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Monday, January 10, 2011

Robbins Diamonds Closes Philadelphia Store

The iconic Philadelphia jewelry store, Robbins 8th & Walnut (“our name is our address”), has closed—a victim of the economy, according to a message posted on the company’s website.

The store was housed at Philadelphia’s Jewelers Row for nearly 60 years. The company, Robbins Diamonds, has been around for about 100 years. Signs posted in the store’s windows direct customers to its remaining store in Delaware. The company also closed its Allentown Superstore.

The company’s website, which includes an e-commerce business, has a note, saying:

Like a lot of folks, we've had to tighten our belts lately. As a part of that, we've had to close our Philly and Allentown locations. We've had a blast over the years serving our customers there, so we're sad to be leaving. But here's the really good news: by tightening things up and consolidating our efforts, we've created a truly cool and different way to shop for diamonds and engagement rings at our Delaware store.

Jerry Robbins, CEO, and his brother, Ron, who retired sometime ago, were the faces of Robbins Diamonds for more than 30 years through a television advertising campaign featuring the brothers backed by the '60s pop group the Dovells, singing and dancing to hit songs of the 1950s such as “Little Darlin'” and “Rockin' Robin,” with lyrics changed to identify the songs with the jeweler. The ads ran on radio and television and turned Robbins Eighth and Walnut into a household name.

 The finishing touch to the campaign—which raised Jerry to iconic status—was attaching a diamond to his beard, which he wears in public and in the commercials. He also has a uniquely identifiable baritone voice that was used in the company’s ads. It helped propel the business into one of the highest volume-per-square-foot jewelry operations in the United States.

During the mid-2000s, the company went into massive expansion building three “superstores” (in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware), expanding its business from a “bridal specialist” jeweler, with a focus on engagement rings and wedding bands (a retail category that Jerry said his company pioneered), to a full-service jewelry business by adding designer brands and investing in a point-of-service automated management system to retrieve customer data in order to keep them coming back long after their wedding.

The company at that time also updated its advertising campaign across traditional broadcast media and the Internet, which features an animated version of a younger Jerry Robbins and a bigger-than-life mascot of the youthful Jerry for personal appearances.

I wrote about the new store concept and the company’s advertising campaign for JCK magazine in 2006, which can be seen here and here.

More recently, the company used a billboard campaign in which women show their empty ring finger that appears as if they are “flipping the bird,” accompanied with the statement, “She’s tired of waiting.”

In more recent years during the economic downturn, the company struggled, as it now had large mortgage payments and more suppliers to pay. The company eventually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December, 2009, during the height of the economic downturn.

The company now consists of the Delaware store and its e-commerce operation.

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