At just 23, Charles Burns, head of Branded Jewellery at Burns Jewellers, has been making waves. The young entrepreneur spoke to JLife’s Evangeline Spachis recently about the company’s future.
Speaking to Charles Burns, head of Branded Jewellery at Burns Jewellers Group, it is easy to see why this bright 23-year-old is being hailed as a whizz-kid of the jewellery industry. After being brought into the fold by his father to work for the family business, Charles began to transform the respected jewellers from a much-loved institution into a forward-thinking business with continued longevity.
Founded in 1958 by Charles’ grandfather Joel Burns, the Burns Jewellers Group has a long tradition of selling high-quality jewellery within the North West. Describing his ancestor as a “maverick entrepreneur”, Charles clearly models himself on the examples of his forefathers.
The historic Arthur Kays site near the Royal Exchange acts as an unofficial flagship store and living monument to the legacy the Burns family has cultivated in Manchester.
As head of Branded Jewellery, Charles Burns has taken it upon himself to bring the business into the 21st century. After a rocky few years in the early 2000’s, Burns Jewellers has reached smoother terrain once again. A daring but ill-fated residency at the Trafford Centre (unheard of for an independent retailer at that time), Charles is reassured by the lessons his family learnt: “Even though we eventually moved on from that venture, we persevered regardless. We’re fighters, and that’s definitely something I have inherited. It shows in everything I do.”
Showing a spark of entrepreneurial talent at a young age, Charles has always aimed high. Being appointed as a board member to the UK Young People’s Panel for Tesco when he was just 20 years old was an indication of how much he had achieved before joining his family’s business. “I just hope I’m where I am today because I am a credible candidate to take over from my father.”
Following on from his father, who himself took over the business aged 22, Charles plans to grow the online shop and expand the range of upmarket branded jewellery, which accounts for 60% of the business. Understanding the importance consumers place on buying a distinctive piece, Charles is keen to emphasise how Burns has always sought to make the special times in life, memorable: “I’m not here to solely make money. The jewellery industry is unique trade and Burns is here to give people a special moment they will always remember and celebrate. This translates in our pricing and advice: it’s trustworthy, open and honest.”
By entering into the world of branded jewellery and making solid connections with jewellery makers such as Pandora and Swarovski, Charles has ensured Burns Jewellers remains a big player in a competitive market saturated with cheaper competition online. Charles, however, is unfazed: “We try and beat any price, but that doesn’t mean we discount on service. If we short-change our customers, then all the marketing and promotion will be for nothing. I welcome competition; I just know we’re the best.”
Part of the company’s philosophy is to make sure that regardless of who walks into its stores, they receive the VIP treatment from the very best in the jewellery business. Known as ‘associates’, the shop assistants at every store have to live up to Charles’ philosophy: He believes in empowering the people closest to the customer. “Rather than the CEO being at the top of the business pyramid, the pyramid should be flipped on its head. Our associates are crucial to our business, as it’s all about making the customer feel special.”
Customers, whatever their circumstances, are at the forefront of Charles’ business model: “I want to take the snobbishness out of the industry and make people realise that as long as you have the means to buy a piece from us, you can have it.” Charles is clear when it comes to his customers, whether you’re a high-flyer or someone who has saved up for months or years for that special piece, you’ll be treated exactly the same.
Personally, things are going swimmingly too. Charles plans to propose to his girlfriend, Alyx Glazer in Paris this month. “I’m happy and I have a great life. I know I’m very lucky to be in the position I’m in.” Speaking of his upbringing, Charles continues to be proud of his Jewish heritage and the cultural experience that comes with it: “I absolutely want to continue my life in the type of surrounding that I enjoyed. I hope that when I raise a family, they will appreciate the nurturing and moral guidance like I had.
“Personally and professionally, I hope my family history will be something that will always be shared and appreciated by the next generation to come after me.”
To find out more about Burns Jewellers’ collections and locate your local store, visit Burnsjewellersgroup.com.