Retail Jewelers in a Coronavirus World
by Peter Smith
I was listening to a podcast by RetailWire today and one on the listeners typed in on the comments section that she was “disgusted” at the idea of “non-essential” businesses being open.
Intellectually, I get what she was saying, but emotionally, I was very ticked off by her comment.
She didn’t call out retail jewelers specifically, but my defense mechanism kicked in and I asked her what a non-essential business was.
I get that we are not selling food or medicines, but if a customer’s wedding bands come in for his wedding, should we not offer him curbside service? Should we just go underground and pretend that every wedding or special occasion is being cancelled?
If we can deliver his engagement ring to his car, while maintaining a skeleton staff behind closed doors, is it tasteless to do so?
What is non-essential business anyway? If there are people involved and their roles can be structured to ensure social distancing and clean environments, should we not do that?
Is it better for businesses that don’t have reserves of cash for the kind of rainy day we could never have imagined to simply release those employees and make no effort to do any business? Should we simply cast them out to fend for themselves with no work or income?
The Edge Retail Academy reported that sales from yesterday, March 18, across the 1000 or so independent retailers they aggregate, were $3.248 million.
Sales for the same group of independent jewelers, for the same day last year, were $4.150 million. Those numbers, a 28% decline in same day sales, under any circumstances would be disturbing.
But are they terrible given the situation we find ourselves in today? The fact that 1000 jewelry stores did 72% of their business compared to last year is, honestly, mind boggling to me.
That can, of course, change within hours – let alone days. I’ve heard, last night and this morning, about more retailers closing their doors for the foreseeable future.
The reality is many retailers will have the opportunity to do business today in a way that could never have been possible if a crisis like this had hit just a few years ago.
The often-maligned (sometimes justifiably so) social media sites have enabled us to stay connected with our customers to let them know what we are doing.
That could be curbside delivery, free-shipping, online ordering, or any number of other creative and innovative ways to ensure that we can engage with customers who want to do business with us.
For those retailers who can stay open in some capacity or other, there are things you can do to help your customers. They include:
Get busy on social media and monitor customer engagement in real time.
Sending e-mails to your customers to let them know if you are open for business.
Forwarding your calls to a cell phone and changing your message to give a cell number.
Asking your communities to support your small business NOW.
Having appropriate signage on your door if you are closed, but still doing business.
Notifications on your website that your store is closed, but you are open for business.
Offering curbside pickup if you can keep a skeleton staff to do that.
Offering free delivery to your customers.
Inviting customers to help you by buying gift cards for future use.
Over communicating - and then communicating some more to your customers.
It’s hard to find a silver lining as we hurtle into the teeth of a storm that Arne Sorenson, the CEO of Marriott, just today called worse than 9/11 and the financial crisis combined.
That said, we are seeing some great initiatives and civic spirit from companies small and large as they try to help,
LVMH has re-tooled production from their fragrance division to producing hand-sanitizer.
Chow Tai Fook (the parent company of Hearts On Fire and Memoire) has shifted some manufacturing capacity to producing 100,000 face masks a day to donate to needy organizations and institutions.
A cursory glance at social-media sites reveals great acts of humanity and caring happening all over the world from companies, organizations and motivated people.
Getting back to Arne Sorenson for a moment. He ended his message by sharing that the Marriott properties throughout China have started to see a very real recovery after an abysmal few weeks that saw all bookings and group events came to a complete standstill.
In that live webinar by RetailWire today, Nikki Baird shared that a colleague of hers in China was hearing about a concept called Revenge Shopping. After weeks and months of being isolated and cooped up, her colleague talked of people attacking their favorite stores with a gusto, thrilled to be able to shop again after a very difficult period through the worst of Covid-19.
We are a long way from seeing Revenge Shopping, but it should serve as a reminder that, after some very challenging days, weeks and months ahead, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will enjoy a welcome return to the community, tactility and experience that great retail provides.
Until then, keep your family, your colleagues and your customers safe.