Standing strong

Gerry Gilroy knows that the secret to success lies in following the formula that worked from the beginning.

by Irina Lytchak

photography by Ashley Champagne

We first had the pleasure of featuring Gerry Gilroy on our cover nearly six years ago and by that point, Gilroy had made a name for himself and his massive Independent Jewellers Center in Edmonton.

We checked in with Gilroy for our August 2015 issue and found that he continues to stay undefeated when it comes to his business.

“Everything we’ve done so far has worked,” he says. “We haven’t seen a decrease in sales in the past years and the biggest thing for us continues to be customer service.”

And it’s that service that has earned Independent Jewellers the Consumer Choice Award for 15 consecutive years.

“We have many loyal customers that keep coming back,” says Gilroy. “That’s what we’re known for.”

One of a kind retail center

Gilroy has been in the jewellery business for 38 years now and his store, which was built about eight years ago, continues to occupy the largest area for a single jewellery retailer in all of Canada. At a whopping 32,000-square feet, the Independent Jewellers Center is home to a single-floor jewellery and watch storefront, and a mezzanine with an office space, a boardroom, a private viewing and event room, as well as a fully equipped gym.

The customers visiting the massive retailer are evenly split, with 50 per cent being from out of town and the rest being repeat customers from the Edmonton area.

The reason why Independent Jewellers attracts such a large number of out of town clientele is because of the retailer’s same-day service offer as well as a large number of goldsmiths on hand that are able to get the job done right on the spot.

“People really like the service,” says Gilroy. “The same-day option works really well for them.”

The business has the capability to satisfy a wide range of orders largely as a result of its 10 on-site goldsmiths, two gemmologists, a watchmaker and an engraver. Gilroy adds that the company also employs two corporate sales representatives and two insurance specialists.

When it comes to the store’s customer traffic, Gilroy praises the store’s location, which happens to be right near a busy highway.

“We built the store on one of the main roads in the city and we’re about two blocks away from West Edmonton Mall,” he says. “When I moved in here, traffic was 56,000 cars a day. Now it’s 96,000 cars.”

The center is hard to miss. With a giant display board outside that gets updated on a daily basis, as well as a 100-car parking lot, customers find it extremely easy to make a quick stop or secure a parking spot for a lengthy shopping spree.

“It’s very convenient to shop here,” says Gilroy. “People love it because it’s a one-stop shop.”

Outstanding opportunities

When we last spoke to Gilroy, it was clear that working for Independent Jewellers came with many advantages. The store’s sales staff turnover has always been very low, if not nonexistent, and many of the staff has been with the company for over two decades.

“We have really great people working here,” says Gilroy. “Some have been with us for up to 35 years.”

The retailer employs about 50 staff members in total and Gilroy doesn’t hide the fact that their earnings are very competitive. “They’re overpaid,” he says.

Aside from producing millions of dollars in sales each year, the sales staff has access to the store’s on-premise gym, complete with showers and a jacuzzi, as well as a trainer that comes in several times a week.

When it does come to finding a new staff member, Gilroy says that sales numbers trump experience.

“Sales are what keeps your business going,” he says. “The staff personality, background and working habits are the things that give us a big advantage over all the other stores. And since our staff are all salary plus commission, sales are definitely a priority and they all know that. And since we do a lot of volume, everybody makes money.”

There are no limits

It took Gilroy several years to figure out how to stock his massive store and these days it seems, he’s got it down pat.

“The major factor here is the selection we carry,” explains Gilroy. “ Whatever you want to spend, we’ve got it, and we can tell you why you’re spending what you are for each product. We never lose a sale and when people are coming in here, they’re coming in to buy.”

About 60 per cent of the business is in diamonds, including loose stones and diamond rings. “Our diamond area is huge,” says Gilroy.

And now, more so than usual, the retailer is invested in carrying Canadian diamonds as a result of the industry’s increasing growth over the past few years.

“Canadian diamonds are huge right now,” he says. “We were the first to carry Canadian diamonds back in ’91, so we’ve got a really good rapport with all the Canadian diamond manufacturers. We’re very loyal to our suppliers.”

The store’s watch section, which takes up about 4,000 square feet, is mainly made up of branded boutiques that bring in about 10 per cent of the store’s revenues.

One thing that has changed for Independent Jewellers is that the store is now selling more high-end products than before.

“Every sale has gone up, but other than that, everything else is still the same,” says Gilroy referring to his wide selection of engagement and bridal diamond rings, watch brands and gold jewellery. “We carry everything, right across the board,” he says. “We have a really wide variety to keep everybody happy – for the low-end customers that want to spend $100, or if you want to spend $100,000, we move a lot more bigger pieces, because no one really has them in town.”

Stick to your guns

Today, many jewellery retailers continue to reinvent their store and sales tactics in order to keep with the times and to stay competitive on the social media and marketing fronts. And although Gilroy hasn’t made any significant changes to his store center or his sales tactics over the past few years, customers continue to flock to his location knowing that they will find top-notch service and whatever item of jewellery or watch they’re on the hunt for. Which goes to show: why change something that doesn’t need to be changed? CJ

AT A GLANCE

Owner: Gerry Gilroy

Location: 11248 – 170 Street, Edmonton, AB

Size: 32,000 square feet

Staff: 50

Known for: very, very broad selection of product

Cool factor: Gilroy used to be a professional boxer and is still involved in the KO Boxing world: “We sponsor four professional fights every year at the Shaw Centre. I’ve been doing that for 25 years here, and we even got a trophy from the mayor last year for putting these fights on.”

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