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The Coronavirus Epidemic

COVID-19 arrived in North America shortly after the turn of the new year, and it’s been upending life and business ever since. Here we ask jewelers how they’ve coped with the viral outbreak in their professional and personal lives, what they’ve learned and what they expect will change as a result of the pandemic.

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27. If you furloughed employees when the pandemic started, have you …

Brought back all your employees
37%
Brought back some employees in line with the recovery in business
10%
Found you can do the same amount of business with fewer employees
12%
NA
41%

28. Have you found yourself using alcohol or other substances to relieve stress more than before pandemic times?

Yes, a lot more
4%
Yes, a little bit more
19%
No
60%
I don’t drink or take other such substances
17%
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29. For you and your store, what has changed forever as a result of COVID-19?

big survey 2020 table

30. Did you get any of the following forms of government assistance to help you deal with the pandemic?

big survey 2020-COVID assistance

COMMENT: A considerable number of jewelers said they also got help from their state governments in the form of business grants, while north of the border our Canadian readers seemed pretty satisfied with the help from their government, which included cheap or interest-free business loans and programs to pay up to 75 percent of payrolls.

31. Do you plan to get a coronavirus vaccine when one is available?

big survey 2020-coronavirus vaccine

32. Are you finding bridal customers spending more on the engagement ring this year because they’ve had to cut back on their wedding and honeymoon plans?

Yes, spending a lot more (20 percent or more than before).
13%
Yes
29%
No, our average engagement ring sale hasn’t changed
45%
No, they are spending less
7%
No, spending a lot less (20% or more less than before)
0.5%
NA
6.5%

 

COMMENT: With less opportunity to travel and spend money on experiences, clients seem to be using their discretionary income on supersizing their center stones. Even some jewelers who answered “no” noted they are selling more engagement rings this year than last, which they attribute to a pandemic-induced urgency to commit.

IN JEWELERS’ WORDS

Yes, they are spending a lot more
  • Not sure if it is because they had to cut back on wedding plans because a lot of them lost deposits. It may be due to the fact that they can’t travel, which is a big priority for young people.
  • Big diamonds are going out the door. The Midwest is always slower than both coasts on trends, but even here, 1.50 to 2 carats are the new norm. I love it! Big juicy rocks with stunning bands to accent that disco ball of a diamond. What’s not to love?
  • I normally sell 1 to 1.50 carat diamonds. Since the pandemic started, the increase in the size of center stones is notable, and bigger ticket anniversary items are flying out the door!
Yes
  • I’ve sold more big (over 1 carat) diamonds this year than any other, and we still have months to go!!
  • We have sold double the number of engagement rings compared to last year.
No, our average engagement ring sale hasn’t changed.
  • Dollar spent average remains about the same, but the number of sales has increased. I theorize that global unrest like war and pandemic causes people to consider their mortality, thus making them more likely to make a big decision such as marriage.
  • I think COVID has made more people get married. They are saying, “Why wait?”
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33. What’s been the worst thing about the COVID-19 pandemic for you as a business owner?

big survey 2020-graph going down

The loss of earnings
21%
Lost opportunities
12%
The loss of a year to grow and develop the business
18%
Having to change the way you do business
14%
The loss of confidence in the future
19%
Other (please specify)
17%

 

COMMENT: Some respondents said COVID has been good for business, while others said it’s come close to putting them out of business. Three responses clearly illustrate the divisiveness surrounding the pandemic:

  • All of the boneheads that just won’t wear a mask prolonging the pandemic, because it has somehow been aligned with a political ideology.
  • Idiots dictating the wearing of masks.
  • The morale of the staff has dropped due to passionately different opinions and divisive discussions.
Other responses:
  • We were going to remodel our store this year. Now we are rethinking how we want to do business in the future.
  • That people have died and suffered is way more important than any effect it has had on our business.

