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Can you spot Everest? An aerial shot of the Everest range in the Himalayan mountains.
Can you spot Everest? An aerial shot of the Everest range in the Himalayan mountains.

Climb every mountain: lessons from the summit

After a year that’s felt much like a tumultuous trek through the Himalayas, ANGELA HAN sits on a summit to take in the view and ponder the lessons learned.

At this time last year, I had just moved into a new office, having taken over publishing Jeweller. Much like getting ready to scale Everest after years of rigorous training, I felt ready and looked forward to seeing what heights we could reach.

Diligently equipped and planned for 2020, the first few steps into the new decade felt good; the future was pregnant with promise. However, you can’t prepare for an earthquake when scaling mountains, and the last thing I’d planned for, as a new business owner, was a pandemic.

"The Nepalese believe that every step up the mountain is a step closer to heaven, and as such, it is in their nature to treat every inch of the ascent with reverence."

Looking back at all the crossed-out dates in last year’s diary, I recall how blissfully unaware I was of COVID-19 when I’d pencilled them in. As it turns out, the pandemic doesn’t care much for anyone’s plans!

As incredible as that seems now, what was even more incredible was how quickly our team was able to adapt. Within 12 months, we evolved our processes to be leaner and more flexible to the ever-changing policies and business landscape. 

And while we may not be pandemic-proof, we are now pandemic-ready, owing to the events of 2020.

Another surprise amid the chaos was how well the jewellery trade performed, all the way through to the Christmas season.

While some were concerned the positive trend was down to the ‘sugar hit’ of tax cuts and wage subsidies, data reported by Retail Edge this January revealed that sales were up 23 per cent from last year in dollar-value terms across its 400 stores. This should alleviate concerns of a post-holiday lull.

Coupled with Australia’s low COVID infection rates, it appears we are better positioned for recovery than most other parts of the world.

So with all this good news, have we passed the worst? Have we turned a corner?

Slow acclimatisation 

Mountains teach you very quickly that the summit is not the final destination.

Indeed, the moment of rapture is short-lived when you realise that you’re surrounded by an army of other mountains, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and stretching as far as the eye can see. It reminds you that the journey doesn’t end here.

Rest is fleeting as you plot your next move: how to descend? Which way? 

Like a climber yet to take stock of their oxygen level at the top of the peak, we have yet to comprehend the full effects of the post-pandemic economy.

While shares for companies like luxury group LVMH and China’s largest jewellery retailer Chow Tai Fook have recovered – and even hit record prices – since October, the nature of the virus cannot be so easily plotted on a chart.

It’s difficult to tell if this is a lull, or something more permanent.

While the future remains unclear, we are all slowly acclimatising to a new way of existing – and that’s the only thing we can do.

The Nepalese believe that every step up the mountain is a step closer to heaven, and as such, it is in their nature to treat every inch of the ascent with reverence. As it turns out, slow ascents up steep mountains also have scientific merit given the need for our bodies to acclimate to new altitudes.

It takes a month for Everest climbers to get from base camp to the summit, and many prepare for years beforehand by summiting nearby mountains.

Those who try to ascend the mountain in record time often have to descend prematurely due to altitude sickness. In this case, slow and steady really wins the race!

Just like our bodies need time to adjust to new environments and stress, businesses need time to acclimate to new trading conditions. Implementing change takes patience and perseverance, so it’s important to keep things in perspective as you adapt.

Take time to consider your next steps while remaining receptive to your environment. This will allow you to i) savour the process – in mountain terms, enjoy the view along the way – and ii) adapt and respond swiftly as the wind changes.

The truth is that the descent is often more brutal than the climb, and we must be prepared for that too.

The next stages of recovery might not look the way we want them to – there’s always the possibility that it may get worse before it gets better.

Yet right now we have the luxury of time to chart our course.

Beyond the summit

In a strange twist of irony, human beings attach so much sentiment to making the summit, that we often forget it is but one of many beautiful resting points along the mountain.

Indeed, you don’t often stay on a summit for long; on Everest, you get 20 minutes on a good day before you run out of oxygen.

"The summit is a fraction of your journey; it exists to tell you, “There’s nothing more to see here, please keep moving.”

In the pursuit of what lies ahead, we often neglect to celebrate how far we’ve come. As we prepare for the year ahead, it’s important to remember the one that has just gone, and to appreciate that we have gone through – and are still going through – a global pandemic full of lessons that have changed humanity.

It has been an unforgettable collective experience of survival, adaptation and creativity, and this resourcefulness is a testament to human resilience.

While there were certainly moments in 2020 when giving up might have felt like a good option, we need to celebrate that we didn’t, because we’re here today.

As you look to the future, don’t be afraid to choose a mountain bigger than what you’re used to climbing –  after all, you’re now acclimatised!

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Angela Han

Publisher  • Jeweller Magazine

Angela Han has more than a decade’s experience in the jewellery and luxury goods industry, having worked in all sectors from retail and manufacturing to design and supply. She has been with Jeweller for over ten years and has extensive experience in print and digital media publishing, business-to-business communications and strategy. 

Mark McAskill Jewellery

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