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Big Survey

Retailers Revamp Operations in Response to the Pandemic

From retirement planning to staffing, many made changes they’d been putting off.



WE ASKED HUNDREDS of respondents to our 2021 Big Survey several questions about how they were affected by the pandemic, including the question, “Did the pandemic force you to make a business decision you had been putting off? If so, what was it?”

Almost universally respondents said they were proactive when confronted with a potential crisis. They jumped into action during shutdowns or slowdowns in their businesses. Moving, cleaning, and remodeling topped the to-do list, along with revamping websites, buying high-tech tools (especially laser welders), and adjusting staffing and hours. Others said it accelerated their plans for retirement.

Here is a selection of representative responses:

  • “The pandemic caused the third generation to think it was the right time to transfer the business over to their daughter, so we’re moving to the fourth generation of owners.”
  • “My dad’s retirement, sort of. We tried to keep him out of the shop when we were allowed to open because he was high risk. Seeing that we could operate with him out of the office allowed him to take the step into “semi-retirement.” I call him The Banker now. He manages the finances and is able to do that in an hour or two a week, and doesn’t even have to necessarily come in.”
  • “Looking at an exit plan. Taking a practical look at a timeline blueprint, economic risk, tax benefits and long-term viability.”
  • “To buy out a retiring jeweler in a neighboring city. We purchased the store from him. We might not have done it if it weren’t for the pandemic.”
  • “We had planned to do a remodel of the store to bring our shop right into the front of the store, letting even people on the sidewalk watch us work. The shutdown gave us the time without people in the store and the relief money gave us the opportunity to do it better than we would have.”
  • “Cutting back on staff. When we consolidated, we promised our team that they would all have job security and said we wouldn’t be letting anyone go. We were carrying a staff of 11 for a 1,200-square-foot store because we gave our word (and never put an end date to the promise). The pandemic forced us to send everyone home and we then brought people back based on what the store could support.”
  • “I got my precious metals dealer license, so the store is now an essential business.”
  • “Opened a second store.”
  • “Finally decided to create our own website with e-commerce of jewelry we have in the store only.”
  • “We did a lot of cleaning during the shutdown and after. We recycled decades of catalogs and parted with a lot of displays that were dilapidated or didn’t fit our color scheme. The freshen up was amazing.”
  • “I closed on Mondays to give myself a day off. Cut my buying by 50 percent last year and we sold a great deal of our older inventory. We rearranged the store monthly and remade numerous pieces that had been here too long, and they sold!”
  • “Moving from a storefront location with high rent after 28 years to an office.”
  • “Finally built a new office/ gem lab we have been talking about for years.”
  • “With the pandemic shutdowns, we were hampered in completing custom pieces using outside casting houses, so we purchased 3D printing and casting equipment.”
  • “I opened my own manufacturing facility.”
  • “We reduced our hours. We are now open Tuesday through Saturday. Our sales increased in 2020 by 22 percent and so far in 2021 we are up 78 percent over 2020.
  • “We invested in several more advanced technologies. Specifically, a second laser welder, a high-tech wax injector and a more sophisticated casting machine.
  • We went all in on selling on Instagram.”

The 2021 Big Survey was carried out between August and September, attracting almost 700 anonymous responses from owners of independent jewelry stores across the United States and Canada. The full results can be found online here.


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



When There’s No Succession Plan, Call Wilkerson

Bob Wesley, owner of Robert C. Wesley Jewelers in Scottsdale, Ariz., was a third-generation jeweler. When it was time to enjoy life on the other side of the counter, he weighed his options. His lease was nearing renewal time and with no succession plan, he decided it was time to call Wilkerson. There was plenty of inventory to sell and at first, says Wesley, he thought he might try to manage a sale himself. But he’s glad he didn’t. “There’s no way I could have done this as well as Wilkerson,” he says. Wilkerson took responsibility for the entire event, with every detail — from advertising to accounting — done, dusted and managed by the Wilkerson team. “It’s the complete package,” he says of the Wilkerson method of helping jewelers to easily go on to the next phase of their lives. “There’s no way any retailer can duplicate what they’ve done.”

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