Birks Continues Expansion, But With Smaller Stores

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Upscale Montreal-based jeweller Maison Birks will spend over $4.5 million this year expanding and renovating its Canadian base of stores, following its recent rebranding. The retailer opened and renovated several new Canadian locations in 2014, with plans to open more locations into 2015 and beyond. Remarkably, the retailer is almost consistently building smaller stores when it replaces previous locations and as a result, some of its largest locations are being replaced by some of its smallest.

Birks has recently opened a number of store locations, including stores in Calgary, Burlington and suburban Montreal. Its Burlington store, located at Mapleview Centre, measures 1,384 square feet while its Brossard store, located in the popular Quartier DIX30, measures 1,690 square feet. Its newest Calgary location, located next to Canada’s first Nordstrom in Chinook Centre, measures 3,660 square feet and replaces a 2,340 square foot location in the same mall. This is the only recent instance where a replacement Birks has been larger than a former location. Downtown Calgary’s Birks recently renovated and added a Rolex shop-in-shop with its own dedicated mall entrance. The downtown Calgary Birks location, however, has been reduced in size from 7,895 square feet to 5,568 square feet, with 2,330 square feet going to Michael Kors. At one time, downtown Calgary’s Birks spanned an impressive two floors. 

In the spring of 2014, Birks also opened a wedding-focused concession adjacent to the new Kleinfeld Bridal on the seventh floor of Hudson’s Bay at Toronto Eaton Centre. 

Maison Birks will continue its Canadian store expansion into 2015. A new location will open in Edmonton, joining recently opened Ottawa and Mississauga stores. Located in West Edmonton Mall, the Edmonton location will measure about 1,400 square feet and will open in the spring of 2015. Birks’ new Ottawa Rideau Centre location, measuring 2,704 square feet, replaced the mall’s 7,250 square foot Birks flagship. A 1,780 square foot Square One unit in Mississauga recently replaced a 3,360 square foot location in that mall.

Aurora Realty Consultants represents Birks across Canada.

It should be noted that some of Birks’ smaller new stores are mono-brand locations primarily carrying Birks-branded jewellery and accessories, as opposed to larger locations (like Calgary’s new Chinook Centre unit) carrying various designers. 

Maison Birks has also recently closed a number of locations. In 2014, the retailer closed locations at Oakville Place in Oakville, Ontario (2,800 square feet), Promenades St-Bruno near Montreal (2,346 square feet) and at Centre Rockland in Montreal (3,020 square feet). In 2013, Birks closed its Hamilton Limeridge Mall unit (2,450 square feet) and its 1,562 square foot location at Richmond Centre in suburban Vancouver. In May of 2012, Birks closed its 4,552 square foot Toronto Eaton Centre flagship, replacing it three months later with a substantially smaller, 1,042 square foot storefront. 

The company also operates a 4,200 square foot unit at downtown Edmonton’s Manulife Place. With a lease expiring in May of 2016, sources say that its future is uncertain. 

Maison Birks, formerly known as Henry Birks & Sons or simply ‘Birks’, underwent a rebranding in 2013, featuring revamped store interiors and a focus on house-brand Canadian diamonds. The retailer continues to carry a variety of other luxury jewellery and watch brands in its stores as well, including brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Montblanc, Tag Heuer, and others.

Birks at Calgary’s CORE features a Rolex shop-in-store with its own mall entrance. Photo- Craig Patterson. 

Birks currently operates 32 stores in Canada, including 30 Maison Birks stores and two Brinkhaus-branded retail locations in Calgary and Vancouver. Both operate under parent company Birks Group, which also operates 18 jewellery stores under the Mayors nameplate in Florida and Georgia, as well as one free-standing Rolex store in Orlando. The company’s largest store is in Vancouver, spanning an impressive 20,220 square feet in a former bank building. It’s Montreal flagship is second, measuring 19,785 square feet of retail space. The company’s Montreal headquarters is located above, measuring over 58,000 square feet. 

Birks was founded in Montreal in 1879. From 1950 through 1990, Birks aggressively expanded its retail business and by the early 1990s it had approximately 220 stores in Canada and the U.S. After a period of rapid expansion in the 1980s, the company experienced substantial financial losses in the early 1990’s, eventually leading to a 1993 buyout by Italian firm Borgosesia Acquisitions Corporation. In the summer of 2013 the company announced that Birks would change its name to Maison Birks, along with updated storefronts and a focus on Birks-branded diamonds and jewellery. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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  1. The new, rebranded Birks at Rideau Centre in Ottawa is already open, and has been for some time. It comprises Cartier and Breitling stores-within-store, each with dedicated entrances.

    • Thank you for the update, we’ve amended the article. We were basing our information partly on financial reports, as Birks (unfortunately) repeatedly ignored our requests for store information.


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