Just as the downfall of Whitehall brought Michael Hill into the United States, the Chapter 11 filing of Robbins Brothers (here’s the official release) may introduce us all to Spence Diamonds, the Vancouver-based company which is the stalking horse bidder for the company’s Chicago-area stores and three Houston stores (Baybrook, Willowbrook, Houston Loop).
Here is what an emailer told me about the Spence store in Toronto. Have to admit it sounds intriguing …
Guests are greeted at the front desk which is like an office reception area and we were unable to proceed into the showroom until an associate walked us in.
Here is where it becomes very different to a traditional jewelry store. The associate tells us a little about how Spence works: all the showcases are located in a circle in the center of the room they have open fronts you can stick your hands in and pull out as many rings as you want to try on. That’s a lot of fun for a customer that may feel intimidated about asking to see a lot of rings.
Once the guests have finished trying on lots of different types of mountings they are invited to sit with a consultant to select their diamond. The rest of the transaction becomes fairly similar to a more traditional jeweler.
Certainly a fresh approach. We wish Spence well.
Regarding Robbins Brothers, what I’m hearing is that the chain’s too-ambitious expansion caused these problems. The bankruptcy itself seems a weird combination of a partial sale, bankruptcy and re-capitalization by Western Presido — which, yes, is another hedge fund taking a bigger role in the jewelry industry.