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More Than Half of Jewelers Say They Are Open for Business Now

Another 14% surveyed by INSTORE expected to be open within the week.

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INSTORE COVID reopening survey graph

A TOTAL OF 230 business owners and managers responded to a special COVID-19 INSTORE Brain Squad survey launched on May 18, which indicated that two-thirds of jewelry retailers are open to some extent, or on the verge of reopening.

Our first question, of course, was “Have you reopened your store?”

While 6 percent said they never closed at all, an additional 32 percent have been open for a week or more, and another 20 percent, for a week or less. In addition, 14 percent expected to be open within the week. Only 28 percent said they are not open at all.

Of those who responded affirmatively, some said they are open by appointment only, or are open for curbside business and deliveries. Others are fully opened but may be operating within individual state restrictions, such as limiting how many customers are permitted in the store at one time.

Arkansas is one of the few states not to have issued a shelter-in-place order during the pandemic.

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Bill Jones of Sissy’s Log Cabin in Pine Bluff, AR, is among the 6 percent of respondents who never had to close at all. Even so, Sissy’s is running about 29 percent behind last year. “Crazy times when we are happy with that number,” Jones says. “We would like to see a little more traffic.” Still, being able to stay open has kept him in continued contact with clients. “Customers in Arkansas want to get out,” he says. “They were thrilled that we stayed open the entire time. We have an obligation to customers. Clients still want to celebrate special occasions in their lives, and we need to be there for them.”

In Pennsylvania, government restrictions on retail vary, based on where in the state retailers are located. Susan Kauffman of Black Dog Jewelers in Lewisburg, PA, formerly open six days a week, is seeing customers by appointment only. She notes that customers seem to prefer the personalized approach to business, so she may consider changing her business model to “by appointment” long-term.

Massachusetts, too, has had one of the longer lasting and most restrictive “stay at home” orders, which was lifted and replaced by a “safer at home” plan this week.

Casey Gallant of Stephen Gallant Jewelers in Orleans, MA, is in the store and filling orders remotely with the help of her staff, who are all working reduced hours. Only two people are in the store at a time, however. A return to even a partially open business felt essential to her.

“I realized that while I enjoyed sleeping in and the occasional day drink, not going to work left me with no sense of purpose,” Gallant says. “The minute I started spending regular hours in my store, even if it was just returning calls and emails, that sense of purpose came right back, and my morale improved immensely.”

South Carolina was among the first states to lift closing orders for non-essential retailers in April. Steve Floyd of Floyd & Green in Aiken, SC, opened fully before Mother’s Day after being closed for only two and a half weeks. The company was able to do about 90 percent of the Mother’s Day business it did in 2019. “My main concern is customer buying over the next several months, with no holidays driving sales,” Floyd says.

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Dale Robertson of Dale Robertson Jewelry in Loveland, OH, opened with a flourish that delivered a vital infusion of cash, after Ohio lifted its shutdown orders for virtually all retailers on May 11. “We offered our top customers three special days of extreme savings,” he says. “That gave us a shot in the arm for our cash flow.”

Josh Rider of Dylan Rings in Montgomery, AL, had been doing curbside service three days a week for hours a day for the entire shutdown, before he was able to fully reopen after Alabama relaxed its stay at home order on April 28. “I was really glad to not have to go outside to wait on a customer,” Rider says.

Illinois is expected to enter Phase 3 of a reopening plan on May 29. At that time all retail outlets would be allowed to reopen, with capacity guidelines and masks required.

But Illinois jewelers have done what they could, meanwhile, to stay in the retail game.

Mark Clodius of Clodius & Co. Jewelers in Rockford, IL, has seen some bright spots in working with curbside pickup, for example. “On the third day open (for curbside pickup) we had the largest sale of the year, so far. That was cool,” he says.

Ellie Thompson of Ellie Thompson & Co. in Chicago has continued fulfilling clients dreams via very personalized service and delivery. “People are just so happy to be out and to have someone to talk to,” she says. “A few clients received their custom-made pieces and felt so grateful for the joy the new jewelry is providing. A client had her April wedding postponed until November. I delivered the wedding rings to their home so they could have them on the night their wedding was originally scheduled. They enjoyed a nice dinner together and family sent them champagne, too. It was gratifying to have the rings I made ready for them that day even though their wedding is now six months away.”

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Other responses from North American jewelers who are members of the INSTORE Brain Squad:

  • “It was slow. Even our plaza was empty and it’s a security threat to be open when no one else is around. We’re only opening three days a week for now.” — Shahraz Kassam, Shamin Jewellers, Surrey, British Columbia.
  • “I’ve been working 10-hour days, seven days a week remodeling for the reopening. I need a vacation.” — Jim Saylor, Jim Saylor Jewelers, Kapaa, HI
  • “We never really stopped. Initially, phone calls were forwarded to my cell, so no rest for the wicked.” — Jon Walp, Long Jewelers, Virginia Beach, VA
  • “We are not open, but we have a few online sales. Very concerned about what kind of seasons lie ahead. Will customers buy?” — Nancy and Pierre Plante, Plante Jewelers Inc., Swansea, MA
  • “We’ve seen a steady stream of sales since we opened.” — Beth Owens, Skatells Jewelers, Spartanburg, SC
  • “The first day open was a normal day, just a lot of facemasks.” — Rick Nichols, Nassau Jewelry, Fernandina Beach, FL
  • We continued to do business for six weeks during stay-at-home order with most staff working either in store daily or from home. — Eileen Eichhorn, Eichhorn Jewelry, Decatur, IN

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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