The GFSB’s Board represents a cross-section of Gibraltar’s business community. Each member brings their own experience and their own unique take on running a business on the Rock. In this issue of Intouch, we profile Rosana Olivares, founder of The Jewel Box which recently celebrated its 40th year in business.
How did you start The Jewel Box?
At first, I started with Amelia and my sister – it was the three of us as partners, then after six years I stayed on my own running it. In the beginning, obviously was difficult to get a shop going, obviously, the financial side was the most difficult because, for a jewellery shop, you do need a lot of money upfront. I think for about 10 years I didn’t even get any wages. I kept on working, working, I had to work lots of hours because I had to do the office myself, the accounts, the buying, the pricing, and the marketing.
How are things going now?
Now it’s easier because I’ve got my three daughters onboard and I have a very good sales team. We are doing small scale manufacturing, and we also have another workshop. All this means we know the product very well and can give a really, really good service to our customers. I think that locally, people know that they can rely on us for everything, we’re at that stage where we have built up trust with our customers which means they come back time after time.
Have you been missing the tourist trade?
Luckily enough, our business depends more on the local population than visitors to Gibraltar. Obviously, trade from tourists is always a bonus, but again, we have very faithful tourists. Our shop doesn’t look as glamorous as other shops in Main Street, but when tourists come to our shop, and they realize the service that they’re getting, and the value for money that they’re getting, they return! Even the people who live in UK, when they come, they come to see us. For me and the team, it’s very rewarding when the tourists come and say, “I come here every year, and that makes me feel very happy.” Obviously, they come here every year, because it’s convenient and we must be doing something right!
What is your formula for success in retail?
I often hear that we have to do this or we have to do that, but for me, the reality of the matter is only one; That if you want to have customers, you’ve got to make your shop attractive. If you don’t make it attractive price-wise or service-wise or quality-wise, the customers are not going to come. That applies to every sector of the industry. If we want whatever, it’s the same story no matter what business you have. To stay successful, you have to be consistent, build trust and not to let your customers down. If they have a problem, try and solve the problem in the most decent manner that you can.
How do you encourage repeat business?
Customer service is very, very, very important. I can tell you that at The Jewel Box, we pay the same attention to a person buying a silver bracelet as buying a diamond bracelet, and people really know that. For that person who’s buying the silver bracelet, it’s an important and often emotive purchase. They might buy a silver bracelet and in six years’ time, they may want to buy another piece of more important jewellery. I feel that everybody deserves respect, and every customer is a valued customer.
How important is knowing the product?
You have to know your products well, and you have to be very explicit, especially in the jewellery trade to explain what you are selling because sometimes I repair things from which haven’t been bought in my business, and I ask them, what is this? Half of the people don’t even know what they’ve got. To have a good knowledge of the product, also, that your staff also have a good knowledge of the product. For example, when we take repairs, we have to check exactly what we’re taking and check exactly the condition that everything is coming in. We’ve really never had a problem but we have to be very careful in identifying the diamonds when we are taking it for repairs.
Have you ever wanted to expand?
I did open another shop on Queensway Quay Marina which I closed and rented as offices instead. I never really wanted to expand further because we try to give our customers the best service possible. If I had even another shop on Main Street, I feel you cannot pay the same attention to your customers. Customer service, for me it’s very important because most of the customers we have feel quite at home when they come to our shop.
What have been some of the challenges?
Nowadays it’s very challenging, it’s really very, very difficult to keep a business going since the gold went so high in 2008. A lot of the normal factories that we used to buy from have closed down, and now the gold is still higher. It means that we were used to our suppliers, many of them I’ve had for 35 or 40 years. I try to stick to my suppliers because it’s also a question of confidence. Them in me and I trust them. Now it’s a more challenging situation as the world has faced a huge crisis which has affected the economy and the supply chain.
Any advice for someone starting up in retail?
Well, for somebody starting up in retail, they are going to have it very difficult. I personally, don’t think I would have been able to start now – I had nobody to teach me anything, I had to learn on my own but I’m very curious and put in the work. The advice that I would tell them is not to think that they’re going to get rich quickly and that they have to persevere and keep going, work hard and enjoy yourself! For example, even after 40 years, I am in the shop nearly every day. I’d like to say also that it’s about not giving up when the challenges come. I think when the going gets tough, the tough have to get going. I am a very small person but if I have to, I can be very tough!
You are on the GFSB’s Board. Can you tell me a bit about that role that you do there?
It’s quite interesting. I was one of the people who joined the women in business at the very beginning. It was called the Gibraltar Business Network at the time or something like that. Anyway, now that we merged with the GFSB, I happened to have been a member of the GFSB for a long time. Because I was a member of the two, and I had a business in Main street, and I was a woman so they invited me to join the Board. I don’t mind being on the committee but I don’t want any of the job responsibilities.