Birks: a vision and a social commitment

Original title: Maison Birks the place to bee

Jean-Christophe Bédos, Birks CEO, shares the company’s vision, social initiatives and bright future while planning this year’s 140th anniversary celebrations.

Jean-Christophe Bédos, the CEO of Birks Group, shared the company’s—and his
personal—motivations to design, create and retail the Bee Chic line of jewellery. Five years ago, while brainstorming how to celebrate the company’s 135th anniversary, a play on words of Birks for B evolved into “for Bees.” The importance of bees to the ecosystem and their endangered status became the cornerstone of the Birks’ message of a bright future, as the brand adopted the cause of saving bees. Birks invested in both the University of Guelph and Alvéole research into saving bees and urban beekeeping projects, and continues to donate to the Nature Conservancy of Canada with proceeds from the Bee Chic for a Cause Charity Bracelet. An eclectic line of jewellery was launched to accompany this endeavour. Birks participates in and financially supports the rooftop terrace beekeeping at their Montreal head office. Five years on, celebrations for the 140th anniversary will emphasize a continued legacy, recognizing Birks past with humility.

Bédos arrived with his family in Montreal and began his tenure at Birks in 2012, after having lived in Paris and London. Eight years on, the family still embraces the international reputation that Montreal and Canada hold as one of the most desirable places in the world to live. Both Bédos and his spouse have become Canadian citizens.

Coincidence and circumstance aligned perfectly when Bédos was recruited to become Birks’ CEO, creating an interesting professional challenge and an outstanding family environment. The motivational factors of embracing this challenge included the pleasure of working with fabulous retail brands, the fact that every day harbours a new and unique challenge, along with the intellectual and the emotional stimulation of working with a product of prestige. Bédos describes jewellery as applied art which results in beautiful pieces that move and stimulate those who wear them.

Three years ago, a new investor acquired the building housing the Montreal flagship store with the desire to create a multi-disciplinary lifestyle location. Birks slimmed down their flagship to occupy half the building. Both a hotel and a restaurant co-exist in this new trendy spot. The head office relocated to 2020 University, footsteps from the flagship store.

The space now incorporates a modern shopping experience, but nods to the past with iconic, historic architectural features that speak to a fabulous history. Bédos believes that despite today’s growth in e-commerce, future success belongs to those who evolve the buying process into a physical and emotional journey. Information is more important than ever. The renovations of the flagship have created a hybrid experience with the addition of a library, coffee bar, internet and physical access to beautiful coffee table books about brands, jewellery, watch making and art.

Birks customer purchases were historically gifting oriented. Today, we see younger customers purchasing for themselves, or to celebrate milestones. Bédos describes the industry as one of love and celebration, as these milestones and celebrations are ever expanding.

Success to Jean-Christophe Bédos means being a change agent through transformation, respect for the tradition and history of the Birks brand, authoring and adopting a long term vision and handing down a viable, forward looking company to the next generation.

Maison Birks the place to bee – e-mag

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