After the Covid-19 lockdown had turned Omagh’s town centre into a ghost town, one local jeweller brought some much-needed sparkle back by starting up his own ‘Shop Local’ campaign. During the summer, Tony Laird, of Laird’s Jewellers, was busy putting up hand-written posters with the message, ‘Stay Safe – Stay Alert – Stay Local’, around the Bridge Street area, where his shop is located.
At the time, Mr Laird told the UH, “I’m looking to engage people with a message that is simple, but quite powerful.”
Adapting to the ‘new normal’, the well-known businessman has closely adhered to the Covid-19 guidelines since re-opening in June. Mr Laird is maintaining his policy of ‘one in, one out’ in his shop, with his only exception being for two family members. Inside his premises, he has installed lots of signage, screens and hand sanitiser. The jeweller is also continuing to wear a face visor and provides one to wear for his customers, if they don’t have one. In order to keep in touch with his customers Mr Laird has become more active on social media and has doubled his followers on Instagram, which he uses to advertise stock and provide information about the ongoing guidelines.
With Christmas approaching, the Omagh businessman said he has noticed that more people are shopping earlier, perhaps out of fear that further restrictions will be put in place come December.
Meanwhile, Evelyne Heatherington, manager of Bogues Jewellers on Market Street in Omagh, has said they are trying to do the best they can to maintain their famed personal service amid the various Covid-19 restrictions. Having re-opened their doors on July 1, staff have been limiting the number of customers in the store at a time as well as advising them to social distance. Whereas before the pandemic, couples coming in to look at engagement and wedding rings would have been treated to a cup of tea, that is no longer possible.
“We can’t offer the same personal service, but we have to make the best of what we can in the circumstances,” Evelyne said.
Because of Covid-19, their Christmas stock is still arriving – and they are only getting 70 per-cent of what they ordered. But Evelyne believes there are better times ahead and has vowed to bring back the sparkle to Omagh after a difficult year. She said that the shop’s online business has picked up during the pandemic and is confident that footfall in the town will increase once more when the cafes reopen in the town this Friday. “There’s nothing better than a cup of coffee and a wee browse around the shops,” the store manager added.