Diamonds & Dials
As one of the UK’s most innovative luxury showrooms opens its doors in St Ann’s Square in Manchester, The Cheshire Magazine talks to David M Robinson Managing Director, John Robinson and his team.
What does it mean to be opening the stunning showroom we are in today?
As part of the DMR journey, it’s a very special day indeed. We began our story here in St Ann’s Square back in 1979 with the tiniest of showrooms on the corner complete with a workshop and kitchen down below. Since then we have expanded into the showroom next door on St Ann’s Street and when the opportunity came up to expand into St Ann’s Square itself, we jumped at the chance.
St Ann’s Square is the very epicentre of Manchester and we wanted to create a showroom unlike any other in the North West. The new showroom is nearly 5,000 square foot and it’s recent completion is the highlight of our 50th year. The whole project has cost over £3 million and, as well as validating our belief in what we do, we also feel we can raise the status of luxury retail in Manchester - the country’s second city. Lauri Hammond, formerly of Harvey Nichols in London has done an amazing job elevating our displays. The showroom feels light and our pieces are able to breathe. We worked with Manchester-based 5 Plus architects and Ferrious, and their input was always welcome. This is a luxury showroom for DMR and a locally delivered project!
How did the business start?
It all started when David Robinson became an apprentice goldsmith in Liverpool back in the 1960s. From a tiny workshop he developed his jewellery designing and making ability, and he took up the opportunity to open a small showroom in North John Street in Liverpool, making bespoke pieces and commissions. Some of his early designs went on to win the DeBeers Diamonds International Award. Today, his team of skilled Master Goldsmiths and their workshops remain at the very heart of our company. The business grew from its Liverpool base into the four showrooms we have today in Manchester, Liverpool One, London’s Canary Wharf and our head office in Altrincham. We did have showrooms in Chester and Southport but sadly we decided to close them with many of the clients in those areas beginning to shop more frequently in the cities of Liverpool or Manchester. In recent years, watches has become a bigger part of our business and today we represent, as Authorised Dealers, some of the world’s best watch brands, including Rolex and Patek Philippe to name just a few.
Can you tell us more about the watch side of the business?
We certainly can. It’s an area that has developed rapidly in the last decade or so. Rolex and Patek Philippe are brands which cannot be sold online by Authorised Dealers and we believe in offering a genuinely luxurious retail environment in which to allow our customers to try on different pieces. We even have our own in-store Rolex accredited watchmaker on site to facilitate the servicing of our clients’ watches. We believe that buying a Rolex should be such a special experience and since we are passionate about horology, our teams of “helpful experts” are always happy to share that knowledge. Its wonderful to have such a large selection to introduce to our clients and a gorgeous
showroom in which to present them. We have developed an impressive “e-space” for Rolex on the ground floor and a Rolex service room downstairs. There are also e-spaces for Tudor and IWC. Our North West Patek Philippe account is in Altrincham, Cheshire.
And the jewellery side?
The jewellery side of our business is based around the bridal collections of engagement rings and wedding rings for which DMR has become synonymous. Many pieces within our Carat Collection are bespoke commissions which are hand-made in our workshops. Along with our bridal collection we have several exclusively designed diamond jewellery collections which we only retail through our own showrooms and not through any other retailers... Although we do get asked by other retailers! They include the Cloud Nine, Hopscotch, Lunar and Honeycomb collections, the latter being inspired by Manchester’s iconic worker bee symbol, although it’s actually over ten years now since we created the collection’s first piece. Jewellery-making remains at the heart of our business and we genuinely travel far and wide to look for inspiration - and inspiring stones - to work into captivating, yet wearable designs.
Where do your customers come from?
The simple answer is far and wide. In the region, as well as those who live and work in Manchester, we are just as likely to see someone from The Lakes, as say Alderley Edge. On some days we see lots of couples who are visiting Manchester to see their children at University, or those travelling in to stay overnight, watch a football or rugby match, perhaps to eat at Australasia or Tattu and take in a night at the theatre. Manchester is definitely a booming city and its really getting its swagger back. We have seen some dark days in the city over the last few decades but I guess you can’t keep good people down or hold them back. We have always bounced back and now is Manchester’s time. I was so proud of my team in Manchester in the aftermath of the tragic events at the Arena, two years ago. St Ann’s Square became the focal point of the grief we all felt and we must have made thousands of cups of tea and coffee for foreign film crews, as well as our customers and those who just wanted to pop in and talk.
So the future is sparkling for DMR?
I’m not sure about “sparkling” but I like the reference. We are confident that offering the very best - be that watches, our own diamond jewellery collections and amazing (good old-fashioned!) after care is the way forward. We believe in the skills of watchmakers, goldsmiths, setters and designers. We believe in our High Street, which in reality is a belief in all of our streets, not just the collective retail reference. We believe in helping, in our own small way, to make the North West a better place to live. We have some wonderful examples to learn from and many of them are close to our business. We support the TIMA (This is Manchester Awards) which celebrates the very best the city has to offer in the creative industries. We cherish the work of the team at ONSIDE to develop Youth Zones in our region, and to support young people we are also launching the inaugural DMR Jewellery Design Awards for schools in the region to celebrate our 50th anniversary. In addition I think the way some North West companies are paving the way for giving back to the communities they draw from is outstanding – just look at the work of Bruntwood,AO.Com, Urban Splash, Timpsons, Morson and The Hut Group to name a few. Who needs London?!
What makes DMR, clearly, so unique?
Lee Chadwick, Showroom Manager, provides the answer...
Well, for starters we are a family business and thoroughly independent. All my colleagues working with DMR get an amazing showroom to present and entertain in, are very well looked after with free private medical healthcare and lots of interesting training but I actually think we are special because our customers are so varied and unique. I, personally, can be presenting to a couple who are getting engaged in Dublin one day, hosting a private client dinner in the showroom the following evening and then a watching an company MD present watches to his team in our Lounge the following day.
Having a showroom like this which is so open, spacious and welcoming allows us to spend time with our clients and friends and we can even allow the customer to watch their jewellery being made. I genuinely think we are seeing a trend in which we value those who work with their hands and our clients definitely appreciate that seeing something being made for them, right in the heart of Manchester city centre is provenance indeed. Every week in the showroom we see tears of joy from marriage proposals or for customers who have a cherished piece of jewellery remodelled. At DMR we look after two or often three generations of many families and it’s a pleasure to see a daughter choosing a very fashionable and on trend piece from one DMR collection and her mother choosing something very different, on the same day.
It sounds like many of your customers become friends?
“They often do!” says Hannah Williams, the showroom’s Assistant Manager. “I’ve been to countless weddings and several hen-dos as well! It’s a privilege to be involved in so many celebrations, proposals and births! We do see a lot of famous faces in the showroom too but obviously, you’re not going to get me to give you any names! Having our private lounge downstairs does allow us to offer absolute privacy for our customers. Choosing jewellery is very intimate at times and if the bride wants to come along with her dress to try on pieces we can always cater for that. At the other end of the scale the showroom was recently occupied by the England Ladies Net Ball Team, all twelve of them, so there were a few surprised looks on people’s faces that day.
David M Robinson
St Ann's Square, Manchester, M2 7JB
t: 0161 451 4403 e: email@example.com w: davidmrobinson.co.uk
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