covid in the jewellery industry

September 2020

A perspective on Covid

After nearly a year of Covid, designer Tessa puts pen to paper and reflects on the changes in her industry, the struggles the brand has encountered, and the next steps forwards…

From the moment covid-19 hit British shores it was clear that a tidal-wave of prolonged inactivity was going to follow. Almost immediately our once-buzzing retail relationship with the outside world began to dissolve. Client emails, bespoke enquiries and general sales evaporated in real time and a new reality began to dawn: 2020 was going to be the year that ‘never was’. Every plan that we had so meticulously worked towards over the course of past weeks, months and even years – whether that be new collection launches, international trunk-shows or brand-building dinners – were now firmly on hold, and furthermore with no clear understanding of when normality might once again resume. Like a bunny transfixed by headlights, Britain’s luxury industry froze and quietly slipped into a state of suspended animation.

From the perspective of a designer brand, our experience of this lockdown has not been the best, nor (thankfully) the worst. In the fine jewellery sector we are probably representative of the surviving middle, resilient land-girls stoically ploughing on. The government sanctions have not broken us as a business, but nor have they left us flourishing. We do not belong to the few who have prospered in this time of uncertainty, but I suspect not many in luxury have. For us, it is clear that epidemiological pandemics do not to go hand in hand with jewellery sales, no matter how inventive your marketing ploys might try to be.

Instead – with all future plans lost to limbo land – we have enthusiastically accepted our set course for demi-hibernation and embraced pragmatism in the face of potential despair. We’ve taken to focussing our energies internally to future-proof the business in any way we can. This has largely taken the form of learning new, important skills (those that we would normally have outsourced to external third parties) such as CAD and SEO website optimisation, two disciplines that take time to understand and perfect. Anything that can be done to make sure we hit the ground running when the time is right is currently game, as long as it falls within the parameters of socially tasteful. A global health pandemic is not the time to be pushing luxury wares in the same intensity or manner as before. Sensitivity and tact are paramount at this time.

In short, lockdown has given us the opportunity to re-evaluate and assess what works and what doesn’t. The speed of commerce today doesn’t always enable true reflection, and perhaps this is the greatest gift recent history has given us: the rare chance to think big and think without pressure. Winding our business down on the outside has ultimately allowed us the grace period to improve on the inside. Whether we chose to subscribe to this period of reflection – or whether it was forced upon us – frankly no longer matters. Silver lining moments are about keeping perspective and making it count in the face of relative adversity. Too often are short term solutions applied to complex situations. Too often do we forget to stop and remember the bigger picture: that health, happiness and peace should come before commerce. Sometimes it’s important to take the time to ask what really matters, whether your business finds itself engulfed inside the bowels of a black swan event or not. As James Hollis once said, ‘life is what happens when you had other plans’.