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Summer 2012 Specialty Retail Hall of Fame Awards

Specialty Retailer: Banking on a Golden Opportunity

LSK_3021-ret.-of-yearThis specialty retailer worked an old and tested idea into a roaring specialty retail success. by Emily Lambert

To be inducted into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame as Specialty Retailer of the Year is no easy feat, especially in this economy. The retailer, chosen  from  nominations submitted by industry professionals, needs to demonstrate a number of successful attributes including a strong commitment to the company mission. Tim Oldfield, CEO of Gold Buyers/Gold Rush, does precisely that. Gold Buyers/Gold Rush, headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA, states its mission is to be the largest gold recycling company in the world, through a caring and passionate workforce—and Tim Oldfield, sticks to this mission passionately.

Gold Buyers/Gold Rush (the name of the company varies depending upon what country is being referenced) has 705 retail outlets worldwide in 35 different countries with 2,500 employees. In North America alone, there are 180 retail carts in operation under the Gold Buyer name.

Tim Oldfield’s entrepreneurial days began in 1998, when he took a concept popular in his native country, Australia, and brought it to America. He sold secondhand goods through a company called Cash Converters.

In 2008, Gold Buyers/Gold Rush was born by taking the seed from the most successful part of Cash Converters and planting it. “I asked my partner, ‘What’s the best part of the second hand business?’ The answer was, ‘gold,’” says Oldfield.

“We buy broken gold and break up gold,” says Oldfield. “We refine it and sell it. We buy it for less than New York spot value, and then refine it in Switzerland, and sell it as gold bouillon and/or gold coins,” he says.

While Cash Converters catered to a primarily male demographic between the ages of 25-45, buying gold came with a new target market: women. And what better place to be than the common area in a shopping center for that demographic, thought Oldfield. “Women are comfortable in the mall,” he says.

Not only are women given a convenient and safe environment to exchange their gold, shopping centers benefit from women receiving their cash in the very place they want to spend it.

The idea was tested on three carts: Chesapeake Square Mall in Chesapeake, VA, Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, VA and Burlington Mall in Burlington, MA. The reaction: a golden opportunity for expansion. Locations spread to other parts of Virginia and Massachusetts, and by the end of 2008, to the state of California. Locations also moved to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Over the years, 32 countries followed suit.

Beneath this vast enterprise is Oldfield’s business philosophy: “Keep it simple and professional.” This translates not only to the actual exchange—“We have a strong culture to be honest and open with every customer every step of the way”—but to what employees wear to work. At Gold Buyers/Gold Rush, you will find staff in professional uniform.

Keeping it simple has been important to expansion as well. The exchange of gold can easily be duplicated in other shopping centers, states and countries, says Oldfield. “With diamonds, that would be too complicated. With gold, it is easy to train. It’s all the same gold in every country. Just different purities,” he says.

And no matter what country, state, or community gold is exchanged in, it benefits the environment and the community as a whole. “Gold being mined is a dirty business,” says Oldfield. When gold is exchanged, it is recycled back into the system.

Oldfield also gives back to the community through charities. “A lot of women give us stones in their jewelry. We only pay for the metal. Any stones we get, we sell and donate those proceeds to charity,” he says. Chosen charities relate specifically to women, such as cervical cancer research.

For everyone involved, it’s a golden opportunity. For Tim Oldfield, the Hall of Fame recognition is more than an award, “it’s an honor,” he says.


Duffy C. Weir

Duffy Weir is the former vice president and director of specialty retail and marketing at The Rouse Company of Columbia, MD. Now an independent retail marketing and sponsorship consultant and writer, Weir travels the world searching for what she says "makes marketplaces tick." She can be reached at Duffyllc@comcast.net or 410.252.8885.

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