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Robbins Brothers Private Label Buyer Finds a Niche in Forever

She brought a fast-fashion sensibility from the apparel world to fine jewelry.

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Robbins Brothers Private Label Buyer Finds a Niche in Forever

California-based Geraldine Pingul had more than 20 years of experience as a buyer, fashion director and merchandiser in apparel, beauty and accessories before joining the team at Robbins Brothers headquarters in 2019, where she is the buyer for private label engagement rings for 15 stores in California, Texas, Washington and Arizona.

Q&A with Geraldine Pingul

Q. Coming from outside jewelry, what do you think needs improvement, or what do you think retail jewelers aren’t aware of, good or bad, since they are so close to the situation?

A. It was a breath of fresh air for me because it is such a tight knit community and built of people who have been in the industry for so long. I did enjoy learning from everybody’s expertise and everyone was really welcoming and wanted to share their knowledge with me of workmanship and quality and how you look at those things as a lifetime kind of purchase. That kind of continuity was really great, and the focus on the product and honoring the craft we have, that was a great surprise.

What was new to me, was it ran on more of a traditional buying model. They used to buy maybe two times out of the year and that was it, at JCK and Centurion. For me It’s very important to have some kind of newness to maintain interest and stay relevant because things are always popping up. There were bigger changes I wanted to make when I first came on and it really surprised vendors when I asked them about what was new in between shows. As a private label buyer I can be involved in product development. So we will develop product all the time now. It was an adjustment for them but now they love it. It’s definitely been a really good partnership. I learn from their expertise. I could see an inspiration from somewhere and they will tell me that won’t work for reasons of durability or stability. We’re definitely in a good groove now.

Q. What does buying in the jewelry world have in common with buying in the fast fashion world?

A. The pace is probably the same because we’re always looking for new vendors. The turn in jewelry is slower and the merchandise does live a lot longer.

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Q. How do you buy for stores in different areas of the country?

A. Definitely they have their own unique personalities. We’re in California, Texas, Washington and Arizona. Everyone has the same collection so it’s more the assortment that we try to curate for that individual customer base. We have a very involved and knowledgable sales associates.

Q. What is your average day like at work?

A. When we were in the office there were no two days that were alike. It’s the nature of being in retail. Anywhere from analyzing our business, especially on Mondays, to creating product with vendors. And we do a lot of special order business, so we also work one on one with a guest who wants to customize their ring. It’s a multi-faceted job, whether we’re in the office or working remote.

Q. What surprised you about buying engagement rings, or what was new to you?

A. I’ve always just known about rounds, ovals and emeralds. But pears is a strong shape for us.

Q. What is your dream vacation, past or future?

A. A little bit of Greece and a little bit of Bali. I love the water, love being able to unplug, love to learn about history and immerse myself in a different cultures.

Q. Any Hobbies?

A. I love the outdoors. I love going to the beach; being in California you can do the beach and mountains in a day; I love to hike, I love reading and shopping.

Q. What did you miss most during COVID shutdowns that you couldn’t wait to do again?

A. I missed being in the office in person. The way our headquarters work our entire team is there. I was always in the mix, in the flow of product, so I did miss that. We do regular visits to the stores. I was still fairly new and I was missing that connections with associates on the front lines. I got very comfortable on Zoom and teams and cell phone. Being back in person is a great thing to add back.

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