Julian Gold founded the eponymous luxury retail chain in San Antonio, Texas in 1945, the first suburban speciality store in the city. Back then, all sales and accounting data was computed by hand or with a mechanical adding machine. When Bob Gurwitz, current co-owner and president, joined the company in 1963, he had a lot to learn about retail.
“Mr. Gold brought me up through the company, from shipping to selling to buying, and I brought a knowledge of technology to the plate,” Gurwitz said. “In the mid-’60s, we bought our first electronic adding machine and, from there, devoted the company 100% toward the latest in retail technology.”
Today, Julian Gold keeps a complete record of every transaction and every customer who makes a purchase at any of the company’s four locations. The sales data is also available to the company’s sales team. By knowing what brands, sizes, and styles their shoppers like, the sales team can better serve them.
“I am convinced that technology is the only way we’ve been able to survive,” Gurwitz said. “If we hadn’t moved when we did with the determination that we did, we would not be able to provide the service we can today.”
Julian Gold remains committed to using its IT and computer systems to the fullest extent to run the company efficiently. Gurwitz said one of his favorite features of the system is its three-year comparative report. It consolidates all the data into charts that give his management team and his buyers a good look at the big picture.
Gurwitz said such an extensive record is absolutely necessary in retail today. “When you’re buying six to eight months out, it’s crucial to know how and when your merchandise flows so you can cope with whatever is down the road,” he said. He added that because of the suddenly unstable economy, Julian Gold is in an overbought position but has enough information to withstand it. He said, “Nothing happens by accident in our stores.”
Service, fashion, and more service
The struggling economy made Julian Gold’s recent renovation project in Corpus Christi slightly inconvenient, but for a company that doesn’t add locations, keeping each location looking fresh is a priority. Gurwitz explained that rather than adding more stores, Julian Gold expands its existing locations to avoid losing the company’s trademark service and personality. He said four is likely to be the maximum for the company.
This year, the company remodeled the 50-year-old Corpus Christi location to free up 2,000 square feet of selling space, making the store 11,000 square feet in size. As the corporate headquarters and flagship store, Julian Gold’s San Antonio location is the largest at 30,000 square feet.
“Mr. Gold founded the company with a simple motto: ‘Fashion first, service foremost.’ That idea still guides the company,” said Gurwitz. “Since adding an Austin location in 2002, Julian Gold hadn’t added a store in decades because getting the buyers and executives into every store as often as possible is more important than expanding our real estate.”
All of the Julian Gold locations use an open floor plan, with fixed positions for only a few departments like shoes or lingerie. Glover organizes the floor plan for the rest of the departments according to the season or if there are specific products to move off the floor. An added benefit of the design is that it allows the sales staff to move seamlessly from one section to another, depending on what a customer is looking for; only the shoes and lingerie departments have expert sales staff assigned to them.
Gurwitz, Glover, and the company’s eight buyers visit each location at least once a month to catch up with sales staff and talk with customers. At Gurwitz’s previous visit, he said proudly, he knew personally nearly half of the customers in the store. He also spoke with a loyal customer about an issue she’d had at the store and, when he got home, wrote a letter thanking her for speaking to him about it.
Gurwitz also takes all of his own calls so he can act quickly if a problem comes up. He has never signed a contract with a specific designer or manufacturer, and the products on the floor are chosen entirely by the buyers, with Gurwitz’s final approval. Buyers regularly travel around the country, looking to new brands to add to the collection so Julian Gold shoppers have access to the best products every season.
“We sell high-end fashion, but shopping at Julian Gold is about the experience. We put our customer first in everything we do, and people appreciate that no matter what’s going on in the economy,” concluded Gurwitz.