John Gowing Jewellers in the Covered Market in Oxford reopened in June. Picture: Ed Nix

John Gowing Jewellers, which started trading in 1946, has used several methods in and out of the shop to bring back long-standing customers and attract new ones.

Among the more eye-catching innovations are an SteraSpace Sanitising unit, made by Eynsham manufacturer Airdri, and a sterilising box that removes bacteria from its contents in just 180 seconds.

It gives the store a very different feel for Mr Gowing, who has worked there for 48 years.

The 64-year-old said: “I have to admit that when we reopened I was really nervous about issues like the screen on the counter and one-to-one contact with customers.

“But quite a lot of older people who have been nervous to go out during lockdown have come in and felt safe.

“It was a complete change in the way we operate after all those years of traditional retailing.

“A lot of regulars have come back and we’ve found new customers through online advertising.

“Hopefully that’s attracting a few new people.”

Outside of the store, the business grew its digital footprint during the near three months between its closure in March and reopening on June 15.

Mr Gowing released a series of watchmaking videos on Facebook and held consultations over Zoom, enabling him to continue providing his expert insight alongside a postal repair service.

The sterilising boxes are used for customers to deposit items needing repair, with this area of the business now proving a vital extra income stream since the store began trading again.

Mr Gowing said: “Town is still quiet, but in the afternoon it’s getting noticeably busier.

“We haven’t got many passers-by, but people are coming for a specific reason.

“That side is keeping us going.”

Mr Gowing is determined that the jewellers’, which he runs with wife Annie, makes a success of the ‘new normal’.

But there is some way to go, with one full-time and a part-time member of staff still furloughed.

Mr Gowing knows he can count on the support of other Covered Market traders, who have gone above and beyond to help each other out during lockdown.

Bonners greengrocer’s, a stone’s throw from John Gowing, illustrated this with its booming home delivery service, which includes items from 13 other independent shops.

After almost half-a-century in the historic market, Mr Gowing insists morale among traders has never been higher.

He said: “The atmosphere in the Covered Market is probably better than ever.

“It’s a great community and a lovely place to be when everyone’s rooting for each other.”

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