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The importance of kindness post-COVID

When figuring out a strategy to survive the new reality of retail, the jewellery industry’s greatest strength is in our kindness and loyalty to each other, writes HELEN THOMPSON-CARTER.

You are probably, like me and everyone else in the world, wondering when COVID-19 will be stopped in its tracks. Unfortunately, it is not looking likely any time soon. The feeling is more that we now need to embrace life within a global pandemic, and everything that comes with it.

New Zealand went ‘hard and fast’ back in March. Many businesses – outside of those deemed essential services – saw limitations imposed on trade, both in- store and online.

Our approach was one of the strictest in the world, and the impact on businesses was extreme. Yet for some retailers, April and May were as good as Christmas in terms of sales and revenue.

Then we emerged from this six-week lockdown straight into a euphoric frenzy of retail spending.

It was great for our jewellery industry – the repairs, remakes, and watch battery replacement jobs piled up, and the consumers came out to treat themselves to something new and beautiful.

However, the emergence of customers with money in their pocket was short- lived. Now it has all come home to roost – financially, for many people things are tough and tight. Economically, things have slowed down.

But in our jewellery industry, it is not ‘over and out’.

We have a Prime Minister whose favourite saying during the COVID period has been, “Be kind.” If I can take this slogan and apply it to our industry right here and now, it is indeed a time to be kind.

It is a time to shift the thinking of, ‘What can you do for me?’ to ‘What can we do together?’

Retailers need a supply chain and the supply chain needs the retailers.

It has become difficult to conduct international business, particularly with countries such as India, which is an integral part of the jewellery supply chain.

So, more than ever, we need to support local and foster those long-term supplier relationships – and local includes our trans-Tasman friends.

I, like most suppliers, understand that retailers need to be cautious, stock needs to be turned, and risks mitigated, while sitting on a sizeable emergency fund for those ‘just in case’ times which seem to be occurring more and more frequently.

"It is a time to shift the thinking of, ‘What can you do for me?’ to ‘What can we do together?’"

Yet some retailers have taken this to the extreme, thinking in the short-term without planning for the long.

The downside is that this has the potential to be catastrophic to the industry supply chain. Adopting a ‘no buy’ attitude could very well kill us, and retailers too.

Fresh stock is important. Retailers need to keep their loyal customers happy,
as well as tempt new customers, by re-ordering the best-selling lines and ordering new and exciting products.

Yet if their regular suppliers disappear, retailers will have to search for stock from unknown sources. In doing so, they risk purchasing lower-quality products and sacrificing the deals they currently enjoy as a result of long-term relationships.

To quell some of the fear jewellers are feeling, it’s important to remember the things jewellery represents, celebrates and signifies won’t disappear because of COVID-19 or a recession.

Birthdays, weddings, engagements, anniversaries, and other special occasions will still happen every year, and we are lucky to be in an industry where customers turn to us to help them mark these wonderful events!

Yet there is no denying that we are going to have to work harder for what we get, developing a deeper understanding of the ways in which consumers are searching, shopping, and spending in this post- COVID environment.

We will need to adjust our offering accordingly to suit their needs.

For most in the jewellery industry, that means being more digital, more engaging and more present, being a better storyteller, and being far more proactive in selling the virtues of fine jewellery.

To succeed in this new environment also requires us to strengthen our support for each other – and have faith in what we have, and do, every day.

So, let’s be COVID kind. Support local, support those within the industry who have supported you, keep that support close to home, and together let’s make sure our beautiful industry continues to shine.

Name: Helen Thompson-Carter
Company: Fabuleux Vous
Position: Founder and director
Location: Auckland, NZ
Years in Industry: 10



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