Blue Nile CEO Resigns as Profits Fall

Blue Nile CEO Diane Irvine resigned from her post on Nov. 8, following the company’s announcement of profit numbers that disappointed Wall Street.

Vijay Talwar, Blue Nile’s current general manager for its international business, has been named interim CEO. Talwar boasts a varied background that includes stints as head of the William J. Clinton Foundation in India, as well as at Starbucks, Nike, and Bain and Company.

In a conference call following the announcement, company executives had little to say about the abrupt departure of Irvine, Blue Nile’s one-time chief financial officer who was with the company for 12 years. Chairman Mark Vadon hailed her as “tremendous business partner” but added that he will be taking a “more active role in the business.”

When reached by the Seattle Times, Irvine would only say: “I love Blue Nile. I love the business. I’m proud of what we built, and that never changes.”

Irvine’s resignation comes as the company announced that its third quarter profits fell. Net income hit $1.9 million, an over 30 percent drop from the $2.8 million recorded last year.

During the conference call, Talwar said that as diamond prices rose over the last year, “we became more aggressive in our pricing. This aggressive pricing has [resulted] in our margin compression.”

Still, the company achieved record revenue for the quarter, with overall sales jumping 11.2 percent to $75 million. Talwar also predicted the company will have the “biggest holiday season in the history of Blue Nile.”

Vadon stressed the company wants to diversify from its core engagement ring market, and embrace non-bridal jewelry.

“With the jewelry business, we have the opportunity to get more aggressive behind it, and grow it,” he says. “That’s a bigger market, it has more repeat buying, it is higher margin.”

Vadon added the engagement market is currently “under pressure.”

“Younger consumers, having a lack of credit, a lack of jobs, and a lot of uncertainly in front of them, a lot of people [are] delaying marriages,” he said. “If you look at things like the number of wedding licenses being issued, those numbers are down over the last few years … We have still been gaining share in engagement, we have been doing a good job there, but it’s a tough market.”

Vadon said he didn’t see any significant dot-com competitors on the horizon.

“If you take our non-engagement business and separate it out, it’s probably the number two online jeweler behind our engagement business,” he said.

Blue Nile’s most recent financial statement can be seen here.

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