A Tale of Two (Very Interesting) Stores:Le Vian by Jared and Blue Nile

By Rob Bates - JCK

Two noteworthy stores premiered recently—both, oddly, in the same mall—and they both mark departures for their parent companies. 

The Le Vian by Jared store, which opened at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y., on May 22, is Signet’s first store devoted to a single brand. But what makes it even more notable is it that it doesn’t just carry jewelry. It will sell Le Vian–branded leather goods, shoes, and handbags. That marks a big change for what had been, up until now, almost entirely a jewelry chain.

That may not be the only change in Signet’s product lineup. In last month’s conference call, CEO Mark Light showed a surprising interest in wearables. 

“Anybody who is selling any type of product—whether it be worn on their body, their wrist, their neck—is a competitor of ours,” said spokesperson David Bouffard in a statement. “So, wearable technology is something we’re all over, and we’re obviously talking to all of our current partners and looking into opportunities…. I’m sure in the near future, you’ll start seeing some opportunities for the Signet business, probably in the next-year time frame.”

But while Signet is a brick-and-mortar business looking into high tech, in the same mall, e-tailer Blue Nile is moving in the other direction by opening up its first physical store (though it prefers “webroom”). 

The Blue Nile store, which opened June 5, is only about 300 square feet. Still, it does look quite striking—you can see pictures here—and is built around the company’s version of Apple’s Genius Bar.  

The store doesn’t actually sell anything per se—fulfillment is done by the company’s Seattle office. However, it will handle traditional jewelry store duties like cleanings, pickups, and repairs, according to The Seattle Times. And it may eventually have company: “We are doing a test with a belief at some point we will expand,” CEO Harvey Kanter told Yahoo Finance.

Given all that, the biggest question I had about the webroom is why it just doesn’t sell product. When I asked Kanter about this during a JCK Las Vegas 2015 panel, he said the company has a fundamentally different business model. 

“[The webroom] is really about seeing, touching, and feeling the ring in the setting,” he said. “The diamonds that we sell, everything is certified. Most traders do not see the stone [before] they buy. It is based on spec. That is what we are educating consumers about, and we are trying to create the same level of knowledge in the store.”

For years, I have heard that people say we need to de-commodify diamonds. Blue Nile’s store is meant to re-commodify them.