California chain Robbins Brothers plans to expand under new owners, Comvest Partners, CEO Andy Heyneman told JCK.
The investment firm bought the Azusa, Calif.–based 14-store based chain from another investment firm, Weston Presidio, this month. Deal terms were not disclosed.
Under the new owners “you will see growth, for sure,” Heyneman says, noting it could come from new stores or further acquisitions, like its purchase last year of E.E. Robbins. The new owners “aren’t just going to sit there. They want to help us build something. We believe we are sitting on the next precipice.”
“We are a very profitable and successful company at this point,” he adds, noting the new owner plans no changes in current management. “We have a lot of irons in the fire. Suffice it to say we are having a lot of conversations, and in many instances we are going deeper than just conversations.”
But unlike in the past, when Robbins Brothers was widely considered to have grown too fast, Heyneman says current management will stress “prudency” in its expansion plans.
“From our perspective, this is a marathon not a sprint,” he says.
He notes the process of looking for a new owner was a lot easier than it was after the company’s 2009 bankruptcy filing.
Back then, “it was a matter of trying to convince people that the core of the model was something that could ultimately turn into a profitable, good, and solid company,” he says. “This time, there was significant interest across the country. We were lucky. We got to choose who our partners are as opposed to the other way around.”
He says the company plans to further integrate technology into the buying process. “You will see Robbins Brothers push ourselves into some uncharted waters,” he says.
Larry Gomperts, the company’s executive vice president of marketing, says one of the things that distinguishes Robbins Brothers is that it’s “an engagement-ring store, not a jewelry store.”
“Our goal is to continually provide the best experience for engagement-ring customers,” he adds, noting the company plans to increase its training.
The company has also begun to carry lab-created diamonds in a proprietary line called e3, which it typically shows to customers with a “green sensibility,” Gomperts says.
“The story resonates with a segment of the customer base,” he says.
Adds Heyneman: “It’s a small but growing part of our business. We had all our associates record customer reactions and under no circumstances did we get negative pushback.”
“My fear is that others may look at it as a price option,” he continues. “Unless you have a real commitment to transparency and education and have a real desire to spend a significant amount of time answering questions, it’s not something you should dive into.”