No Longer Your Grandmother’s Birks

Luxury brands do an exemplary job of showcasing their own history of excellence. A big part of the reason why luxury brands have been able to sustain success over such a long period of time is due to their ability to adapt with the times, while maintaining the essence of what made them so great in the first place. The Birks Group has been in operation for 135 years, and is one example of a luxury brand that has been a staple of elegance as the world has changed around it; due, in large part, to its ability to stay relevant.

Recently Birks & Mayor underwent a makeover to clean up its tired image and in-store experience, and I believe that the following changes will help it to continue to succeed for the foreseeable future as it commences its expansion into China.

Name Change

As a part of this makeover, Birks Group has changed their retail name to “Maison Birks” in order to closely align itself with other luxury houses such as Chanel and Dior, that also employ the use of the word “Maison”.  Personally, I like the change of name because to those who may not be familiar with the Birks name, this change further signifies luxuriousness for the brand  – a distinction that will be important as it makes its foray into China and potential future markets. Since the word “Maison” itself is also elegant and fluid sounding (even if one does not know what it means), those same attributes will be subconsciously associated with the brand in the customer’s mind, thereby softening the original “Birks” name which sounds choppy and rough.


Celebration of History and Origins

Having a long history in itself is an asset for a company, as customers tend to believe that being around for a long time reflects a track record of success. At the same time, it is a point of differentiation that cannot be copied, since newcomers need time to develop their own history. As a result, if your company has a long and storied history, it only makes sense to exploit it to the fullest, which can help communicate the positive attributes of success, reliability, and quality to your customers. It is for this reason that I think it just makes sense for Maison Birks to also add its year of commencement to its logo, in order to help communicate such positive attributes that are especially important in the high-end jewelry industry.

Another nice touch that Maison Birks is adding is the subtle ode to its Canadian origins, with dark wood paneling and red carpeting to represent the Canadian fall, a chandelier to symbolize icicles, and the blue and white colours of the logo representing the lakes and mountain tops. I am not suggesting when someone walks into the store they will be instantly reminded of Maison Birks’ Canadian origins, but the thought process demonstrates a level of detail that can be appreciated, giving an indication of how meticulously they run their business.


Store Layout

In the past, walking into a Birks has always felt like it was a place for old, stuffy people, with an aura of elitism to it, where sales staff would serve you from behind a counter along the side walls. The service has always been spectacular, but the store layout and design did not feel inviting or friendly. Clearly I was not alone in this feeling, as the store layout is also undergoing a makeover in order to become more inviting, friendly, younger, and less formal.  The stores aim to be much brighter places, with display cases throughout the store (as opposed to along the wall) and magnifying glasses built into them in an effort to encourage the customer to interact with the products. I think this is a great approach as it encourages a more inviting experience, where the customer has more of an opportunity to participate with the brand and what it has to offer.


Maison Birks has been a successful luxury brand throughout North America for over a century, and a part of that success has been as a result of recognizing when changes need to be made before it’s too late. What the brand represents has always remained the same, however customer trends, and what customers come to expect from a brand, has changed. I am reminded of a famous quote by Heraclitus: “the only thing that is constant is change”.  While it is important to remain true to your values, the market you are operating in is always changing, and it is important to adapt with these changes. Maison Birks’ makeover is exactly what the brand needed, and coupled with its planned expansion into China, the company should remain on a successful path for many years to come.

What are your opinions on the old feel of Birks and the new Maison Birks?

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