DALLAS — A prototype flagship in Houston coupled with an ad campaign launched last November anchor a strategy to recast Bailey Banks & Biddle’s image from a venerable bridal jeweler to a store for all reasons.

At 7,700 square feet, the new store at the Houston Galleria is nearly double the size of the average Bailey’s and carries a larger breadth of fashion styles in colored gems, as well as an expanded home and gift area. Its softer, more residential decor features a seating area with cushioned armchairs and a coffee table that displays semiprecious jewelry and Daum crystal ornaments under its glass top.

“We want to take Bailey’s, with its 172-year history of great service, quality and value, and update it and present it to the target customer, who is 35 to 45 years old,” explained Charles Fieramosca, president of Bailey Banks & Biddle. “She has changed over the years, and we need to tell her that we are the store for her.”

That’s why Bailey’s changed its motto from “World Renowned Jewelers Since 1832” to “Where Treasures Live” in a widespread ad campaign in upscale fashion and lifestyle magazines. Fieramosca is testing billboards as well.

Bailey’s is the guild division of Zale Corp. in Irving, Tex., a Dallas suburb. Spanning 31 states and Puerto Rico, Bailey’s 109 stores are mostly located in malls in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast and on the West Coast, plus Texas.

When Fieramosca joined Bailey’s in April 2001, the chain’s only designer jewelry was a smattering of David Yurman. Fieramosca’s first move was to bring in color with Laura Gibson’s faceted semiprecious beaded styles. Instantly successful, it was rolled out dramatically to all stores. Today, leading designer resources include Yurman and Gibson as well as John Hardy and Roberto Coin.

“As important as bridal is to us, so is fashion, because today’s modern woman has a need for day-into-evening jewelry,” Fieramosca noted. “It’s refreshing because it is luxury elegance. What we try to do is develop our product mix carefully so we don’t have duplication. We’re careful about who we partner with and how we allocate our space so we can make this co-branding statement the right way.”“Bailey’s sales have improved this year, and it’s been one of the best-performing divisions at Zale’s,” observed William Armstrong, senior analyst with C.L King & Associates, a brokerage firm in Albany, N.Y. “They have more differentiated product in the stores and have benefited from the overall trend that seems to be favoring luxury.”

Zale’s sales rose 4.2 percent to $2.3 billion for the fiscal year ended July 31, and comparable-store sales gained 3.9 percent. Fourth-quarter and fiscal-year earnings will be announced Tuesday. The company announced in July its intention to buy up to $50 million of Zale common stock on the open market, its eighth consecutive year of repurchasing stock.

With its neutral palette of cherry wood, fawn suede and brushed nickel, the Houston Galleria store is what Fieramosca deems a “10th-generation” leap over a smaller 3,000-square-foot prototype unveiled last year at Las Vegas’ Fashion Show Mall.

“The Houston store has state-of-the-art fiber optics lighting, lower-profile display cases and a softer palette so it would be all about the jewelry,” he explained. “What we’re trying to create here is a very high-touch environment.

“The growth expectation is quite high for both of these stores,” Fieramosca asserted, though he declined to be specific.

He’s considering opening a similar unit next spring at King of Prussia Mall outside Philadelphia, where Bailey’s originated in 1832 as Bailey & Kitchen.

Bailey’s stores average 4,000 square feet and roughly $3 million in annual sales, he said. Houston got the first big unit because it’s one of Bailey’s best markets, with a total of five stores.

“Where we have the opportunity to take a larger space in an established trading area that has the potential to justify it, then we certainly will do it,” Fieramosca said. “We’re placing an emphasis on distinctive merchandise and service, and doing it in a warm and fuzzy, hug-your-customer kind of way.”

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