Interview with the People Behind the New Bailey Banks & Biddle

Some information on the new rising-from-the-ashes Bailey Banks & Biddle chain, based on an interview I did yesterday with
president and CEO Paul Leonard (who headed BBB for three years during the
1990s) and vice president of stores Julie Keeney:
 
– The new private-equity backed chain is meant to be a “hybrid of online and
bricks and mortar.” The web site, due to premiere in December, will comprise an estimated 40% of the company’s business, and will carry 20,000 to 40,000 diamonds. Its
competitive advantage over other sites is the Bailey name and
bricks-and-mortar component.
 
“Consumer will always have the option of visiting us in the store,” Leonard
says. “They don’t have that option with other online retailers.”

– While the new BBB will have finished jewelry, it will also have a
prominent “replica” department, so consumers can customize their pieces.

“When customers walk in, they will see our design studio with flat
screen TVs,” says Keeney. “That will let them surf our site on a 55-inch flat
screen and select diamonds from our web site with our diamond selector.
 It will make it a fun, interactive environment.”
 
The replicas will also be “in silver, and have a better weight and quality than
other replicas,” Keeney says.
 
– The chain is aiming for “the old Bailey customer base—the high end
consumer—as well as adding the younger aspirational consumer,” according to
Leonard. It will carry many of the same brands the old Bailey did, including
Mikimoto, Ritani, Lagos and Roberto Coin.
 
– The new store’s product will be “extremely well priced compared to other bricks and
mortar retailers,” Leonard says, because the company has a different expense structure,
given its online component, narrow store base and lower rents.

– The Dallas-based company currently only numbers five stores—three in Texas
(Austin, Houston, Plano), one in St. Louis and one is King of Prussia,
Pennsylvania—in markets where BBB formerly had a presence. But it does have
grander ambitions, and wants to open five to ten new locations a year, to reach
50 by 2015. “Our goal is to have national representation within five years,”
Leonard says.

He adds: “Bailey has been around since 1832 and has high consumer awareness. This
management group turned the business around once in the mid 1990s. We think it
has the ability to be resilient.”
 
And so far, Keeney notes, reaction has been positive: “We have only been open a
week and we are already seeing people coming back and telling friends.”

JCK News Director