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Birks closes door on Whistler jewelry boutique

Olympic sponsor will still have Games presence
Leaving Town Birks Jewellery will not be in Whistler during 2010, even though the company is an official supplier for the Olympic Games.

There’ll be no official Olympic bling available in Whistler anymore as Birks Jewellery has decided to close its boutique store in the resort.

“I can see how it would seem peculiar but actually it is just a business decision not to renew our lease at that location,” said Donna Battista, spokeswoman for parent company Birks and Mayor Inc., an official supplier to the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“The lease was up for renewal in January and it was a five year contract which would take us beyond the Olympics.”

Ever since Whistler won the right to co-host the 2010 Games with Vancouver there have been fears voiced by tenants that landlords may try to force up rents to take advantage of the marquis event. But Battista said it was not the rent that was at the root of the decision to close.

“That did not impact the decision as far as rent went and the pricing,” she said.

“It was just that we would have had to commit to that period of time and we just felt it wasn’t in our best interests at this point in the company’s strategic plan.”

In fact, said Whistler Chamber of Commerce President Louise Lundy, there may be a new reality setting in.

“Overall what we are looking at for lease spaces in the resort is that actually rents have come down over the last three years,” she said.

“That has been the trend. Whereas five years ago everyone would have predicted that the rates would have been going way up as we get closer to the Games. But it is just not the case and many of the lease deals have actually been signed well beyond the Games.”

Lundy said large landlords have got the message loud and clear that gouging won’t be tolerated.

“Big landlords are hearing that gouging on the leases just isn’t flying,” she said.

“It is making businesses not feasible and it is in their best interests to have their locations filled and it is the best interests of the resort to have a great mix.”

Birks and Mayor became a Tier III 2010 Games’ supplier last February. It will provide the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games with fine jewelry retailed at over $150. It will include things like necklaces, earrings, pendants and rings bearing Olympic and Paralympic marks. All will be wrapped in Birks’ iconic blue box.

The company also has sponsorship rights for the Canadian teams participating in Beijing this August and in London in 2012.

Battista said the organization is working on its celebration plans for 2010, which will likely be focused in Vancouver.

“…Without the (Whistler) store we are still going to have a strong presence and we have strong presence in the Vancouver market as well, which will be heightened during the Olympic Games,” she said.

“It is not all set up and I can’t give you details on that just now but we will have a presence there (Whistler) and we will have heightened visibility as well at our Vancouver store at the time of the Olympics.”