Jewellery Plus is celebrating its third decade in business, and Philip Sullivan is one of the most recognised names and voices on PEI. So, who is the man behind the voice and name we hear on the radio and see on TV? This is Philip’s story.
“How did you get your start in the jewellery business?"
Well, my father, Michael Sullivan, a Chartered Accountant (now semi-retired) had his office above Crockett's jewellers in Summerside. In 1986, he got involved in the jewellery business through Parker Crockett, who was the owner of Crockett's at the time. They were involved in a chain of mostly fashion jewellery stores that went under the name of Lynn's and 2 2 jewellery. At one time there were almost 50 stores in the chain throughout the Maritimes.
My father owned or was partners in a number of stores from Newfoundland, to New Brunswick, and on PEI. At one time he owned two Lynn's stores in Summerside, and a store in the Charlottetown Mall under the 2 2 name. My experience started as a student in high school when I began working at these stores part-time and during my summer breaks.
In May of 1993, I graduated UPEI with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and began working full-time at both stores. However, by this time we were no longer a part of the original franchise chain. We sold off or closed partial interests in all stores other than one in the Charlottetown Mall and one in the Waterfront Mall in Summerside. In October of 1993, we opened a second store in the newly expanded Charlottetown Mall focusing more on higher quality precious metal and diamond jewellery.
After a few years of operating a new, high-end jewellery store, we decided to sell off our kiosk in the Charlottetown Mall and concentrate on the store in Summerside and along with the new store in Charlottetown, which both carried similar product lines. We successfully operated the new store in the Charlottetown Mall until February 2006. It was then when I made the tough decision to sell my store in Charlottetown and focus on my Summerside operation.
“What made you decide to do that?
We had two fairly successful stores for a while, but when you operate in a mall you effectively end up working for the landlord. The base rent was quite high to start with then, when you reach certain sales volumes you also pay a percentage of sales to the landlord. Plus my first son was born in 2004 and with a young family, living in Summerside and trying to keep a close eye on two stores became a little too hectic.
In February 2005, we purchased 246 Water Street, the building we're currently in. So, if I was going to work for the landlord that landlord would be me. The only scary part about selling my store in Charlottetown was that it was doing about 3 times the volume of my Summerside location.
“What turned things around?”
Well, when we closed our store in Charlottetown we were left with jewellery repairs that were never picked up. Needless to say, we ended up with a lot of jewellery that we didn’t know what to do with. We tried calling, sending letters, posting ads in the newspaper, and after over a year we decided it was time to get into the used jewellery business. We sold off a great deal of the used, unclaimed jewellery and repairs.
We also began buying and taking on trade of our clients unwanted and broken jewellery. We quickly realised that this was a market that was being underserved on PEI, so we finally discovered our niche. It was then I began learning as much as I could about all types of vintage jewellery, coins, watches and anything that was precious metals or diamond-related.
“So what did you do differently?”
The entire used jewellery and watch market on PEI didn't really exist in traditional jewellery stores. The only place you could usually find used jewellery was in some antique stores, pawn shops, or flea markets. In 2007, we began concentrating on this new, underserved market.
When working towards my business degree at UPEI I had concentrated my studies on marketing and advertising. So, over the years I always spent a large percentage of our stores' sales on advertising and marketing. We focused on the traditional TV, newsprint, and radio, etc. However, we found that some of the most effective advertising we did was to our database of previous clients. As a reward for helping us grow, we try to reach out directly to our clients 4 to 5 times per year with special offers and free gifts.
One of our best promotions was the “we buy, sell, and trade story.” We found countless amounts of people had inherited, out of style or broken jewellery they no longer wanted. So, I trained my staff how to identify and evaluate all types of old jewellery. We can explain how we determine the prices we offer, so our clients are given a knowledgeable fair offer when they decide to sell or trade in their unwanted jewellery, coins and watches.
Another area that makes us different than most other jewellery stores in PEI is that my staff is highly trained, and are in the jewellery business because they love jewellery. I have trained with the Gemological Institute of America receiving the Insurance Replacement appraiser, diamonds, diamond grading, coloured stones and coloured stone grading certificates. Myself and two of my staff have also received the Graduate Jeweller certificate from the Canadian Jewellers Institute.
“It seems like the changes worked”
Well, it’s not rocket science. If you treat people right, they’ll treat you right. Our clients have been terrific. They’re loyal as well and have really helped our business grow by sending their friends and family to us. I've also been fortunate to have some terrific employees. Some have been with me for over 20 years. All the employees who work here love working with the public, by helping them with whatever their jewellery needs are; from a new diamond ring, to repairing grandma's 100-year-old heirloom piece, and to fixing a sentimental ring that doesn't fit anymore.
“What makes you tick and still want to come to work after spending over 25 years in this business?” Well, as a kid it was never my dream job to be a jewellery store owner. When growing up jewellery was never a big thing at my house. However, I have been intrigued with, and a student of the Wall Street/Bay Street stock market for quite some time. As mentioned before I completed a business administration degree in 1993, and therefore always knew I wanted to somehow be involved in business. I thought maybe in the financial services industry. So, the parts of this job I really enjoy is doing my research” to find out where the best deals are, then going to find them. I believe you make your money when you buy, and if you buy something “right” you can always sell it! I like offering our clients the best deals, so in order for me to make a profit and offer those best deals, I have to be a good detective. I hunt down some of the best deals from around the world; including Antwerp, New York, Florida, and even here in Canada. The greatest part for me is sometimes the best deals come walking through my front door.
Also, for thousands of years, many cultures have considered jewellery, diamonds, gold and silver a good store of value. It's nice to be selling a product that even after being enjoyed and worn from 10, 20, to 50 years still has value, and can be sold or traded towards something new. And since jewellery is generally used to celebrate milestones in our clients’ and our loved one's lives we’re very proud to be a part of this.
“What does the future hold?”
Our future plans include opening a new store in Summerside and possibly entering the Charlottetown market again. We would like to keep growing, but in a controlled, deliberate manner. We never want to grow so fast that we lose the culture that our people have built, or that we can’t serve our clients in a superior manner that they have come to expect from us.