​Reflections on Lockdowns and the Lead up to Christmas

​Reflections on Lockdowns and the Lead up to Christmas

Published by Charlotte Gatward on 24th Nov 2021

November is traditionally a busy time at Gatwards and this year is no exception. We've changed our windows over to our gold star theme, the festive music has started playing in-store, and the run-up to Christmas at Gatwards has begun.

Having to close again

As we prepare for Christmas in 2021 it's hard not to reflect back on how tough things were this time last year, but also how much we learnt and progressed since.

I was away in Dorset with my family for half term last year when I read a headline in the news on the Saturday morning mentioning the likelihood of Lockdown 2 being announced by the government that evening. I sat watching the news conference in dismay as the government announced we would enter another four week lockdown. 

This was devastating news for Gatwards and a bitter blow for retailers. November is one of the busiest months of the year and to close our doors for a second time was hard to accept. We had also just built a workshop in the offices upstairs, purchased all the equipment and hired a Goldsmith to start doing our repairs on-site. So, it all felt quite terrifying that we would be closed again.

Learnings From Lockdowns

We learned a lot from Lockdown 1 though and this time it felt different. There were some changes to the government guidance which meant we were allowed to offer a Click & Collect service. We were also better prepared as we had spent time making sure more of our stock was on the website and we had implemented an appointment booking system which we extended to allow for click and collect appointment types. 

As a team, we quickly agreed a plan whereby we would be in everyday between 10am-2pm offering an onsite repair service, click and collect and online consultations.

Exceptional customer service

We pride ourselves on giving our customers an exceptional experience when they step into our shop. To maintain those standards from behind closed doors and online was always going to be a challenge. We are blessed with a wonderful team at Gatwards and from day one of the lockdown, they rose to that challenge and helped convert Gatwards from a traditional face-to-face business to an online business overnight.

Changing what wasn't working

We learned along the way what was not working and changed it. The first Zoom consultation we did was not ideal! 

After what seemed like an eternity searching the shop for stock whilst a very understanding customer was patiently waiting on Zoom, we realised that online consultations needed a “discovery” phone call beforehand to understand the requirements so that we could have everything that they would like to see to hand. 

We started doing some videos via whats app to show anxious men what an engagement ring would look like on a finger or a pendant on a neckline so that they felt comfortable making an important purchase with us over the phone. 

Working locally

The appointment booking system worked well and customers came to us with their repairs and to collect online purchases. For those who were local but did not feel comfortable coming to the shop, I got in my car and drove to their houses to deliver in person. My husband even delivered one purchase on his push bike – it was all hands to the deck! Somehow it all came together and the four week lockdown passed quickly.

Tier 4 restrictions

We were so happy to be open again in early December. The team were all excited about the Christmas buzz in the air, the shop was feeling festive and the customers started to come in. I even remember saying that this would be it, no more lockdowns after the November one and we could all get on with doing what we do best. How foolish I feel now for saying that as we were open for a mere two and a half weeks before Tier 4 restrictions came in and we closed our doors for a third time.

I remember that day like it was yesterday – I was on my way into Hitchin with my children in the car and we heard the announcement on the radio. My phone immediately lit up with calls from the team asking if I had heard the news and what would be the plan now. I got into the shop and when I saw everyone I just broke down in tears. I couldn’t believe it. We closed the shop down the next day with the grim realisation that this time we would be closed for months not weeks. I delivered a couple of purchases to customers locally and then went home for Christmas with just my immediate family. I won’t forget the depressing sight of the Christmas market being dismantled on that cold wet Sunday in December.

Christmas pick-up

In the days between Christmas and new year, enquiries started coming through again for repairs, ring re-sizing and online purchases so we put on a click and collect service once more. We used the time as best we could and had a spring clean of the shop, did a stock take and re-organised everything behind the scenes so that when the time came to finally re-open our doors again in April we were 100% prepared.

Thank you

It has been wonderful to see the town come back to life again in the months since April. There is a Christmas buzz in the air again and with the lights switch on event planned for this weekend and all the shops with their festive windows in place, it really feels like this year will be a special one after the challenges of last year. We are keeping our fingers firmly crossed for no more lockdowns. 

We hope you all stay safe and enjoy everything this wonderful town has to offer in the run up to Christmas in 2021, and a huge tahnk you to everyone that has supported us in the last 18 months.