Retailers are forced to close their brick-and-mortar stores every year because of increased competition from online options. The jewelry industry is not immune to this trend.
“(The industry has) lost 70-plus stores in the last five years in the two markets of Salt Lake County and Utah County,” Sierra-West Jewelers CEO Timothy Branscomb said. He acknowledged that there were many factors in these stores closing but that one of the biggest was the increase in consumers shopping online.
Branscomb said he sees about 20% of sales at Sierra-West Jewelers coming online.
“There’s a big change going on in our industry,” Branscomb said. “Certainly this generation wants to do things their own way.”
While many jewelry stores are starting to see an increase in online traffic, most companies still see the majority of their profits coming through their brick-and-mortar stores. New jewelry startups are trying to change the way the jewelry industry operates.
Statice Jewelry, for example, decided to forgo a physical storefront and rely on new technologies to sell their engagement rings solely online. According to Statice Jewelry co-founder Blake Williams, this decision was an attempt to cater to the way millennials shop.
“We feel like the whole ring process starts online for people,” Williams said. “It is a very unnatural step for them to then go and start going into brick-and-mortar shops to try to find the ring style and budget they’re going for.”
Technologies like computer-aided drafting software and 3D printing allow the whole buying process to happen without the need to go to a physical location.
Potential clients submit photos and pricing restrictions on their website to the Statice Jewelry team. Within 24 hours, designers send their clients renderings of a custom ring created with drafting software. These renderings allow the customer to see what the ring would look like and to coordinate what they would like changed with the designers.
“These renderings are great, but sometimes people want to try things on,” Williams said. “We’ve had customers that will wear their 3D print until it breaks and then ask for another one.”
Williams said these technologies have made the ring-buying process better for consumers because the whole process is customizable, including the method of communication between the customer and Statice Jewelry.
“Most people don’t think of organizing their most expensive purchase to date over text messaging, but that is what’s comfortable to people these days,” Williams said.
Statice Jewelry also uses high-quality cameras to show consumers gemstones throughout the world rather than stones a traditional jewelry shop would have on hand.
“We’re not trying to sell you what’s in our store here based on the 100 stones we have but based on exactly what you’re looking for,” Williams said.
Online-only stores like Statice Jewelry offer a perfect fit for some shoppers, but Williams recognizes that there is still a need for brick-and-mortar stores.
“There are people that want to impulse buy,” Williams said. “Even though our process is quick, it’s not a same-day purchase.”
Chantz Davis, a BYU graduate from Arizona, bought an engagement ring from Statice Jewelry and said he was impressed by the company’s customizability and affordability.
“It was really personal,” Davis said of the design process. “(The design consultant) called me by name and said she was excited for the engagement.”
Davis said he was so impressed that he also plans to order a wedding band from Statice Jewelry.
This online-only approach doesn’t work for everyone. BYU student Sydney Craig found her ideal ring on Pinterest, but she wanted to actually try it on before buying it. Unfortunately, the shop that sold it was in Mesa, Arizona, and she couldn’t find a similar ring at shops in Utah.
“I didn’t want to order a ring without trying it on,” Craig said. “So I convinced my fiancé that we should take a road trip to Mesa just so I could try these rings on.”
After an almost 10 hour drive and an hour of trying on rings, Craig chose a ring that she had first seen online, but that she wouldn’t have considered buying if she hadn’t tried it on first.
“It didn’t call my attention until I tried it on,” Craig said. “For me, it was super important to see it on myself rather than just buying it.”