What is the proper salutation for a blog post written mid pandemic? My first instinct was to type, “Hey Day’s fam!” Full disclosure, I actually typed this. Then I quickly pounded away at the delete key. “No, Vanessa. You can’t begin a blog post about the jewelry industry as if the last 4 months never happened!”
The last 4 months, has in fact, happened.
On March 18th, I made the agonizing decision to temporarily close our Auburn store. The safety of my team, my family, and our customers was at the forefront of my mind. The fear of the unknown; exacerbated by the global news, media, and social chatter; the inadequate lifesaving equipment and supplies flashed before my eyes.
For the first time in my professional career – for the first time in ALL of our professional careers – business and commerce was coming to a screeching halt.
Over the next few days, one by one, the rest of our stores closed. The State of Maine followed suit. As with hundreds of thousands of others, the majority of our teams were furloughed, and suddenly our family of approximately 120 employees was left with less than twenty in order to continue operations and serve our customers as best we could.
Day’s Jewelers mission is “To Build a Company That Will Stand the Test of Time." During our COVID-19 closure, this mission carried us while we navigated the uncertainty.
If Day’s Jewelers’ first 30 years in business were indicators of our future as your favorite, local, family-owned jewelry store, it’s no surprise that we’re still going strong 106 years later.
To put this into perspective, here is a very rough historical summary of our first 30 years. In 1914, the year we opened, it was the onset of World War I. After The Armistice of 1918, which concluded World War I, the Spanish Flu was already on the scene and in full force. Despite the devastation, The Roaring Twenties brought respite to grief and devastation, and business and commerce thrived!
This hay-day of industry was short lived due to The Stock Market crash in 1929. The Great Depression brought us a decade of crippling mass poverty. One can only imagine how a small, family-owned business that centered upon luxury retail could withstand this economic blow. Remarkably, Day’s prevailed. While wartime economics helped the nation recover financially from a depression, the 1940s fully engaged us into World War II, which took most Day’s employees (and most of our nation’s existing work force) overseas.
When the troops returned home, and were ready to come back to work, we were already fully staffed. The vacant positions left by those who went to war had been filled by exceptional workers. However, the men who returned home, who had worked for Day’s Jewelers before the war, wanted to get back to work. The Day’s solution was to welcome the troops home, and to open more stores throughout Maine so that they would all be able to return to work. Not only did we prevail, the conclusion of the Second World War set Day’s Jewelers up for a period of significant growth. (Teaser: Maybe I should write a follow-up blog about how this very moment in Day’s Jewelers’ history created a ripple that set into motion what would become the Day’s Jewelers you know and love today??)
In the early days of our COVID closure, I couldn’t help but feel that after 106 years in business, it was my generation’s turn to carry the torch, and keep Day’s Jewelers ignited. So, on March Twenty-Something, the team of us that remained, did whatever we could to create jewelry miracles. Despite a pandemic, we knew we couldn’t let YOU down. Through creativity, communication, trial and error, we did whatever we could to deliver on our promises. It was a true team effort.
In the first moments of Store Closure, store managers contacted both our customers and designers to get a status update regarding all outstanding special orders and custom designs. We communicated fulfilment timelines as best we could. This was difficult information to provide with certainty, because most of our designers were in New York City and Southern California – who were each under strict orders of lockdown.
One of our initial concerns was designating secured shipping and delivery of completed orders while our locations were closed. This involved store managers receiving our packages at parcel distribution centers, texting our delivery drivers to arrange package exchanges, and having deliveries drop-shipped directly to our homes. (I’d like to mention how much Mike- Fed-Ex, as well as Pat and Angie – UPS, went above their call of duty in helping me attain ALL of the deliveries destined for the Auburn store. I can’t stop talking about how you each went to such thoughtful measures to help me, they made the biggest impact!)
During our closure my team of store managers arranged for our goldsmiths to intermittently come into work to fulfill repairs. Once repairs and orders were complete, Store Managers arranged home deliveries and curbside pickups. As time went by, and some of our employees were able to return to work, we got creative with personal shopping by way of phone or email, as well as instore appointments to view specific items. Just in time for Mother’s Day, we became pros of the “Masked Curbside Sale.” For any of you who still prefer not walking into stores, give any of our stores a call and we’ll be happy to arrange curbside service 7 days a week!
Our individual stores found ways to create jewelry magic, despite the obstacles. I know I couldn’t have survived without the support of my fellow store managers. April, Liz, LT, Leo, Mark, Craig, and Eric – you are each incredible!
Being a company that can withstand the test of time didn’t stop at the store level. It took a village.
Our Inventory Manager, Heather, was actually the one who underwent the overwhelmingly daunting task of assuring that all of our stores’ deliveries were either halted or re-routed so that no one’s precious items were left in limbo. She returned to headquarters five days a week during shut down to receive product and special order deliveries so they could reach our locations and ultimately to our customers.
Amelia, our Web Manager, processed all of your orders from our website and responded to ALL of your internet inquiries whether through the “Contact Us” form or via email. If she couldn’t answer your question, she forwarded your contact information to the appropriate store manager so that we could further follow up. I am confident to say that we got back to each of our guests within a maximum of 24 hours, and we did everything we could to ease your concerns.
Joe, our Credit Department Manager, juggled the work of four people to answer calls, take payments, send payment reminders, and approve new credit lines. If you made a Day’s Charge payment from the end of March to mid-May, you probably spoke to Joe – who always chats with you more like an old friend than a customer! I know he went to great lengths to work with you during your own financial uncertainty and to keep your Day’s Account in healthy standing for future purchases. (By the way, Christmas is only 5 months away!)
During the days of “DAY’S Works-From-Home,” this couldn’t have been executed without our IT Manager, Briton. To all of you who worked from home, if the kinks were ironed out and you were able to be productive AT HOME, thank your IT gurus. I don’t think I’m the only person who called Briton several times because of minor IT dilemmas that momentarily seemed monumental... maybe I was? Thanks for answering my calls, Briton.
Maggie, our Controller, and her team (shout out to Angela!) worked tirelessly to assure our business stayed in healthy financial standing with our landlords, suppliers, and the many FACETS of our operational expenses. (By the way, FACETS was a diamond pun, and it WAS intended)
Kristie, our HR manager, saw to the counsel of the members of our teams amidst furlough. She also kept the management team, who was still working, in the “know” of all procedures and protocol as they developed. I would estimate she spent 60+ hours a week on the phone with members of our teams and the Maine Department of Labor. As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, she even went out of her way to call us managers just to see how we were doing, if we were ok, and to let us vent about our own misgivings and anxiety.
Our Executive Team: Jeff, Kathy, Joe and LT spent hours in meetings or remote conference calls writing and rewriting procedures that would help us navigate our business as State protocol evolved. Ultimately, they gave us the autonomy to make the decisions that were in the best interest of customer service and helped us adjust the sails every time the wind changed. (And the wind changed approximately every 3 days)
Four months after COVID-19 struck Maine, I am happy to say that each of our 8 stores have reopened, and that our teams and our families are healthy. We are so glad to be back to work and to see you all again. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your patience and understanding through all of the uncertainty. Once more, Day’s has stood tall through global catastrophe and remains stronger than ever. Remaining your jeweler amid pandemic was a team effort that truly took a village of the most dedicated, creative, and steadfast individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Despite the confusion, doubt and fear, once again, Day’s prevailed. Day’s Jewelers will stand the test of time – and will be here for all of the precious moments you have to come.
Auburn Store Manager