34. What’s been the worst non-business thing about the COVID-19 pandemic?

A personal loss (of a friend, employee or relative)
4.84%
Damage to your own health
1.21%
The restrictions on your movement and personal life/freedoms
38.74%
The feeling of national division
26.88%
The media hysteria
20.58%
Other (please specify)
7.75%
Here are a few of the comments from respondents who elaborated on “other”:
  • The stupidity of our national leaders, specifically our President and his staff not following science and acting negatively toward state and local leaders who were following science and making decisions based on that knowledge.
  • No vacations!
  • Not being able to travel to see my grandchildren.
  • Loss of hope.
  • Stress and anxiety.
  • My mom stuck in a nursing home.
  • All of the above. I have known three people in my community who have passed away. If my health is affected as a sole proprietor, I am out of business, restrictions are tough, national division. Heck, I have division within my family. The media is too much.

35. Finish this sentence: “One thing COVID-19 has taught me is that…”

POLITICs

  • Democrats are idiots.
  • Republicans are stupid.
  • Most Americans are stupid.
  • People will believe anything their TV tells them to.
  • We need as a nation to act as one and have the leadership to do that.

Business

  • People will keep buying jewelry, especially bridal, even when the world is literally on fire.
  • I need to have the necessary resources to keep my staff on payroll for several months without furloughing them in the event this type of thing happens again.
  • Customers still want to celebrate life’s moments.
  • Clients really missed us when we were closed. So, I gotta feel we’ve been doing something right.
  • I can sell a lot without my staff.
  • Better figure out multiple income streams. Reduce inventory, invest more into stocks and real estate.
  • I can run the store on a shoestring budget!
  • I need to stay out of debt.
  • I will never retire.

life lessons

  • You need to cut yourself a break. These are unchartered waters and I cannot be hard on myself right now.
  • Love those around you. Enjoy time with those you love. And I need my staff and my people.
  • So many people are frustrated and fearful, and rather than explore their emotions, they lash out. I practice patience, with awareness, rather than scream “You’re an idiot!”.
  • Money is all that matters to far too many people.
  • Life can change in an instant, and people have a love of toilet paper

36. As awful as it has been, have there been any silver linings to COVID-19 for you?

happy family

Chance to spend more time with family

  • “I have spent more time with my 19- and 22-year-olds then I ever have since giving them birth. We spent nearly three months together. I LOVED every minute. And the loss of income? I am young and healthy. I’ll figure out a way to make it up.”

Chance to spend less time with the family

  • “My wife works from home now. Wait! You asked for a positive? Um, yeah. Let’s go with that.”
  • “I don’t have to go to any school events, concerts, plays. I consider this a real plus.”

Improvement in business

  • “Business is good as no one is traveling and everyone got a stimulus check.”
  • “The closing ratios are much higher. When a customer comes in, they are coming to buy!”

Reassessing what’s important

  • “Had the time to step back and see where I was putting my efforts and was able to shift towards more productive and meaningful projects.”
  • “It opened our eyes and we are now focused more than ever on getting out of debt.”
  • “You realize how precious life is and how easily it can be taken away. It’s something that’s always in the back of your mind, but COVID has brought it to the forefront.”
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Catching up on long-delayed jobs

  • “Spent 12 hours each day during shutdown at store cleaning vault and organizing. Great feeling of accomplishment.”
  • “We were able to have staff complete the GIA training for Applied Jewelry Professionals while we were closed and they could focus on the program.”

The chance to slow down

  • “I had almost 2 1/2 months of getting up when I wanted, going to work when I wanted, leaving work when I wanted and spending more time with family and my dog. I loved it!”

Forced to up our online game

  • “Forced me to think outside the box. I did Facebook auctions to get rid of aged merchandise. We are currently 45 percent ahead of last year.”

Learned to do more with less

  • “We found we can do better with shorter hours, less staff and less inventory.”

Getting rid of underperforming staff

  • “I had tried for months to get this employee to just do what I asked … She was my first employee to fire and I will never let it get as far as it did again. Thank you, COVID, for the life lesson.”

Sneak preview of retirement

  • “Found that I enjoy spending time away from work and look forward to retirement.”
  • “I discovered that retirement is not what I want to do. I went stir crazy at home.”

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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