By Craig Patterson
Regina, Saskatchewan-based jewellery company Hillberg & Berk is expanding its retail operations this fall by opening new stores in British Columbia and Manitoba. The company has seen rapid growth which includes operating storefronts in cities in Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as a network of retailer distributors in several Canadian provinces.
It’s part of a national expansion for Hillberg & Berk that could eventually see stores open across the country. Hillberg & Berk’s styles include a ‘Sparkle Collection’ that acts as a core for the brand, while also featuring gemstones and statement pieces as well as everyday basic designs that can be layered depending on the occasion. The brand has also embraced the personalization trend where pieces are meant to be meaningful to the consumer, including birthstones and charms that can be representative of family members of the wearer.
And while the merchandise is geared towards women between the ages of 25 and 40, the brand tends to appeal to a broad demographic, according to founder Rachel Mielke. “It’s very feminine and bold and classic,” she told Retail Insider in 2017. “We’re really trying to create pieces that are timeless and on trend, but they still have a longevity to them; they’ll still be relevant and beautiful in the future.”
Moving forward, Hillberg & Berk’s stores will feature a design beyond its traditional black-and-white aesthetic, by adding pops of colour including blush pink and burgundy. Stores will also be more open-concept — rather than product being contained behind glass cases, customers can browse products in the stores either on their own or with the assistance of one of Hillberg & Berk’s in-store client ambassadors.
Hillberg & Berk currently operates six stores and two kiosk-like ‘Sparkle Bars’ in Saskatchewan and Alberta. In Regina, Hillberg & Berk operates a flagship store at 2169 McIntyre Street, which is contained in a historic house painted yellow that is located just south of downtown Regina. In Saskatoon, Hillberg & Berk has stores at the Midtown Plaza in the city’s downtown core, as well as at the Centre Mall, which Retail Insider recently reported was seeing upgrades. In Edmonton, Hillberg & Berk operates stores at Southgate Centre and Kingsway Mall. In Calgary, the retailer also has a store at CF Market Mall. Hillberg & Berk’s ‘Sparkle Bars’ are located at Cornwall Centre in downtown Regina, as well as at West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton.
In October, two inline retail spaces for Hillberg & Berk will open in two entirely new markets. That includes a 1,063 square foot store at the Coquitlam Centre in suburban Vancouver, which will boast a prominent location next to the mall’s Sephora store and across from high-traffic retailers including Uniqlo and H&M.
In Winnipeg, Hillberg & Berk will open its largest storefront to date in October at CF Polo Park, which will span 1,453 square feet. That store will be located next to the mall’s Coach store and near other popular retailers including Michael Kors, H&M and Lululemon.
In 2020, Hillberg & Berk will open a second permanent location in Calgary which continues to be a key market for the brand.
Hillberg & Berk already has brand awareness in British Columbia and Manitoba, where it is carried in various retailers that include the brand’s range of jewellery designs. Many of the retail locations carrying the brand are in smaller markets, which means the standalone direct-to-consumer storefronts in cities are less likely to affect sales at its wholesale partners.
In Ontario, the Hillberg & Berk brand is also carried in smaller retailers as the brand continues to gain consumer awareness. The Ontario market will also be a priority for Hillberg & Berk’s retail expansion into 2021 and beyond, according to Kelsey Shannon, Manager of Retail at Hillberg and Berk. Possible Toronto locations could include CF Sherway Gardens and Square One in Mississauga, for example. Ms. Shannon will be at the ICSC Toronto Conference in September to further strategize Hillberg & Berk’s expansion through discussions with landlords, which could also possibly include a retail expansion into the Ottawa market as well.
Hillberg & Berk is also looking to expand into the United States after receiving a grant from the Saskatchewan government for women entrepreneurs. The brand is recognized for supporting the women’s empowerment movement through its branding, design and distribution of jewellery and accessories. The US expansion is expected to include a dedicated e-commerce site, as well as wholesale distribution in various retailers.
Entrepreneur Rachel Mielke Founded Hillberg & Berk in 2007 by creating designs intended to be "modern and timeless, practical and functional" that are crafted from sterling silver, gold, and high-quality gemstones. Prices are considered accessible with many pieces priced at under $250, and prices can go higher for some designs featuring various gemstones.
In 2008, Ms. Mielke went on CBC's TV show Dragon's Den, where she partnered with business mogul and philanthropist W. Brett Wilson for financing. Mr. Wilson is still involved in the business as an investor and consultant. In 2014, Saskatchewan's Lieutenant Governor commissioned Hillberg & Berk to make a tourmaline floral-design broach surrounded by diamonds for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has been photographed wearing it several times. In 2017, Hillberg & Berk was commissioned to create a second piece for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II which falso gained the jewellery brand positive press. Hillberg & Berk has also been popular with a wide range of celebrities, and the brand itself has collaborated with various other retail brands and well-known individuals.
We’ll continue to follow up on Hillberg & Berk’s expansion into Canada as well as into the United States.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: email@example.com