The windows have been re-opened to the street, as seen here in the Cartier boutique

For generations, the Birks store on Ste-Catherine Street at Phillips Square was the ‘go to’ store of Montreal’s elite to purchase engagement and wedding rings, bridal registries, figurines and all manner of exclusive and expensive jewelry. Different generations and home decor have changed the luxury market, and to meet that changing retail environment, the company brought in Jean-Christophe Bédos to manage the company’s transition. With extensive high-end watch and jewelry experience in Paris and London, Bédos brought a fresh perspective and valuable international contacts to Birks and the revitalization of this 139 year-old historic company.


Jean-Christophe Bédos brings his experience with the Richemont Group and Cartier to his leadership of the
Birks Group

His input has had a major positive effect on Birks, with the company receiving international recognition in July 2018 as Brand Of The Year by the UK-based World Branding Forum. “This is an important award, because you can’t apply for it. You don’t know about it until you have received it. There’s nothing you can do to campaign for it. A contributing factor involved one of our major initiatives of the past several years in what we term the ‘self purchase’ category. This is when women buy jewelry for themselves. It’s a significant new phenomenon, and it has created an additional revenue stream for our business. The self-purchasing woman is a symbol of the power of economic growth.”

Birks“The award is a tremendous validation of the initiatives that we have taken to modify the Birks business model, which in part was responsible for developing a new clientele.”

Through a combination of factors that included Birks’ resurgence and Jean-Christophe’s strong contacts, he has secured Canadian exclusivity for jewelery manufactured by Chaumet, Messika, and Van Cleef and Arpels. “These brands are so special that they will only be available in a few of our thirty stores across Canada. We’ve also added Rolex together with Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre back into our line of premium watches in Montreal.”

Birks“And while we’re proud of our exclusive arrangements with the world’s leading luxury brands, at the same time we want to be inclusive and embrace an affordable luxury vision. We have beautiful Birks items priced from $100 – $200 that have been very popular in our self-purchase category.  Modern luxury is no longer about high-priced products; it is about beautiful design and great quality at the right price.”

“The flagship store on Ste-Catherine St. has been renovated and the merchandise offerings have been re-aligned to focus on today’s purchasers. When I first arrived here, twenty percent of our floor space was devoted to silver service and tabletop merchandise. Yet, that market was only five per cent of our sales. We had to change our business model. We also used to devote considerable floor and display space to figurines and related products, but the demand for those items had also greatly diminished.” The renovations of the flagship store took those changing buying patterns into consideration.


Rolex has returned to Birks with a big presence

Continuing, Jean-Christophe states; “While we have updated the decor, we have maintained the beautiful high ceilings, pillars and elegance of the original Birks store. The heritage of this building must never be forgotten.”

“What used to be our executive offices on the upper floors are being converted to high-end accommodations at Hotel Birks. We have opened the original windows facing onto the street, letting the light flood into the store. Our architect, Aedifica, understood our desire to modernize the store and retain the fabulous original heritage of this building. We want to invite people in, to create a welcoming environment.”


Chaumet watches are exclusive to Birks in Canada

“Montreal is definitely on an upswing. We’re seeing more tourists, business investors and companies moving here, especially in the Artificial Intelligence field. This is important for Birks, because the luxury business requires a flow of international visitors, and Montreal’s resurgence has brought those international visitors to the city and to our store.”

For more information about the ‘new’ Birks Group and the flagship store, please visit: Better yet – go downtown and see the store that has been recognized internationally as a marketing success story.