In a brick-and-mortar setting, shopping for fine and precious jewelry is an intimate experience.
“It is very personal. Touching, examining and trying on the jewelry is such an important part in the buying process,” said Jamie Singleton, president of the Kay Jewelers, Zales and Peoples divisions of Signet Jewelers Ltd.
“We know that customers — particularly bridal customers — require a good amount of education and interaction with the product to feel comfortable,” before making a purchase, Singleton said. “There could be times when employees are helping customers with a clasp but they’re doing it in ways that are safe and clean. It’s our responsibility to provide our customers and employees with the safe environments they expect, and we’ll stop at nothing to earn and keep their trust.” Between all the exchanges of rings, necklaces and earrings between customers and sales associates, keeping socially distant can be challenging.
To develop what Singleton characterized as a “robust” program of protocols either exceeding or matching guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Signet Jewelers has been collaborating with the Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s top medical institutions. The program, called “Love Takes Care,” covers everything from social distancing and face mask requirements, to jewelry try-on procedures and safe piercing, to daily employee symptom screenings.
“The Cleveland Clinic has reviewed Signet’s COVID-19 health and safety policies, which Signet incorporated into its overall plans,” said Dr. Amanda Hagen, Medical Director, Cleveland Clinic AtWork. “The Cleveland Clinic team has also been available to answer questions and provide guidance on COVID-19 related questions that have come up as the company has opened more stores during the pandemic.”
Among the measures being taken, each piece of jewelry is cleaned with alcohol wipes before and again after it is touched by a customer and an employee; employees are required to wear masks and gloves, and customers are required to wear masks, which are distributed to those who show up without one.
Through phone calls, e-mails, online chats with jewelry consultants, virtual appointments, social media and other marketing, Signet is striving to increase online shopping and encourage customers to learn as much about the products by communicating with Signet jewelry experts before they visit a store, to limit the time they spend there. Signet offers by-appointment shopping, curbside “concierge” pickups and has reduced store hours.
“We are trying to give our customer every opportunity to start and end their shopping journey on their terms,” Singleton said.
Unlike some apparel retailers that quarantine clothes after they’re tried on, Signet doesn’t quarantine its jewelry since each piece gets a cleaning before and after it’s handled. “Our associates are jewelry experts,” Singleton said. “They understand the handling and care and cleaning of jewelry better than anyone else in the industry.” The Cleveland Clinic, she added, “brings a level of expertise and credibility to the program of cleanliness and safety.”
Signet, which also operates Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, H.Samuel, Ernest Jones, Piercing Pagoda and jamesallen.com, has 2,900 stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Since temporarily closing stores in late March to reduce risk of virus spread, approximately 90 percent of the fleet has reopened.
With piercing, which occurs at the Piercing Pagoda division and at some Kay locations, customer health assessments and temperature checks are taken before the piercing. Employees must wear a face shield and a mask while piercing and customers must wear masks. Additional cleaning measures occur throughout the process and appointments are spaced 30 minutes apart. Even during the pandemic, “We are still piercing a number of men, women, infants and children. There is a high level of demand,” Singleton said.
In all the stores, the surfaces of cases, locks, mirrors, iPads used by associates, gem scopes, the four-sided spinners, watch straps, stools, chairs, tables, door handles and all the elements that the jewelry rests upon are sanitized every three to four hours. All employees are given health assessments each day.
To ensure consistent best practices, store employees undergo mandatory training to carry out safety and health measures and are trained on advising customers on safety rules and guidelines. Staff are required to complete a symptom screening and a temperature check before each shift.
“The world wants to beat COVID-19 — and until that happens, we’re adhering to strict health and cleaning protocols in our Love Takes Care safety program,” Singleton said.