Retailers: What COVID-19-Related Business Change Will You Be Keeping?

Jill JarmelWhile I’m not giving up my brick-and-mortar store, I’m moving my business more toward by-appointment and online. By-appointment works better for me in my personal life, and it seems my clients like it. It’s more personal—it’s better customer service, as you’re 100% focused on the person. The clients seem to really enjoy it. They are not interrupted by people walking in, and I can curate the selection and really make it about them. I give them soda and snacks and really turn it into an experience.
Jill Jarmel, owner, JBJ Curated Goods, Walnut Creek, Calif.,


Kert BlodgettEver since COVID, we’ve probably sold more by text than by anything else. That’s definitely something we’re going to keep doing. Years ago, salespeople weren’t supposed to talk directly with clients; now it’s expected that you be reachable all the time. It’s good for us because, in Washington, D.C., people are from all different places, and every few years or so a lot of them move back. Now we can stay in touch and still offer them the service we’ve been giving them. We ship all over the place now. We even shipped a package to New Zealand.
Kert Blodgett, director of sales, Charles Schwartz & Son, Washington, D.C.,


Paolo SalamoneAbout 70% of our business is custom. We give people the option to design the piece virtually. I would say 9 out of 10 choose virtual. We never did that before COVID. And we’re keeping that as an option. It’s just a lot more convenient for people. There’s no mask, there’s no driving, there’s no parking, and they are just sitting at home with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. I’ll be sitting outside, and they can hear the birds chirping behind me and you can tell that they’re enjoying the moment. A lot of times, we drop the piece off at their door, and then we take a picture of them opening up the box and looking at the piece. And it’s great. You just get that reaction of “Wow, here’s my jeweler at my front door.” It’s not for everyone, but a lot of people like it, and it’s really all about giving people choices and options.
Paolo Salamone, owner, Paolo, A Modern Jeweler, Cincinnati,


Ellen HertzI became a better buyer, in terms of having a more finely sharpened pencil. My buys are now smaller and more frequent. Before, I would just buy for the next six and a half months. But with COVID, you never knew what was going to happen. At first, we were shut down for two weeks, then four weeks, then it became months. So without knowing what the future would hold, it forced my hand, made me take a shorter, more targeted approach. I think it’s a better way to buy: You’re not tying up a lot of money in inventory.
Ellen Hertz, owner, Max’s, St. Louis Park, Minn.,

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