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The Pandemic

A new normal? A tragic interruption before things return to the way they were? We don’t know yet , but the pandemic has caused jewelers to give great thought to the ways they do business and live their lives. Here they share their thoughts.

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11. From a business point of view, has the pandemic made you…

Bigger (it was an opportunity to expand)
8%
Stronger/more resilient (more efficient, less indebted, etc.)
59%
Weaker
3%
Just different. We reinvented ourselves.
12%
Just the same. Nothing changed really.
18%

12. What pandemic behaviors are you still practicing?

Using alcohol to disinfect areas
56%
Wearing a mask
52%
Declining to shake hands
33%
Avoiding trade shows
32%
Curbside pickup
20%
Appointment only
10%
Video sales
6%
We never did any of these
6%
We’re totally back to normal
2%
Other
6%

*“Others” included insisting on masks, plexiglass barriers, shorter hours, and limiting foot traffic.

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13. Did the COVID interruption to routine cause you to learn something new or a more efficient way of doing something?

Independent jewelers honed their time management skills, became resourceful about sourcing merchandise, realized that fewer open hours don’t inevitably mean less business, and tried new things, from e-commerce and payment channels to video conferencing with clients.

  • “I saw the true value of time. No more costume jewelry repair, or repairs of jewelry with little value. Talk to the customer, write up the job, assign a goldsmith, smith does the repair, process the job ticket, call the customer, talk to the customer at pick up, process the sale. The piece of jewelry now has to be worth that process.”
  • “As a by-appointment-only private jeweler, I realized I did not have to go into the office every single day. My office is approximately 45 minutes away from my home, and I saved so much time and was so productive without the in-office distractions.”
  • “We dropped a full day of retail to concentrate labor hours into a five-day week.”
  • “We reached out to new vendors within the RJO buying group and were able to continue to source goods and services in a timely manner using the amazing network of vendors and retailers within the group. Our Facebook group was strong and if a store needed an item and the vendors were out of stock, we helped each other to make the sale.”
  • “We shifted to selling online in addition to our brick and mortar. Now we sell all over the U.S.”
  • “It taught us to focus on improving our digital and technology way of doing business. We improved our e-commerce site, relied on Podium for texting and payments, converted some events to online. We also improved our digital marketing.”

14. Did the pandemic force you to make a business decision you had been putting off? If so, what was it?

Respondents said they jumped into action during shutdowns or slowdowns in their businesses. Moving, cleaning, remodeling, and planning for retirement topped the to-do list, along with revamping websites, buying high-tech tools and adjusting staffing and hours.

  • “The pandemic caused the third generation to think it was the right time to transfer the business to their daughter, so we’re moving to the fourth generation of owners.”
  • “To buy out a retiring jeweler in a neighboring city. 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. 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.”
  • “We did a lot of cleaning. 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.”
  •  “Moving from a storefront location with high rent after 28 years to an office.”
  • “Built a gem lab we have been talking about for years.”

15. What was the main thing that helped you get through the pandemic?

The Big Survey 2021: The Pandemic

*“Others” included melting old inventory, prayer, the loyal efforts of staff, competition closing and “good old-fashioned determination.”

16. Which area of expenses were you able to cut down on during the pandemic that has had the least impact on your business?

Store hours
27%
Trade shows
20%
Advertising
18%
Inventory
15%
Staff/payroll
7%
Treats/hospitality/gourmet coffee
5%
Equipment & tool purchases
2%
Training and education
1%
Rent/Lease
1%
None
4%
Being able to make the same amount of money while working fewer hours was a revelation to many jewelers. “Fewer employees, higher net income, less hours at work. Wish I had figured this out 10 years ago,” said one.

 

17. What was the lowest point for you during the pandemic?

  • “When we were hit by looters two days before we were scheduled to reopen after the shutdown. Looting and protests continued in front of our store for days. That was a rough week!”
  • “Losing longtime customers and clients to COVID-19.”
  • “Having a major burglary just two weeks after re-opening in June 2020.”
  • “We were hacked by Russians. For everyone who thinks their inventory is their most important asset, they are wrong. It is years of history with your clients, suppliers, and your business.”
  • “Not being able to be open when the building was closed with no break in the rent.”
  • “Getting shut down for a second time four days after my dad passed away. We lost Christmas due to shutdowns.”
  • “We closed for six weeks. I got depressed and realized just how much I get from interactions with customers.”
  • “Being called the C-word by a 20-year customer because we asked folks to wear a mask. Broke my heart.”
  • “People spitting in our faces or threatening us with guns over required mask-wear.”
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18. Did the pandemic ever prompt you to think you should get out of the jewelry business or make another big change to your professional life?

No
67%
Yes
16%
Yes, but not seriously
17%
  • “I will be at the bench or on the sales floor through lunch on the day of my funeral.”
  • “Three weeks into the Wisconsin shutdown, we looked at each other one day in our garage and knew we were not going to retire anytime soon. We missed our work, our customers, and being involved in our community. That clarity was priceless. How do retirees do it? Decide what to do every day.”
  • “I actually got used to and enjoyed the slower pace of life. Traffic was less. Families were outside walking together and playing. It was very tranquil. I considered retirement.”
  • “Made me realize I love what I do and want to purchase the store I manage.”
  • “Being it was nothing like we have ever experienced, I am third generation and it made me think it might be time to get out.”
  • “The riots left a big question mark, but our customers kept calling. We realized quickly we still had a seat at the table.”
  • “I got COVID the week before Christmas, along with my jeweler and store manager. It was crazy that the week before Christmas all my key players were home sick. Luckily, the rest of my staff pulled up their bootstraps and we ended up having a great season. Plus, I have never spent 14 days at home in my life. I actually spent a holiday at home with my family and got to do normal things like watch Netflix. It taught me that it is important to take a break and enjoy my family.”

19. After everything you’ve been through, what has been the big takeaway from the pandemic?

Life Takeaways
  • With the right help, you can overcome anything.
  • Don’t take anything for granted. My wife and I just got COVID.
  • There is more to life than work.
  • Fear will get you nowhere.
  • Just move forward … It will always be OK.
  • No one really knows what’s going to happen.
  • Life is short and unpredictable. Try to find ways to embrace the day.
  • God bless government help.
  • Our government has too much power.
  • People are gullible.
Business Takeaways
  • It was great in many ways.
  • The travel industry kills us.
  • We can operate with less staff, on fewer hours, with a lot less inventory.
  • People will always want to mark a moment in time with jewelry.
  • After being forced home for two months, I realized how much I love what I am doing!
  • Cash is king. Keep a deep reserve.
  • The rich always have money, and we have a product for rich people.
  • There are many more ways to conduct our business than the way we had been doing it for 76 years.
  • Get online more and use social media more.
  • All the years of supporting our community and customers rewarded us with people supporting us with continued shopping.
  • It’s always going to be something …

20. What will be your one-word theme for 2022?

The Big Survey 2021: The Pandemic

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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SPONSORED VIDEO

Wilkerson Testimonials | MSG Jewelers

Wilkerson Takes the Worry Out of Closing

MSG Jewelers has always treated its customers like family. When owner Mike George decided to retire and close the doors of his St. Louis, Missouri jewelry store, he selected a company to manage his going-out-of-business sale that treats its customers like family, too. That’s why he chose Wilkerson. “Wilkerson was able to do all the things that we needed,” says George. In the end, the bittersweet store closing was so much easier with Wilkerson at the helm. From marketing to pricing to inventory, Wilkerson does it all. “It’s a package deal,” says George.

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