By Craig Patterson
Montreal-based jewellery retailer Birks is expanding its presence in Vancouver this fall with the unveiling of two luxurious jewellery and watch brands. An official boutique for UK-based diamond retailer Graff will open on West Georgia Street, and Swiss luxury watch retailer Patek Philippe will open next to it. Both are set to open towards the end of November, and both will have separate street-facing entrances.
It’s the first time that Graff will have a presence in Canada. The brand is showcasing a selection of its jewellery and timepieces at Birks’ Yorkdale Shopping Centre store in Toronto until November 11, prior to the the Vancouver store opening. Graff and Birks’ representatives were in Toronto this week to show the impressive Graff collections.
Geneva-based Patek Philippe, which sells some watch styles in excess of $100,000 each, has a presence in a handful of high-end jewellers nationally. A selection of premium timepieces will also be showcased in the new official Patek Philippe salon, which will be one of only a handful globally for the brand.
The Graff and Patek Philippe boutiques will be connected internally, though from the outside, they will have their own entrances and retail signage. Inside, they will share the same cashiers as part of Birks’ operations.
The 575 square foot Graff salon will feature a selection of Graff jewellery, engagement rings and timepieces, and “will house decadent, brushed- gold vitrines, showcasing one-of-a-kind high jewellery suites, irresistible fine jewellery collections and ground-breaking timepieces” according to the company. Some pieces on display in the Vancouver Graff salon will be one-of-a-kind, including an impressive jewelled necklace we were shown that was priced at just under $1-million. Pieces selling for in excess of $1-million are expected to follow as the store tests the market, though it also has some less costly items with prices beginning at about $6,000. Graff is expected to do well in Vancouver — the brand is popular with an affluent Asian demographic, and Vancouver is known to be a significant target for Asian tourists as well as residents who have chosen to live in the city either full-time or part-time.
Graff’s CEO, Francois Graff, said, “Canada is an important market with a discerning and international clientele; this is a prominent retail destination for Graff and we are delighted to be exclusively represented by Birks Group, whose name is synonymous with luxury.”
“We are proud to be the only retailer to carry such an elite brand such as Graff,” said Jean-Christophe Bédos, President and CEO at Birks Group Inc. “We are committed to bringing brands to Canada that house innovation and quality and that will ultimately elevate the luxury shopping industry.”
Graff’s website has listed its Vancouver address as being 1014 W. Georgia Street, which is part of the ‘Burrard Building’ which houses boutiques for brands such as Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, and accessory retailer Artino. At least three more luxury brands are confirmed to be moving into the base of the Burrard Building in 2019.
Vancouver is seeing an unprecedented number of luxury brands moving into its downtown core, many of which focus on jewellery and watches as well as leather goods and other accessories. West Georgia street is now finding itself becoming a luxury retail address of its own, located a short block north of the Alberni Street ‘Luxury Zone’ that has been undergoing a transformation for the past several years.
Graff was founded by Lawrence Graff in London in 1960, and the company operates a highly selective network of standalone stores and concessions worldwide. Graff boutiques can be found in major world luxury capitals and in the United Staes, Graff operates six standalone stores in New York City, Bal Harbour FL, Chicago, Las Vegas, Palm Beach and San Francisco, as well as concessions at Saks Fifth Avenue stores in New York City, Beverly Hills, Greenwich CT, Houston, and at Tyson’s Corner in suburban Washington DC. Graff is a highly respected company which says that its diamonds are sourced ethically, and it publishes a bi-annual client magazine called ‘Graffiti’ both in English and in Chinese. Lawrence Graff was said to be worth US $5.6-billion as of April 2018.
Geneva, Switzerland-based Patek Philippe was founded in 1851. The company designs and manufactures timepieces and movements, including some of the world’s most complicated watches. As such, it is considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious manufacturers and prices of some of its designs are astronomical. The company has been owned by the Stern family since 1932, and it has distribution in more than 400 retailers globally. The company operates only a handful of storefronts globally and Vancouver will become one of few cities in the world to have a standalone space dedicated to the brand.