How are you navigating your business through the current COVID-19 crisis?
This has been the most extraordinary time for everyone. If anything its beginning to feel stranger with all the limitations on reopening that we are working with now. Strangely its also been a very positive situation for us. We were busy from the very first day of lockdown and haven’t stopped for a single minute. No second languages or online theatre performances for us!
Our customers have been absolutely incredible, really supportive and understanding. Some people's kindness to us has bought me to tears. We had one customer who insisted on paying for a £6000 ring even though we couldn’t guarantee a delivery date due to the temporary closures of suppliers. He said that he knew we were an independently owned business and he wanted to support us. This happened more than once. Our customers are amazing! The other wonderful thing has been that about 80% of the customers we have had during lockdown have been new to us, and have trusted us with some really quite big commissions.
We went into lockdown with our graphic designer working remotely from Greece and all our staff on furlough except for Stephen and I and our SEO marketing person (who is also our son in law). As we were locked-down with our family we could all continue to work together. We had no idea what to expect. We thought we were going to have lots of spare time, instead we were all doing about 4 jobs at once.
And what has the COVID-19 crisis taught you about your business?
In a very weird way Covid has given us an opportunity to look at our business in a different light. We were slowly moving in a different direction - to be more exclusive and to use appointment only consultations. This change would have been harder to make without our customers getting much more used to shopping online, and also used to the idea of making appointments. Our online sales have always been extremely good but now we are finding that our older customers are much more accustomed to using an online option even for expensive pieces.
We have also found that people have been keen to support us as an independent UK business. We have always tried to create a personal connection with our customers, but what we’ve seen during lockdown is that people really value that – they value knowing where and how their jewellery is being made, and by whom. This also linked to an increase in interest, from our customers, in the importance we have always placed on sustainability (our use of recycled metals, ethically-sourced precious stones, etc). This seems to have become more important to our customers during lockdown and they have wanted to support us with this.
How are you – and the wider business – supporting your people?
During lockdown we really wanted to help our community. As it became more and more obvious that we had absolutely no spare time, we decided to give money instead. We gave 10% of our sales to the NHS. We have also given and are still giving 15% off to all key workers. We want to show our admiration and appreciation to all these really important people in our society, who rarely get recognition.
We also felt it was important to keep the communication going with our furloughed staff. We had regular Zoom chats, swapping recipes and Netflix recommendations. We kept everyone updated about how we were going to be opening up and what we were going to be doing to keep everyone safe. It was important to keep up morale and to let everyone know what we had planned for the future and what we were working on. It was hard for them, but all of our staff are now back in work.
How are you, on a personal level, dealing with lockdown?
On a personal level we are all very positive. We have been developing a new website during all of this, implementing a new CRM system and working in the workshop and also talking to customers. It feels like everything is motoring forward. There will be bumps, but on the whole we are optimistic about the new possibilities we are planning. If nothing else this has shown us that we have a very solid business with a reputation that we have slowly but surely built up over the years. We are looking forward to a time when we can take a break, but at the moment it’s all systems are go! Oh and I am super sick of cooking!