Leading jewelry e-retailer Blue Nile opens its first physical showroom

June 5, 2015 01:17 PM

One of the leading online jewelry retailers is hoping a new physical showroom will help continue its growth.

Blue Nile Inc., No. 85 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, opened what it is calling a “web room” storefront in Long Island’s Roosevelt Field mall today, giving shoppers an opportunity to experience the company’s products in person before then purchasing online.

The showroom is roughly 325 square feet and will feature more than 400 styles of the retailer’s offerings, though shoppers can’t actually buy anything and take products home from the store itself. Associates will use iPads to help shoppers find the exact style they are looking for.

“It’s a test to see if we can improve conversion for New York customers,” a Blue Nile spokesman tells Internet Retailer on Friday. “We believe we can gain roughly a 5% greater conversion for New York customers versus what that customer only does online.”

The smaller size is by design. The retailer says it doesn’t want its location to feel like a traditional jewelry store, which can be intimidating to some customers.

“It’s very comfortable,” the spokesman says. “We wanted it to feel very welcoming. We wanted it to be as efficient as possible so we can pass that savings on to our customer.”

The spokesman declines to say how the company is going to gauge success, and right now there aren’t plans to open up any other web rooms in other locations across the country.

Plans to open up a physical showroom of its own were born from a successful partnership with Nordstrom, where Blue Nile had a case of jewelry in Nordstrom stores in its home base of Seattle and in the Roosevelt Field mall.

“91% visited specifically (at Roosevelt Field) for Blue Nile versus randomly being Nordstrom customers,” the Blue Nile spokesman says. “It really only made sense to expand this test into our own storefront that we can control from top to bottom.”

Blue Nile isn’t the first e-retailer to try this model, though with $473.5 million in web sales in 2014, the company is the most successful in terms of sales generated.

Eyeglass retailer Warby Parker (No. 247 in the 2015 Top 500), which just raised a $100 million round of funding and did an Internet Retailer-estimated $100 million in web sales in 2014, has 13 bricks-and-mortar locations across the country. Clothing retailer Bonobos (No. 270 in the 2015 Top 500 Guide) enjoyed such success with its initial “guideshops” that allowed customers to try on clothes before buying online that the company was able to raise $55 million in funding in July 2014 to fund an additional 30 locations. Custom furniture e-retailer Interior Define took a similar tack, opening a showroom in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood where shoppers can experience the company’s products firsthand before buying online.

Blue Nile saw sales grow 2.6% year-over-year in the first quarter of fiscal 2015, reporting sales of $106.5 million for the three months ending April 5, 2015, versus $103.7 million during the same period last year. 




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