The promise of a free lunch lured students into many meetings, but Geraldine Pingul didn’t expect that free dinner to turn into expertise in retail, fashion and analytics, as well as a chance to impact how people buy diamonds and get engaged.
Pingul’s official title at the Californian club Robbins Brothers is a bridal jewelry buyer; she helps the century-old company establish lab-grown diamonds as part of its engagement ring business. But his role at the 15-store chain goes beyond the business, allowing him to lend more than 20 years of buying, merchandising and fashion experience to the jewelry business.
Her story begins in the Philippines, where her family left for the United States when she was 9 years old. Her parents hoped to provide her and her brother with expanded educational opportunities, Pingul says, as well as career options. Pingul started college as a pre-law due to her problem-solving nature, but it didn’t fulfill her creative side, she says.
A few weeks before she was to graduate, that free lunch landed her at a presentation at May Department Stores, which the retail chain had set up to recruit for its executive training program, Pingul says.
“The more they talked, the more I fell in love,” Pingul says. “I knew about the company, but had no idea there was even a program that taught you how to become a retail executive. I’ve always channeled my creativity into fashion – I love putting outfits together, reworking items to suit me, whether it’s clothing or accessories.
The future lawyer changed direction, applied to the May program and entered. Pingul says completing the training program was like getting a business degree because she worked at all levels of the store, whether in-store or as a department manager or, her ultimate role, as a store manager. analyst in the fashion office, helping the department store chain keep tabs on what’s new and relevant.
“Being in the fashion office was fun, but no one left me slack,” Pingul says. “For me, to drive new business, I couldn’t be fluffy. I had to tap into this analytical side to back up my suggestions. I’ve worked with buyers to forecast trends, project sales by looking at data, and track what’s happening with pop culture. »
Ready for a change, Pingul reached out to the new vice president of merchandising at Robbins Brothers, who was looking for a buyer who had an edgy sensibility, had done trend work and had a strong background in merchandising, Pingul says.
“They wanted to remain a market leader. Whether you’re in jewelry or elsewhere, it’s easy to be complacent. But Robbins Brothers wanted to maintain its leadership position,” says Pingul. “Engagement rings are at the heart of the business, so you want to have those classic, timeless styles. But you also have to listen to what the customer wants and stay on top of what’s relevant in the market. .
This is perhaps the best part of Pingul’s responsibilities. When a celebrity engagement happens or a bridal trend catches fire, she dives deep into what it says about brides-to-be, how it could translate into jewelry, and what Robbins Brothers must do, if necessary, in the short and long term.
She says other highlights include working with longtime jewelry experts and bringing her fresh perspective to the table when Robbins Brothers relaunched and renamed the Eternalle collection of lab-grown diamonds as engagement rings or of marriage.
“It’s a new position and a new way of looking at the business,” says Pingul. “It was quite a race, but I really love it. I feel like I’m always learning and the team is ready to grow.…I’m definitely a sponge, soaking up all the information.
Above: Geraldine Pingul left behind her aspirations as a lawyer for a career in forward-thinking retail. Now she’s working with Robbins Brothers to bolster her trend forecasting and help the jewelry chain develop new products and collections. (All photos courtesy of Robbins Brothers)
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