It seems likely that the coming weeks and months will see a gradual loosening of the current lockdown measures, potentially enabling many jewellers to start to return to face-to-face trade perhaps as early as next month. This indicative timeline affords business around three weeks to prepare to reopen, with essential social distancing rules in force. The primary concern of every business must be the health and safety of its staff and customers. Whilst it is likely that retailers will start to open their doors to footfall in the very near future, what is less clear is the extent to which consumers will have the confidence to venture out of the safety of their homes and enter into retail premises. This will certainly prove to be a challenge which will be the equal of that to ensure the sites are properly equipped and organised for effective hygiene and social distancing. In terms of the physical measures that will have to be adopted these will certainly include marking out safe areas and distances, a daily deep clean of all surfaces and a full decluttering of workspaces, to prevent germs from harbouring in nooks and crannies. A daily checklist for staff to run through may help to ensure that nothing is missed and the provision of basic PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), including gloves, face coverings, hand sanitiser, disinfectant products, and Perspex screens, will be a must. It may also be necessary to limit the number of customers permitted inside the premises at any given point in time.
A judgement call will have to be made in terms of allowing customers to handle jewellery items and loose stones, and this may not be permissible in the near term. All retailers will need to formulate an effective COVID-19 control policy to operate safely and effectively post lockdown. This will be determined in part by the letter and spirit of the law but also by their own sense of professionalism and concern for the safety of their stakeholders. Key to the success, or otherwise, of the reopening will be the buy in of employees, and this is where communication and training are key. There will also be an important role for the education of the public, which can be achieved through social media messaging, as well as signage, website information and word of mouth. No doubt over time confidence will return and we will eventually find ourselves in a position to gradually roll back the restrictions and steadily return to full normality. When the lockdown finally comes to an end and consumer confidence returns, the next hurdle to be encountered will be how to adapt your sales and marketing strategy to the new ‘normal.’ Social media has really come of age during the COVID-19 pandemic as a powerful and effective mouthpiece and communication tool. The one caveat to this is, of course, that a large amount of fake news has also been propagated via social media, so it is important to create a simple, effective, and accurate message with which to engage consumers. The one positive that may come out of this difficult and challenging period may well be that the most agile, dynamic, and creative companies survive and even thrive, whereas less efficient and adaptable organisations may not. Like it or not we are all going through a forced transition and we will all emerge with a slightly different perspective on the world to the one we held just a few short months ago.