy.

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MORE RETAIL JEWELERS are getting the green light from their state governments to reopen their stores as the COVID-19 retail crisis moves into its next phase.

Jewelry industry webinars on the topic, including those offered by INSTORE, have been proliferating.

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One of the biggest takeaways? Recognize the power of what you have to offer as a brick and mortar jeweler. Make sure that despite the precautions you need to take for safety, you are delivering a phenomenal experience to each customer.

“If you have a solid online presence as a retailer you know how important that is,” says Peter Smith, president of Hearts on Fire/Memoire, in a Jewelers of America webinar. Online shopping will continue to be strong, Smith says, but it’s likely to reach a peak in 2020, then decline and level off to a plateau of some sort next year. “Where it ends up landing, 15, 20 percent, I don’t know.”

This increased momentum in online shopping should be a wake-up call for independent jewelry retailers, not only because people have become more accustomed to shopping online due to necessity, but even more important, because the vast majority of transactions begin with an online touchpoint and will continue to do so. “Having an online presence is imperative, not only for its own sake,” Smith says, “but also to underscore the viability with Gen Y and Gen Z as being relevant to them.”

But changes wrought by COVID-19 won’t wipe out brick and mortar by any means, Smith says.

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“There will be changes, but I don’t think for one second, with the exception of this year, that it will change people’s need and want to get out and shop at brick and mortar stores.”

Smith suggests now is the time to make sure your physical location is up for the challenge. Pay attention, as you reopen, to the sensory experience you’re delivering, from scent and music to lighting. Be ready to tell intriguing stories about your business, your brand, and about what you’re selling.

Here are a few more things I learned from webinars recently about the implications of restarting an independent jewelry retail business.

Be sensitive. Remember, even if you are not thrilled about wearing a mask or social distancing once you’re back to work, as a store owner you have an obligation to employees and customers to keep them safe. So, follow governmental rules and guidelines, but be sensitive and accommodating, too, of what others around you need to be and feel safe. Peter Smith, Memoire/Hearts on Fire, and Sherry Smith, the Edge Retail Academy in a Jewelers of America webinar.

Follow mask protocol. Ask customers who are wearing masks to lower their mask before they enter the store if you are able to capture an image of their face. Once in the store, however, don’t ask customers to remove masks. It is reasonable, if you don’t have an image of their face, however, to request a photo ID before showing them merchandise. Be consistent about your requirements to wear masks. Inconsistency can lead to accusations of discrimination.

Larry Spicer, Jewelers Mutual Insurance in a Jewelers of America webinar.

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Tweak your sales presentation. Consider moving your sales presentation away from the jewelry counter to a desk or table with some space between you and your client. A clear glass-top table has the advantage of being easy to clean and looking pristine. Feeling awkward about not being able to shake hands? Say, “I’m so glad you came in. We’ll shake hands when we can. Let’s pretend that we did.” Shane Decker, Ex-Sellence in an INSTORE webinar.

Be vigilant during curbside pickup, if you offer it. Don’t post regular hours for curbside pickup. Instead, ask customers to make an appointment and, if possible, pay online. Use a buddy system; make sure any employee venturing into the parking lot has a backup partner stationed near the door. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you are completely covered for this mode of operation. Larry Spicer, Jewelers Mutual Insurance, in a Jewelers of America webinar.

Assess your team. During tough times in particular, you can’t afford to have people on your front lines who are not wired for sales. Product knowledge can be taught, but the hardwiring of a sales pro’s personality cannot be. If they aren’t the right fit and you can fit them into a role that is a better fit, then do that. If you can’t, you have to let them go. Not closing sales is not a sustainable business model for a retailer, especially now. Sherry Smith of the Edge Retail Academy in an INSTORE webinar.

Turn old stuff into cash to get through 2020. Get rid of the aged inventory that’s choking your cash flow, and quickly reorder fast sellers. If it’s older than a year, slash it 50 to 80 percent, and move it. “If you are emotionally attached to it, find someone in the organization who can slash it.” Sherry Smith in an INSTORE webinar.

Prior to reopening, start a second business account for an emergency fund, if you don’t have one. Start by depositing 2 or 3 percent of daily deposits, increase it to 5 and then 10 percent. Sherry Smith in an INSTORE webinar.

Focus on the vendors who are driving 80 percent of your business. Everything else is a distraction, especially now. If you have overlapping merchandise, pare it down. Focus, too on upselling at a higher average ticket in important diamond categories, rather than bringing in less expensive inventory. “The last thing you want to do is lower your prices AND have less traffic. Sherry Smith in an INSTORE webinar.

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Now is the time to embrace the best practices in business. Look ahead 90 days to plan a new, temporary budget and reassess your operating costs based on projections. They should not represent more than 35 to 40 percent of revenue. Consider opening fewer days, at least at first, to reduce operating expenses until revenues can have a chance to catch up. Sherry Smith in an INSTORE webinar.

The Jewelers Board of Trade is asking its members to continue to report data as before, including specifying when special terms and conditions are offered. For credit reports, the JBT will show ratings and data both before and after the COVID crisis, says Erich Jacobs of the JBT. “It’s the right thing to do and it provides full transparency to the reader while giving the listing the benefit of the doubt when it comes to long-term behavior.” It’s important for retailers to update all of their information by sending an email to [email protected]. Suppliers will be more likely to extend credit to retailers who share the full story of their business rather than those that have an aura of mystery. Erich Jacobs of the JBT in an INSTORE webinar.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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