So the road map out of lockdown has been unveiled and non-essential retailers can at long last plan their re-openings from 12th April – data permitting!
It’s too early to start celebrating of course but clearly there is now light at the end of the tunnel. And despite the obvious challenges ahead for many retail businesses, commentators are suggesting that February’s growth in consumer confidence is cause for some cautious optimism. Unsurprisingly, according to Springboard, overall UK footfall is forecast to rise significantly in April with a steady ongoing increase as the economy reopens.
Of course, we’ve been helping our non-essential retail clients with their store re-opening plans for some time, confident in the knowledge that despite the growth in online sales, their stores will play a vital role in their retail recovery. Indeed for some of our clients, physical stores remain at the critical centre of their multichannel service to customers.
One such group of clients are fine Jewellery and luxury Watch retailers. Whilst many have pivoted successfully during lockdown to service customers online and through digital consultations, these channels simply cannot replicate the human-centric instore engagement required to build high value sales and loyalty through superb customer connectedness.
For one client the lockdown has been an opportunity to embark on an extensive refurbishment. For instance, Wakefields - a third generation jewellery and watch retailer in West Sussex – has been a successful Rolex partner since 2012. With a planned expansion of their Rolex room, Wakefields commissioned us to modernise and elevate their store with a fresh and luxurious experience that will reward their loyal customers, as well as attract new ones, when they re-open in April.
For Turkish jewellery house, MEVÁRIS, Covid couldn’t have come at a more challenging time! Before the pandemic hit Europe, they had commissioned us to design their first UK boutique in London’s exclusive Burlington Arcade. But despite the lockdown challenges, our collaboration continued and they were able to open their doors for a short time in December for some valuable and promising Christmas trading.
As a member of the Design Business Association we are committed to a retail design process that targets breakthrough results for our clients. But measuring success during a pandemic has proved challenging.
Rocks Jewellers, one of Ireland’s leading independent jewellers, opened the doors to their redesigned flagship store the week before Ireland went into lockdown. And when they reopened last July, Dublin city’s prestigious Grafton Street was devoid of all those lucrative tourists and the usual weekend footfall from the regions.
However, despite the pandemic, MD Robert Rock has good reason to be cautiously optimistic for the future. His refurbished jewellery and watch stores were trading fantastically well before the second lockdown, with autumn sales 40% up on the previous year.
So we wish all our clients well with their store re-openings and hope that non-essential retailers everywhere have used their time wisely during lockdown to evolve and raise the bar on their instore customer experience.
Because after months of isolation, consumers will want to be rewarded in stores with a very warm welcome and a really engaging, customer-focused experience. As discussed in last month’s post – Reset for exceptional retail - exceptional times call for exceptional retail so opening with a ‘business as usual’ approach is unlikely to achieve success.