Time for big crystal balls!

As I write this blog Britain has just gone into its second lock-down and Jersey’s Chief Minister has called out our teenagers for partying too hard over Halloween. This has resulted in more COVID cases and as a result we’re all running for those dreaded masks.

Christmas for us retailers forms a significant part of our trade. I think many of us thought that the £11 million pushed back into our economy in the form of the “spend local” card would see a significant rise in economic activity. We saw plenty of cards throughout our business however I wouldn’t say it set the world alight. What it probably did was to diminish the economic impact of the destruction of the visitor economy. As they say, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  

It’s a tough one to call this year; so many things have changed. Local on-line sales after a small dip have once again accelerated and we’ve learnt from our lockdown experience by investing in more and better standardised packaging. Our bricks and mortar store is effectively replicated on-line reflecting the “new normal” of 24/7 shopping whilst recognising there are many who don’t feel confident strolling the streets of St. Helier at this time.

I’m also very aware of the economic extremes many people find themselves in. We’ve seen a fall of 1,670 jobs year on year in hospitality and overall a rise in unemployment. At the same time there are many who have retained their jobs, maintained their earnings but not spent that money on the traditional family holiday. What will they choose to do?

I do believe that the shock of the March lockdown and the changing working habits has made us all a bit more reflective. A greater appreciation of our surroundings that we’ve all taken for granted for so long. How we live our life, where our priorities lie and what’s really important in our lives. All of this will inform the type of spending that takes place this Christmas.

First and foremost it’s been important for us to ensure the stock we want to sell is actually on the Island. Many supply chains are really tight with factories operating at reduced capacity due to COVID restrictions. In turn we’ve had calls from suppliers checking that we are able to trade which makes me appreciate how fortunate we are in Jersey.

As a result our buying strategy has endeavoured to capture the zeitgeist. Some spectacularly expensive and exclusive teas and coffees sit side by side with our traditional fare of good solid Colombian coffee and very affordable English Breakfast tea. We’ve gone quirky with local soap that is scented with our coffee. Bright coloured hand-made pottery. We’ve had designed metal caddies with well-known local landmarks. Importantly, everything we sell is considered for its design and affordability.

More than ever I think we’re not looking to simply fill our homes with “stuff”. There needs to be beauty in our lives and I believe the things we do purchase will be a lot more considered. Both for our physical and mental wellbeing. The challenge for us retailers is to deliver this experience not only in how we present what we sell but also in what we sell.  

I find it exciting and energising, despite the hell we’ve all been through. I also think that the industry hit by this pandemic the most, the Arts, will explode in the future as a whole new appreciation of what it is to live a fulfilling life.

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