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Appreciating the blessings in disguise

Being a Melbourne jeweller during the COVID-19 pandemic was a lesson in perspective, resilience, and seizing opportunities – in whatever form they took, writes STEVE PALLAS.

At the end of 2018, I bought out my business partner and decided to re-brand our Melbourne store, GN Designer Jewellers. The change was long overdue; customer feedback told us that the old name wasn’t memorable – in fact, many found it confusing – and they didn’t associate it with me.

We were also attracting very few customers off the street, despite being located on the famous Hardware Lane, a tourist destination. Our signage and the store itself didn’t reflect the high-quality products I made and the reputation we had.
Even my wife said she wouldn’t have walked into the store if she was a stranger on the street!

Yet despite needing an overhaul, we never found the time to put our grand plans into action. Word-of-mouth referrals kept customers coming through the door, and our family was growing, so we were always slightly too busy to finish the planning.

Then COVID-19 came along. Overnight, I was forced to cut back my hours; weddings were postponed and as a result, a large number of previously urgent jobs were pushed back by months or more.

While sales went down, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Not only did I have more time at home to spend with my family – including our newborn baby – but my wife and I finally had the opportunity to sit down and really work on re-branding and re-launching the business under my name: Steve Pallas Bespoke Jewellery.

We reassessed everything from the website to the receipt cards!

Image is everything these days – for better or worse – and COVID-19 presented an opportunity to update our store to better reflect the quality of my jewellery.

With very few people out shopping during the first lockdown, we were able to organise a mini renovation of the store and finish just before the second, intense lockdown started, giving it the modern face-lift it deserved.

Image is everything these days – for better or worse – and COVID-19 presented an opportunity to update our store to better reflect the quality of my jewellery.

Being located in the basement section of a heritage building, we couldn’t do much to the exterior or the door – however, we invested in beautiful custom-made bronze signage to help us stand out in the lane.

Inside, we revamped the signature staircase, concreted the walls, and installed black powder-coated arch doors with arch mirrors to match, as well as changing the lighting.

I was adamant we needed to change our jewellery boxes too. That presented its own challenges, as we had to communicate with several overseas suppliers and spent months sending samples back and forth until we were happy.

Some might say those details don’t matter, but it has turned out to be the opposite; since lockdown ended, shoppers absolutely love our re-brand and won’t stop talking about how much they love our custom-made jewellery boxes.

They look luxurious and expensive (which they were) as well as unique from every other jewellery store. Those little touches make such a difference.

We were still allowed to trade in the first half of 2020, but once the second lockdown hit Melbourne, I had to stay home completely unless fulfilling online orders.

There was a huge decrease in sales, but it didn’t break us – it simply gave us more time to finish all the other bits and pieces. My wife was staying up until midnight most nights working on content for our new website and co-ordinating everything with the graphic designers and web designers.

It was a lot of work, but extremely rewarding to see it completed; however, like the store, it is not something we can be complacent about and it will need to be consistently updated and improved over time.

The overall experience of COVID-19 not only provided us with time to make the positive changes we had always planned to make, but it also helped us to reflect on our priority as a business: our customers.

We counted our blessings, and they are the biggest. We would be nothing without them, so we decided to say thank you with a fun ‘chocolate diamond smash’ gift, which we sent out just as we were coming out of the second lockdown.

We also sent them to local celebrities and social media influencers that we have worked with over the years.

The gift included a large chocolate diamond, a custom ‘SP’ wooden hammer, an 18-carat yellow gold wishbone, and custom-made Steve Pallas M&Ms which we had shipped from the US. That process took forever too because of the pandemic, but we were able to put smiles on faces and lift spirits, so it was worth it.

Since re-opening after lockdown, we have been inundated with orders. It is so chaotic at the moment that it almost makes you wistful for the quiet times... Almost!


Name: Steve Pallas
Company: Steve Pallas Bespoke Jewellery
Position: Owner
Location: Melbourne, VIC
Years in Industry: 20

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