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More Than a Third of Jewelers Surveyed Say They’re Challenged By the Prospect of Driving Traffic

Others cite issues with their vendors being closed.

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MORE THAN A third of jewelers who responded to a special INSTORE Brain Squad survey about COVID-19 issues affecting their businesses cited firing up customer demand and driving traffic as the top challenges they face. The survey was launched last week.

Maintaining health and safety protocols came next at 16 percent, closely followed at 15 percent by financial concerns and 15 percent by “other.” Customer behavior was a challenge for 11 percent of the 177 respondents who answered the question and had reopened their stores. Another 53 survey respondents, who answered other questions, skipped that one, possibly reserving judgement as they watch the situation unfold.

Several respondents said “all of the above” should have been an option, including Eve J. Alfille of Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio in Evanston. “I wanted to check every one of the categories. It’s so complicated. How do you let customers try on earrings?”

Half a dozen jewelers who checked the “other” box said they had concerns about getting inventory they needed from vendors. “Suppliers opening up at various times makes it difficult to keep up with the amount of custom we are taking in,” noted Morgan Bartel of Susann’s Custom Jewelers in Corpus Christi, TX.

Beth Owens of Skatells Jewelers in Sartanburg, SC, who has seen a steady stream of sales since the store reopened and whose staff is all back at work, also mentioned that custom has been a challenge. “Our biggest hurdle is not having our vendors open,” Owens says. In addition to custom concerns, “some of the vendors we showcase on our website are closed and when we get a website order, we can’t fulfill the order in time.”

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Dianna Rae High of Dianna Rae Jewelry in Lafayette, LA, chose the “other” category, too, but for a different reason. Getting her staff to return to work has been her biggest challenge. “They want to continue to work from home or they have small children with no daycare available.”

Jill Keith cited planning for the unknown with evaporated resources as her main concern for her business, Enchanted Jewelry in Danielson, CT. “It feels like I’m building a start-up business with an unclear timeline and no fuel,” says Keith, who nevertheless left room for some optimism. “Perhaps that scenario will create our most accessible and resilient business model to date.”

Susan Nelson of Travis Park Jewelers in San Antonio, TX, says maintaining health and safety protocols is problematic, but her response could also fall under the “customer behavior” category. “The people who are not afraid of the virus tend to be pushy and are not following the rules,” she notes. “We are being as “friendly strict” as possible to make sure that everyone is safe. Lots of hand sanitizer for customers and social distancing is our main line of defense. Every employee also goes to the bathroom to wash their hands between customers. One employee is dedicated to sanitizing the store at all times.”

Rosanne Kroen is also confounded by “customer behavior.” “Wearing masks is a point of division with customers,” says Kroen, owner of Rosann’s Diamonds & Gold in South Bend, IN. “Most wear them into the store, but I have had several customers 75 and older come in without them! And they get mad when I make them put one on. But no one has refused hand sanitizer before trying on jewelry or having their finger measured.”

Scott Wickam of Goldsmith Gallery Jewelers in Billings, MT, is torn about when to resume his advertising budget at previous levels, while J. Craig Grant of M&M Jewelers in Owensboro, KY, simply answered “Staying in business!” in reference to his choice of the “financial” challenge option.

But Peter Tims of White Mountain Jewelers in Show Low, AZ, says the biggest obstacle to business right now is fear. “The public has fallen, hook-line-and-sinker for this Covid BS,” Tims says.

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On a lighter note, Teri Vogan of Vogan Gold & Silver Works in Colorado Springs, CO, is concerned that her store greeter had been sidelined for the time being and is currently underemployed.

“For those retailers with shop dogs/pets, we were informed by our vet that it is recommended we don’t allow customers to touch our shop dog until further notice as this COVID-19 virus can be transferred,” Vogan says. “It is VERY sad for Shelby, our lab, who LIVES for the customer interaction, and equally sad for those customers who enjoyed some puppy love while they shopped.”

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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