ART OF SUCCESS
Since first opening its doors in 1984, Heinrichs Jewellery has stayed committed to a formula that has cemented the family name as a top-notch retailer in the Saskatoon area.
by Irina Lytchak
photographs by Kiriako Latridis
Sometimes one is enough. Due to the ongoing success of the Heinrich’s current location at The Centre Mall in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the family-run business has no plans of opening any additional stores.
“We do a very good job with one store, and when you add more stores it’s a whole new ball game,” says Kent Heinrich, part owner and general manager of Heinrichs Jewellery. “We’re good because the people who make the decisions are in the store, the expertise is in that store, so when you have customers who want to talk to the owner or want to spend a significant amount of money, they have that person to talk to. And the more stores you have, I feel, it becomes much more difficult to play that game.”
Kent has been in his current role for the past four years. He didn’t envision taking over the family business when he was younger though. “I would never have guessed it,” he confesses. “I was encouraged to try other things as well, so I did quite a few. Lived in New Zealand for a year; worked on a vineyard. I worked for a year in cabinet making, some carpentry – I found that great fun as well. So, I’ve enjoyed a lot of things.”
LOOKING INTO THE PAST
Today, Kent works with his father, Dennis Heinrich, who opened Heinrichs Jewellery back in 1984. “For many years, it was a tougher go; it wasn’t always easy,” says Kent. “He [my father] persevered and it’s come to a place where it’s doing well.”
When the store first opened its doors it was the last independent retailer to join the city’s roster of already existing jewellery dealers. As time passed, many of these stores closed. Heinrichs, however, has remained resilient, operating in an urban mall along with three other jewellers.
Over the years, Dennis has given his son more and more authority in the store, and while they both delegate on the more significant decisions, today, Kent is the one running most of the day-to-day operations with a staff of about 10.
“The store has been designed so that [Dennis] does not have to be there full-time, that he’s able to take time off when he desires, and the store will keep moving and keep progressing,” says Kent.
He also adds that working with his father has turned out be a much more successful endeavor than he had previously imagined. “We’ve come from the same family, however, we still have quite a bit of different experiences growing up,” says Kent. “His childhood was quite a bit different than mine and education wise has been quite different as well. We have quite a different outlook on things, so when we have a decision to make, we counterbalance each other quite well.”
SECRET TO SUCCESS
According to Kent, Heinrichs success in staying on top, especially in a mall, lies in his decision to stay away from promotional sales, something the store did in the past and has now slowly stopped.
“We realized if we’re going to go anywhere, we’re going to have to find new ground,” explains Kent. “Being in Saskatoon, with a vibrant economy and growing fast, there was lots of room for the next step up. Not saying high-end, but we carry a lot of brands that are for that middle, more affluent person – those brands that are known.”
Kent recognizes that over the years, consumers have become unresponsive to promotional sales, and not just in the jewellery industry but in retail as a whole. In order to combat this, Kent says that Heinrichs has looked up to the more affluent and renowned jewellery houses and followed their working models instead.
“There are certain jewellers out there that you recognize as icons of the industry, where you will never see a sale sign in the window whatsoever,” he says. “They’ve taken that road and for them it’s been success. I believe it’s been a good example for us and it’s worked. We don’t regret it whatsoever and we’re happy we’ve gone down that road.” As a result, Kent strongly believes in a fair price while staying competitive in order to survive the game. That’s why he says it’s so important to have staff that are knowledgeable and are able to explain to the customer the value of the product they’re getting.
“Our consumers have been to a few other jewellers usually prior, and they can be surprised when we don’t give them that kind of discount,” he says. “When you’re able to have staff that understand the value and can explain it to the consumer, it’s not hard for them to make the decision themselves. Usually, nine times out of 10, they will decide on the better quality if you’ve done your job properly.”
Aside from running the business, Kent’s contributions to the store have surpassed his abilities as a general manager. As someone who comes from a younger generation, he has brought a more modern element to his father’s business as a result of his passion for marketing and ability to stay in top of current fashion trends.
“Brands that I believe the consumer is familiar with are important,” says Kent. “A brand the consumer is not familiar with and you’re paying premium already for that brand, it is an uphill battle, I believe.”
Kent also does most of the buying for Heinrichs and being knowledgeable of what’s out there comes natural to him. “It helps being tied into the sales part,” he says. “When purchasing, number one is the style factor, first and foremost, it doesn’t matter what the price is. If it’s not attractive to the consumer, it’s not going to sell. After that would be the quality of the craftsmanship. We desire a higher-quality product, one we do not want to have to be repairing all the time.”
Today, while watches make up one third of Heinrich’s product selection, it is the diamonds that remain the main focus. As a result, the store is also a proud member of the Canadian diamond industry. “The majority of our advertising is always diamond-related,” explains Kent. “Bridal is, for us, the most significant of all the purchases, bridal being engagement and anniversary. If you’re not doing diamonds, you’re not making the numbers. There is that other customer that is not looking for the lowest price out there. He wants quality and he wants service; those are the customers you focus on.”
“We focus on the ethics behind [Canadian diamonds] as well, and as you’ll probably notice in marketing, a lot of significant brands are now tying in ethics to their campaign,” he says. “Canadian diamonds being responsibly sourced, ethically mined, both environmentally and the human factor as well, and being in Canada and supporting Canadians is a natural fit anyway. We’re not exclusive to it, because right now you cannot meet all your demands with exclusively Canadian diamonds, but it’s a big part of our focus.”
CELEBRATING A MILESTONE
Next year, Heinrichs will be celebrating its thirtieth anniversary and it’s safe to say that the store shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to its success. “I enjoy the challenge of building something and your success is directly correlated to your own ingenuity and the effort you put in,” says Kent.
By establishing a foolproof formula for success through smart product selection and an amazing working relationship between father and son, it’s evident why the team isn’t planning on opening any more locations in the near future. “We’re in a great city, it’s growing fast, things are happening, and the store is doing well,” says Kent. “Things are vibrant and it’s been a good ride so far.” CJ
AT A GLANCE:
NAME: Heinrichs Jewellery
OWNER:Kent and Dennis Heinrichs
LOCATION: The Centre Mall, 3310-8th Street East, Saskatoon, SK
PRODUCTS & SERVICES: Jewellery, watches, repairs, custom work
STORE SIZE: 1,500 square feet
STAFF: 10 employees
KNOWN FOR:Canadian Diamonds
BRANDS: Forevermark, Gucci, Tissot, Michael Kors, Coach, etc.
COOL FACTOR: Fashionable, relaxed atmosphere i.e. fine denim jeans permitted if accessorized properly