A FAMILY tradition, Neville Jewellers first opened in Cork in 1971 and 47 years later, the family name holds a strong association with fine jewellery and good practices.
John Neville, the son of John and Catherine Neville, who started the business some years ago, spoke to The Echo about navigating the Covid era and how trade has surpassed his expectations in recent times.
“We are seeing a strong trend of a slightly younger customer coming through our doors, looking for classic jewellery, 9-carat gold, sterling silver, not branded, they are moving away from branded,” he said.
“Precious metals, that’s what people want — simple watches, simple dials, the classic look, it’s brilliant, it suits jewellers.”
John said they are seeing a lot of people coming into them with old pieces of jewellery, found during lockdown that need a clean, polish or revamp.
“Because gold is gone through the roof, 9-carat gold is gone to $2,000 an ounce,” he said.
“It has never been a better time to have gold.
“People are finding stuff at home. Something they paid €400 for years ago is now worth €700 and people are thinking ‘oh I will bring it in and get it polished, I’ll get it cleaned.’
“We had one customer who came in with a long necklace about 30 inches, really long, and we split it up into a bracelet and a chain.
“They bought it about 15 years ago. If they bought it today it would have cost them three times the price.”
John said his five stores, four in Cork and one in Limerick, have been busy selling engagement rings during lockdown, and since as well.
“We had people getting engaged during the lockdown, they were buying rings online and we were driving out and delivering rings to them,” he said.
“That’s the way the jewellery business used to be, very personable.”
Joking about the trend, John said it is what happens when the conversations stop.
“The conversation stops and they say I suppose we better get engaged!”
Neville Jewellers, which employs 32 people across Cork and Limerick, has invested in some high-tech sanitising machines to ensure their jewellery is safe to try on and safe to buy.
“We have specific UV sanitiser and ultrasonic cleaning machines in every branch to sanitise all the jewellery and timepieces before and after display.”
John said people are window shopping for engagement rings and said a lot of people were doing their research on their website over the past couple of months.
“We have a new website up and running, we are updating it and improving it all the time.
“We can deliver next day on the website which is pretty good in the jewellery business and everything on website is in stock.”
The Cork jeweller said that they received a lot of messages online over lockdown from people enquiring about services.
John said they were closed for 10 weeks which was the longest they had ever been closed, normally just closing three days a year.
During the lockdown, John took the opportunity to paint all the stores and catch up on some instore work that had been neglected.
In terms of the younger customers that Neville Jewellers are seeing, John said he thought it was surplus cash that people have leftover from lockdown.
“A lot of people would have gone out on the town, spending 100 quid on a night or going on holidays and they are saying to themselves, you know what I am going to buy myself something nice.
“We have 25-year-olds coming in buying handmade, 9-carat gold bracelets.”
John said there are more women than men coming in, but there are also men interested in simple gold watches.
In terms of the new systems that have been introduced for the safety of staff and customers in Covid times, John said they are working out very well.
“Business has been very steady. We are seeing the city centre becoming more vibrant with on-street dining bringing a good atmosphere to tow.
“The shopping centres are busy as well as I think people feel that the centre management are taking the customers safety seriously.
“We have one way systems in operation in the centres and plenty of space for customers. It’s working well.”
Looking ahead, John said he sees the online sector of his business becoming more important, but said there is no substitute for the bricks and mortar store.
“Jewellery is a very personal purchase that can’t be made well online. The customer can’t get an idea of weight, size or style of a piece from an image.”
John said he was delighted to re-open in line with the Government guidelines when he had the chance and said his staff were equally enthused to get back to what they do best.
“Everyone was delighted to be back at it. We are retailers as well as jewellers, and retailers love people. We did not really like the distance created between us and our customers during the lockdown.
“Don’t get me wrong everyone liked the new family time, but the structure of getting back to the stores is great.
“Everyone seems to have adjusted very well to the new reality of retailing.”