At risk of sounding like the voice of doom, there can be no denying that the jewellery industry in the UK – in particular the number of independent retail jewellers – is declining.
This trend isn’t exclusive to jewellery, of course, and is more a comment on independent retail in general. Except, it seems, when it comes to the independent bookseller.
While it might seem strange to be talking about book stores in a jewellery and watch title, as our feature in the November issue shows, there is a lot the jewellery industry can learn from the work of booksellers and, in particular, their representative trade association here in the UK – the Booksellers Association. Despite obvious challenges in the form of e-readers and online-only sellers, who can undercut on price, the bookstore has bounced back, with the trade association leading the charge and helping to engage the consumer in innovative ways that drive footfall into stores.
If the good work of the Booksellers Association proves anything, it is that the role of an industry trade association should be, first and foremost, to engage with the end consumer and promote its retail members to those consumers. While encouraging school children to dress up as items of jewellery may not have quite the same positive effects on jewellery sales as World Book Day does for book sales, there are myriad other ways that consumers can be encouraged to visit their local independent jeweller.
This trade is excellent at extolling its virtues to others within the trade, but where we fall down spectacularly is when it comes to promoting all we do well to those who, arguably, matter the most. The customers. If we use the work of the Booksellers Association by way of an example, perhaps that should be the top priority for this industry, its trade association and its new incoming chief executive.
As our Inspiring Independents supplement (available with the November issue) shows in abundance, we have some brilliant businesses in this industry. Isn’t it high time we let consumers know about them too?
Ruth Faulkner, editor