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Bailey Banks & Biddle

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Bailey Banks & Biddle, Houston, TX

OWNERS: Bailey Banks & Biddle; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1990s; BUSINESS FOUNDED: 1832; LAST REMODELLING: August 2004; STORE AREA: 7,000 sq. ft; ADDRESS: Houston Galleria, 5015 Westheimer, Suite 2260A, Houston, TX 77056; TARGET CUSTOMER: Luxury shoppers; PHONE: (713) 622-4920; URL: baileybanksandbiddle.com


BEFORE HALF our countryʼs states had joined the USA, Bailey Banks & Biddle was making a name for itself as an independent jeweler of impeccable quality and values. Nearly two centuries and 100 stores later, the company still keeps its ear closely attuned to the heartbeat of its success — its clientele. The landmark renovation of Baileyʼs Houston Galleria location reintroduced customers to the brand in awe-inspiring fashion, opening the doors to a whole new wave of people clamoring for jewelry from one of Americaʼs most respected jewelers.

A Look inside Bailey Banks & Biddle

THE HISTORY
An American Institution

Formed in 1832 by two jewelers working in the shadow of Philadelphiaʼs Independence Hall, Bailey Banks & Biddle has been an American institution from the very start. Now one of the countryʼs oldest and most respected jewelers, Bailey Banks & Biddle operates 100 stores across the United States and Puerto Rico.

But even institutions need to change with the times. And thatʼs the situation that the company found itself at in April 2001 when Charles Fieramosca was hired as president of Bailey Banks & Biddle. Fieramosca brought a wealth of fashion-world experience with him, including 17 years in senior management at Macyʼs.

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Coming on board, Fieramoscaʼs top priority was to redefine the companyʼs brand, trading up in merchandise and eliminating looks that were below the Bailey Banks & Biddle standard. Designer jewelry was expanded, the marketing campaign was overhauled (including a new tag line and logo), and a redesign of the store environment was rolled out in Las Vegas in Fall 2003. One year later, the Houston Galleria store took the concept to an all-new level, with a more upscale environment, more residential elements, more designer goods, and twice as much space. Three more locations have undergone renovation in 2005, with a major flagship store scheduled to open in early 2006 in Tysonʼs Corner, VA. “Itʼs been a very dramatic and fast evolution to carefully reposition the business,” says Fieramosca.

THE CONCEPT
Welcoming Today’s Women

With todayʼs consumers looking more and more for a shopping “experience,” Fieramosca saw an opportunity to make Bailey Banks & Biddle the first national chain to gear its environment to todayʼs modern woman.

Fieramosca describes his target customer as 35 to 55, independent, decision-making, technologically-savvy, and searching for a high-touch experience.

“Jewelry stores donʼt generally invite the browser,” says Fieramosca. “We wanted to create something very welcoming, to give the female customer a friendly yet authoritative environment where she feels comfortable. We want her to come in, take a look, and see whatʼs new in fashion.”

Bailey Banks & Biddle does that with an unorthodox store layout that places its most accessible products, fashion jewelry, up front. Customers drawn in by the jewelerʼs lower-end fashion jewelry will then get a chance to experience the storeʼs high-end pleasures … comfortable design, well-selected jewelry and helpful service devoid of high-pressure tactics.

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So far, consumers have embraced the concept. “We are certain this friendly lifestyle design is attracting more customers,” says Fieramosca. “Both the Las Vegas and Houston stores are running ahead of expectations.”

THE STORE
‘We Don’t Chase Fads’

Visitors to the Houston Galleria store will find a store design that features high-quality jewelry and unfailing good taste, hallmarks of the Bailey Banks & Biddle brand for the past 173 years. “We donʼt chase fads,” says Fieramosca, who describes the merchandise mix as “updated classic jewelry”.

Interior materials are modern, yet cozy, hinting at the companyʼs traditional roots. African walnut and brushed nickel trim accents are surrounded by warm, rich cream tones in the floor and wall coverings and display elements. In the center of the showroom is a large seating area that adds to the residential atmosphere.

Also contributing to the residential, soft-sell feeling is that fact that you wonʼt find any Duratrans in the Houston Galleria location — only well-lit “windows” in the walls displaying distinctive pieces. These create a visual theme, while encouraging browsers to move throughout the store.

The showroom is divided into four areas: the fashion jewelry, watches, “serious” gemstones, and gifts. Probably the most unique area is the giftware and tabletop shop, known as “Treasures for the Home,” which contains items consistent in quality and taste level to the storeʼs jewelry. “Women are proud of their homes. Itʼs part of our family culture. The same way they want fine pearls, they want fine home accessories — both become family treasures,” says Fieramosca.

A comfortable and separate bridal salon is tucked away from the rest of the showroom, providing customers with a quiet environment to sit and relax. “It can be disruptive to the engagement shopper if theyʼre stuck in the main traffic aisle,” says Fieramosca. “Even though the entire store is dedicated to the romantic aspect of jewelry, nowhere is that more important than the bridal salon — itʼs the most important piece of life.”

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THE TECHNOLOGY
State of the Art

Bailey Banks & Biddle has come a long way since founders Joseph Bailey and Andrew Kitchen opened their first shop with $28 worth of jewelerʼs tools. The Houston store features the most cutting-edge technology on the market, including fiber-optic lighting, convertible showcase vaults, and point-of-sale software that ensures no customer goes missing. Fieramosca is especially proud of the fiber-optics, which create optimum light on the jewelry while reducing glare. Ambient light remains at a soft level, so the store feels warm and residential while the spotlight shines squarely on the jewelry.

The showcases where the fiber-optic lighting resides are special in more ways than one. At closing time, the jewelry lowers into the base and they become vaults as a rolltop door goes over them. The time required to open and close the store is drastically minimized, as is risk to the jewelry during transport. Along these lines, backstocks and vault spaces are specifically fitted for every type of jewelry, not just open trays, which also reduces risk to the merchandise.

Finally, a clienteling feature accessible through the cash register reminds sales associates to follow up on sales. The software tracks purchases and matches them to appropriate sales associates. A timed system alerts salespeople through the sales terminal that itʼs time to make that follow-up call or correspondence.

THE PEOPLE
‘Everybody’s Baby’

When asked if heʼs made Bailey Banks & Biddle “his baby,” Fieramosca laughs. “Itʼs everybodyʼs baby. Weʼre all about team here,” he states. Fieramosca adds that the culture and style of associates is as important as the environment itself. “They are trained to be the customerʼs trusted advisor,” he says. “Their goal is to build trust and join in the customerʼs celebration.”

Extensive training programs, written by regional directors and store managers, are administered to all sales associates each year. Additionally, half of all the associates in the company are flown to Dallas each year for retraining. “We had over 300 associates here in August,” says Fieramosca. The goal is to create specialists in each area of the store, who can then go out and train their peers. Proud of the history and integrity of the store, employees have been more than willing to assist each other.

The average tenure of Bailey Banks & Biddle employees is 12 years — extremely high for the jewelry business. And loyalty is so high, Fieramosca says heʼs never seen anything like it in over 30 years in retail. He explains: “Of all the treasures housed in Bailey stores, the most valued are the associates themselves.”

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)

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