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by Shane O'Neill, Vice President I’m not sure what the heck these past few months have been all about… don’t wear masks, wear masks… conspiracy theories… dogs and cats living together… all is lost, all is lost! Whew, we are all still spinning from this COVID thing. For whatever reason, I maintained a cautious yet level-headed perspective on the daily updates on the situation. The stock market was crashing, stores were closing, all was doom and gloom, but even still, my perspective was either this is the end of the world as we know it or this too shall pass. I refused to buy into this is the end of the world as we know it because at that point you lose all control of the situation. It also seemed highly unlikely. Instead, I took the approach of this too shall pass. After all, this isn’t a financial crisis like 2009. It’s a worldwide pandemic. We will either come back or we won’t and if we don’t, well, all is out the door. So, when the market fell more than 30%... I bought all the stock I could buy. What’s the point? When everyone else is panicking, a few others take action and position themselves to come out better on the other side. From a jeweler's perspective, and other small businesses, the COVID-19 shutdown was a shockwave, and, unfortunately, some couldn’t weather the storm. However, once it was clear the government was prepared to provide the unprecedented stimulus the outlook became better… which is to say you either saw it as a sign of support for business or you looked at it as a sign that it’s even more dire than we thought. Panic or opportunity? The moment the shutdown started we put a clear plan of action in place for our clients and told them to stay the course. Most did with only small, if any, changes to their marketing budget. The reality is that people who planned on getting married are still planning to get married and most engagement ring shoppers are in the market for 2-4 months. Then something else happened; employees, en masse, began to work remotely. Others couldn’t work, but because of the Paycheck Protection Program, they still received their paycheck. People were stuck at home. The result was internet usage dramatically increased and a lot of that traffic was “shopping”. Many retailers began to promote online offers and even gift cards to “Celebrate Now and Gift Later”. When stores started to re-open, those “shoppers” started to come back. In fact, within the first week of opening, one of our clients saw pre-COVID sales numbers. Yet, we are still in the grip of this COVID thing. Talk of a second wave remains, but we’re starting to adapt, prepare, and move forward. However, the underlying reality is, some things may have changed for good. As a Consumer Admittedly, I’ve been avoiding malls and busy shopping times for years now. So, as a consumer, the idea of not dealing with the crowds and lines is appealing. As a business, we’ve been working one day from home each week for about a year and a half now. We were well prepared to make the shift. We didn’t miss a beat. However, as this became our new working reality, I found myself being more productive working from home. Maybe it’s because it’s a comfortable environment or there are fewer interruptions, but I like it and undoubtedly others are feeling the same way. I’m also a horrible sleeper and usually am up by 6:00 am (although having a dog staring at you with the obligatory heavy breathing doesn’t help) but since I don’t have to jump in the shower, get ready and drive into work, by 6:30 I’m knocking out a few projects before the first email comes my way. Before, the morning was lost time. It’s not just that though… my favorite restaurants delivering food to me? Heck, yeah! Even better, the glorious food trucks that show up in the neighborhood. Please don’t ever stop that. Don’t even get me started on the “Adult Ice Cream” truck. This staying at home ordeal isn’t much of an ordeal at all! Honestly, I don’t miss a lot of the daily run around from before and I bet many other people feel the same way. The question is how do businesses adapt to this new reality? I already know a couple of businesses who’ve decided they're not going back to traditional office life and will be working remotely moving forward. From a consumer standpoint, how will the jewelry industry change? We already are seeing private appointments for safety. To me, that sounds like better customer service with less wait time. Why would anyone not want that? What about delivering jewelry? How will websites evolve to accommodate the new shopper? I don’t know, but with all this doom and gloom, I see opportunity.
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