Why Direct-To-Consumer Jewelry Brands Are Opening Stores

Glading Marteen 

The traditional image of a jewelry store may be that of Cartier on Champs-Élysées in Paris or Tiffany’s on 5th Ave in New York City, but today direct-to-consumer brands are re-inventing the jewelry store. There’s been an influx of jewelry brands aimed at providing quality products of the legacy jewelers, like real gold and diamonds, but at a more affordable price and with sustainable practices. And as a result, their stores are less traditional and more omnichannel focused.

Despite the influx of e-commerce, physical jewelry store sales in the US were $33.2 billion in 2020, according to the United States Census Bureau, up 25% over the past decade. And although 2021 sales are not yet available, they were trending upwards in the first two months of 2021, up 24% from the first two months of 2020. In addition, in a 2021 McKinsey report, State of Fashion: Watches and Jewelry, the company estimated global sales would grow from 13% at $280 billion to 18% to 21% percent at $340 to $360 billion of the total global market by 2025, with about 80% of those sales still coming from stores. Therefore, the data indicates a continued strong physical presence for the sector.

An omnichannel strategy is key to the success of DTC jewelers

Brilliant Earth, an ethically-sourced jeweler that even sells lab-grown diamonds, went public last year for $12 per share and a market cap of over $1 billion. It currently has 15 locations nationwide, with more on the way. It’s a big believer in the omnichannel strategy, with Kathryn Money, SVP of Merchandising and Retail Expansion, stating, “we know our e-commerce and retail showrooms complement each other. This consistent, powerful synergy between our stores and e-commerce reinforces our conviction in our omnichannel strategy.”

Mejuri, a Canadian-based brand built around the idea of “fine jewelry for my damn self,” has been increasing over the years and now has eight locations across the US and Canada. Gorjana, a similar US-based jeweler, has over 25 locations across the US. And more recently, Aurate, an NYC-based sustainable fine-jewelry brand, has re-entered brick-and-mortar retail in partnership with third-party retailer Leap, introducing two new storefronts in New York’s Upper East Side and San Francisco.

Unlike other DTC brands and jewelers, Aurate opened a store when it launched in 2013. “From the start, we have approached retail with an omnichannel strategy, and will continue to be present in brick-and-mortar stores for the foreseeable future,” shared Co-CEOs Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui.

The design of the store shapes the customer experience and relationship with the brand

Customers’ interactions with jewelry vary significantly from apparel, warranting a different store layout and design. “We’ve come a long way from our first ‘store’ where we displayed our pieces on a folding table during our pop-up in SoHo in 2013. When it comes to design, it’s important for us to have interesting ways of displaying jewelry that draw the eye and make the pieces pop while making sure not to overpower any of the pieces, especially some of our more dainty collections,” stated Kahn and Ezzahraoui. “Our stores feel more like some type of art gallery and truly tell the story of the brand—from sustainable sourcing to craftsmanship, to our customer wearing it IRL for real life.” Aurate’s created stores that sway from the standard design and fit the “mantra” of its brand as a jeweler that’s disrupting the traditional fine jewelry industry.

Meanwhile, Brilliant Earth’s latest stores, also known as showrooms, including Seattle and Austin, have been designed with expanded browsing and retail area for walk-ins. In addition, the company focuses on a one-to-one interaction with customers, providing individualized consultations and education on the types of metals, stones, and styles.

Many DTC brands have sought to redefine the in-store experience. For example, Bonobos, a men’s clothing company, re-invented the apparel store experience by calling them guideshops, a kind of showroom for customers to find their fit and get purchased products shipped to their door. Similarly, Everlane has sustainably designed its stores to align with its brand values. And one of the most memorable reinventions was Apple’s store, which revolutionized the electronics shopping experience by emphasizing customer experience.

It’s clear the future of DTC is omnichannel, and the jewelry sector is no different. Some may argue it’s even more pertinent. The ability for customers to interact with jewelry, a product that to most carries a value beyond its price tag, is vital to a brand’s longevity. And thoughtfully designed stores are the perfect way to provide that experience.

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