Industry Forum 2022: Independent Jewellers Collective – Josh Zarb, CEO

Pre-pandemic, pandemic and post-pandemic sales (we aren’t quite there just yet)

Retail has dealt with more change in the last two years than in the previous two decades and as a side effect, we’ve all grown more resilient. We felt, pre-pandemic, that the industry had experienced two tough years with a distinct lack of newness from brands and suppliers, and we saw a distinct shift in focus back to traditional custom design, remake, remodelling and manufacturing. Our group identified that it was prime time to up the game in stores’ digital presence, with new website strategies, social media, customer database marketing and digital advertising at the focus. Luckily when the pandemic hit it was clear which retailers had made this transition well by matching their instore offering with their digital footprint.

Those stores that were able to be proactive on social media and communicate with their database via EDMs and hit the ground running. During the pandemic it was a free for all and most retailers (plus jewellery wholesalers and manufacturers for that matter) had substantial uplifts in sales. The lack of international travel and interstate lockdowns combined with the government stimulus packages, definitely pushed spending back into our industry. The past two years have seen increases in average sale by showing solid increases in most diamond jewellery categories and of course pink diamonds sales have been at an all-time high over the past 12 months. We have also seen substantial increases in coloured gemstone sales in the $750+ category (where many of the jewellery chains seem to top out). Independent jewellers are well positioned to source unique gems and back it up by quality mounts and hold their GP whilst giving their clients a forever jewellery piece.

Every time we think we are almost over this pandemic; it throws another curve ball. We feel we won’t see any more tough lockdowns moving forward (bloody hope not anyway!) and the borders will remain open (we will just ignore WA for now), so we should see a more normal pattern of trade and retail spend. However, supply chains, resources, and access to staff will remain constricted for businesses while consumer demand keeps going up. Our prediction is there will be a period of conservative spending between now and mid-year, while Australia continues to navigate through this current wave. We believe the next six months will be the perfect time to hone stores’ digital footprint by website development, planned social content, and communicating to customer databases with clear communication. Customers do not need cheesy offers and false discounts, they simply want surety of quality service, integrity, and a healthy workshop with realistic time frames for repair and remakes.

So where to now?

The follow-on effects from the pandemic and lockdowns have forever changed the way many of us look at our overall business models. Spending habits are shifting, and we are seeing a radical change in consumer behaviour. People are more willing than ever to buy from businesses that resonate with them because of geography, company values or sustainability i.e., shopping locally. They’re also returning to in-person shopping and shopping in new ways. Businesses that not only own their customers and know who they are, but are speaking to them and listening to them, will have a definite advantage moving forward. As a buying group, our life is communication and interaction and we have learned to communicate via various media, and we use a combination of email, SMS, MMS, social media and Zoom to share and store

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