Diamonds of Detroit

Jewellery retailer extraordinaire

It is an old-fashioned sentiment, and yet a very true one: people mark their special moments with the gift of jewellery. From weddings to christenings to birthdays, our culture signifies those special occasions with a piece of jewellery. There is an emotional attachment to jewellery that transcends logic—and defies recession. Diamonds of Detroit, a small, single jewellery shop in rural Saskatchewan has kept that very premise in mind during its 25 years in operation. Consequently, it has grown during every single year it has been in operation. This month, CBJ explores this impressive retail business.

Business basics

It seemed like an odd idea at the time. Humboldt, a rural town in Saskatchewan that had a population of only 5,000, where there was already a number of jewellery stores in the small community. So what prompted owner Michelle Bankowski to go ahead with the business? “We felt that if we could do things much better and really excelled at customer service, that the business could expand into one of the biggest jewellers in the province.” Evidently, there was something to her theory. Diamonds of Detroit has successfully been in operation for more than 25 years.

The business had humble beginnings, and operated from a modest, 465 square foot location in the back end of a strip mall. “I’ve always been of the mind that if you are really good at what you do, people will find you,” says Bankowski. And come find they did; the business was highly successful in the small, unassuming location and had to expand to a bigger facility. In 1992, Diamonds of Detroit opened up a 1,500 square foot facility in the Humboldt Mall—a prime retail location—and has since renovated twice.

Substantial sales with annual growth and multiple expansions are a considerable achievement for a small, rural retailer. Bankowski is proud of the accomplishments and notes the elegance of the retail space. “If you came and visited our store you would see that you could put us down in any metropolitan city and we could probably compete with the best.”

The finest products

Diamonds of Detroit carries a wide range of fine jewellery products, with a number of exquisite gold and diamond collections from well-known brands. “We work very hard to create a selection of products that is very fashion forward, unique, really good quality,” says Bankowski. And of course, the store does have a reputation as a bridal destination and caters to that market extensively. Purchases such as an engagement ring or wedding band are indeed those “special moments” in which people invest. The store also provides a full-service repair facility including watch repair and battery replacement, custom designs, appraisals, cleaning—and are even a marriage license issuer. All staff are expertly trained and obtain their graduate jewellers license. Says Bankowski, “We spend an enormous amount of time on self-development and professional development for our staff.”

Marketing, strategy and awards

In a proud recognition, Diamonds of Detroit was awarded an ABEX award by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce in October 2010, winning the overall award for marketing. Its aggressive marketing strategy includes elements such as billboard and radio ads, as well as a strong social media presence on Facebook, and an e-commerce program. It also uses some untraditional branding strategies such as ring sizer coasters and designer eco-friendly bags—all premised around the highly recognized tagline, “quality comes in a burgundy box.”

“We like to create a larger than life presence out in the market and I think we’re pretty successful at that,” says Bankowski. That marketing might drive people into the store, but that certainly is not the reason people purchase. Bankowski attributes the success of the business to a seemingly simple concept: “legendary customer service.” The attentive and personalized service provided is really the competitive advantage that has the kept the business afloat. It is this outstanding customer service that has attracted clients from beyond the small geographic area of Humboldt.

The business has been quite successful in attracting clients from across Canada, and Bankowski admits this has been enormously helpful to the business. “This is one of the reasons we have been so successful; we do look beyond our borders.” The company has always kept its ear to the ground in regards to industry trends. “Just because we’re from Saskatchewan doesn’t mean that we can’t develop and do business in the finest fashion,” says Bankowski, “and it is proven that people will come from a distance to visit us.”

Diamonds of Detroit has a rare achievement to boast about: growth every year, for more than 25 years—through two recessions and a Saskatchewan farming crisis. During troubled economic times, people scale back what they spend, but Diamonds of Detroit is proof that people still celebrate major life events. Says Bankowski, “I like to say there is no recession on love.”