Jean-Christophe Bedos of Maison Birks

TORONTO — No brand lasts for 140 years without having its eye firmly planted on the future. Now Maison Birks, the retailer of luxury jewelry and timepieces since 1879, is putting the future on its radar once more as it expands its e-commerce capabilities and unveils what it claims is Canada’s largest and most comprehensive online luxury store.

Launched this month, according to Birks Group president and chief executive officer Jean-Christophe Bédos, the company’s new and expanded “Hard Luxury” web site showcases the luxury brands now featured in Maison Birks’ 29 stores across Canada — some of which can only be found in the country through the Montreal-based retailer.

“We have a multibrand position in our stores. But our old web site was exclusively dedicated to Birks’ products,” Bédos told WWD. “That is why we decided to take charge, put ourselves in the shoes of today’s consumer and launch this new multibrand platform. Our goal is to be an omnichannel retailer. But this is also about fighting for access for the Canadian consumer.”

Priced from under $150 to $58,000 Canadian, the 2,400 pieces available for purchase at Maisonbirks.com include jewelry brands Chaumet and Messika, which are exclusive to the retailer in Canada. The selection also includes hard-to-find brands like Dinh Van and Yoko London, Marco Bicego, as well as Roberto Coin and an expanded lineup of timepieces from Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Frédérique Constant, Longines, Montblanc, Tag Heuer and Wolf 1834.

Moreover, Maisonbirks.com is Cartier’s only official e-commerce partner in Canada.

“We started talking with Cartier two years ago. Now we are the only Canadian retailer to sell it online,” said Bédos, who methodically gained one brand after another, making Maisonbirks.com the only e-commerce platform in Canada to sell 14 luxury brands.

“For 2020 we will keep adding brands and content about their heritage and history. But the truth is many hard luxury goods and Swiss watch brands always said ‘we don’t need e-commerce,’” said Bédos. “The paradox is that those in the hard luxury industry are almost like control freaks with bricks and mortar. That control is part of their success. But these brands do not have control over what is happening in cyberspace. So it took a long time to get their permission.”

The retailer’s goal is to become Canada’s dominant player in multibrand jewelry and timepieces. “In today’s world customers are surfing the web and blogs. They go to stores or vice versa. There’s no more traditional window shopping and that is valid for luxury, too,” said Bédos.

Embracing this new reality, Maisonbirks.com now boasts an additional catalogue of more than 500 items that customers can peruse online or purchase in-store via an appointment, including selections from Van Cleef & Arpels, Vhernier and Rolex. Online financing is offered with Maison Birks’ Flexiti credit card. The web site also accepts Union Pay.

Since its launch the revamped web site has seen double-digit growth in traffic.

“The reaction has been significant. How sustainable that is I don’t know,” said Bédos, whose company unveiled a Toronto flagship in 2019, plus its latest concept stores at CF Fairview Mall and First Canadian Place. “For the first time in history we cannot segment the consumer by age or generation. Now social types, lifestyle psychometrics and terms of behaviour are what is relevant in this new omnichannel world, where luxury has become more of an experiential pleasure.

“We do not want to be a conspicuous website in Canada. Not at all,” said Bédos. “But this website transformation is about pushing the door of the traditional jewelry store and making luxury less intimidating, more accessible and explaining to consumers why these brands are so fabulous.”

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