Historic family jewellers scoops up industry awards

Charlotte Gatward said she is "really delighted" that Gatwards of Hitchin has been recognised with not one, but two awards

Charlotte Gatward - who is the eighth generation of the family behind the UK's oldest family-run jewellers - said she is "really delighted" that Gatwards of Hitchin has been recognised with not one, but two awards - Credit: Gatwards

A Hitchin jeweller which has been run by the same family for eight generations has landed two highly regarded business awards in recognition of its success throughout the pandemic.

Gatwards of Hitchin first opened its doors in the town in 1760 and has been supplying the sparkle ever since.

Currently led by director Charlotte Gatward, the business is recognised as the oldest family jewellers in the UK.

That was a responsibility felt heavily by Charlotte during the pandemic, who was determined the firm would continue to survive and thrive.

Charlotte says that lockdown has accelerated the modernisation of the eight staff-strong business, though it will continue to provide the traditional in-store experience that its customers have enjoyed for centuries.

Gatwards has been named a winner in the Lloyds Bank Small Business of 2021 awards, as well as Family Business of the Year at Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce's 10th Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards.

Charlotte said: “I’m very proud of the business, but I also feel a great sense of duty.

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“I am the custodian of the family firm for the next generation and the onus is on me to make sure it remains a success for many more years to come.

“Many of our customers have been coming to us for generations too.

“During lockdown we have really grown as a business and we are now seeing lots of pent-up demand returning.

“We’ve had to be nimble to respond to all the challenges and now we are a business with a great history, that’s also fit for the future too.”

Paul Gordon, managing director of SME and mid corporates at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Not many businesses can boast a pedigree like Gatwards of Hitchin.

“But faced with an unprecedented event like the pandemic, Charlotte was quick to realise that the business couldn’t just rely on its reputation.

“She has taken some brave decisions, showing ambition and tenacity to secure a bright future for this historic family firm.”

Briege Leahy, chief operation officer of Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Local businesses, large and small, are at the heart of the growth of our county and our annual awards ceremony is an opportunity to recognise business leaders’ hard work, innovation and contribution to Hertfordshire.

“This is an outstanding family business, demonstrating new and innovative ideas to continue the growth and prosperity of one of the UK’s oldest family-run jewellery businesses, whilst keeping their customers at the heart of what they do. A well-deserved winner!”

Speaking of what the recognition means for Gatwards, Charlotte told the Comet: "It's great. It does make the last 18 months that bit more bearable, to know that we're getting that recognition for the work we've done to steer the business through the pandemic. I'm really delighted.

"I think it's a testament to the fact that we've done a lot of work on the business to futureproof it really.

"It's good for our confidence and we couldn't do it without our team - who are wonderful - and our customers supporting us either. We're really happy."

She added: "We're going to continue with our online presence. All the time, we're trying to improve our offering on our website, our presence on social media, and we'll continue to invest in that.

"We have now got a workshop on site, which we built in one of the lockdowns, and no we can offer a much faster repair service actually within the building. We're going to be expanding on that, and it's been very good for us, especially through the last two lockdowns.

"We'll continue to focus on great customer service, and doing more on that with our team, being able to offer people a great experience in the shop.

"We're going to be investing more in the experience within the shop, because, I think people are looking for a retail experience now that they wouldn't necessarily get online."

With the Gatwards family operating in what is already an extremely personal trade, Charlotte explained: "We want it to be a memorable experience when people come and buy things in here. I think it already is - we're a very old shop - but I always think we can do it better."