Prestons was hoping the government would allow non-essential stores like jewellery and watch stores to reopen on June 1, and its managing director Karl Massey would have been ready.
But June 15th is OK, he tells WatchPro this morning. “I was hoping for the 8th but one week will make little difference and any later would have been unwelcome,” he adds.
Prestons has stores in Guildford in Surrey, Wilmslow in Cheshire and two in Leeds; one specialising in pre-owned watches and jewellery on the pedestrianised city centre Commercial Street, the other, a Rolex boutique, within the Victoria Gate upmarket mall.
The current plan is for stores to reopen with distancing enforced, sanitising stations and face masks or visors for staff, but Prestons will not be installing screens between staff and customers.
“We can sit people two metres apart quite easily,” says Mr Massey.
Jewellers with the sort of space that Prestons has would seem to be at the lower end of the risk scale, and property trained teams can make them even safer.
Mr Massey says security personnel will ensure shops do not become crowded, which means the stores can be open for walk-up customers as well as those with appointments.
Prestons stores have been closed since lock down was imposed at the end of May and does not sell watches online. Business has not ground to a complete standstill, however, with customers placing orders by phone and e-mail and either waiting to collect watches from stores or accepting home deliveries.
Retail analyst GfK says that sales through brick and mortar stores dropped by 97% in April, but phone or e-mail orders would be unlikely to show up in the figures.
Prestons sells watches from just three brands: Rolex, Patek Philippe and Tudor, none of which have launched new collections this year.
Patek Philippe has reversed earlier advice given to retailers, that all of its 2020 new launches would be postponed until 2021, and will now release models in limited quantities throughout the rest of this year.
Deliveries to retailers are yet to restart, although Mr Massey hopes he will get fresh stock in June.