Brass and Glass: Pros and Cons

Ever since Toronto’s Spence Diamonds opened up three stores in Houston, there has been a lot of discussion about the merits of its “brass and glass” model. (Check out the discussions here and here on our sister blogs.) Apparently a lot of jewelers are also looking into it.

Spence has proved successful with the format in Canada, but it’s still untested here. I’m going to look at this more in-depth in the pages of JCK, but here is what I see as the pros and cons of “brass and glass.” 

PROS

– Basically no (or far fewer) inventory costs. Every jeweler can turn themselves into Blue Nile.

– A (possibly) more fun shopping experience. Shoppers get to try on as many pieces as they want, without a salesperson hovering. And while I’m placing this second, I would argue the shopping experience should be the first priority. If someone goes into this just to save money, it will not work.

– In addition, it is a differentiated shopping experience (unless too many people go into it). As we’ve discussed many times, many shoppers feel all jewelry stores are alike. But you know when you’ve been to Spence.

– It gives consumers more choice. Spence likes to brag customers get to choose between 3,000 different designs. 

CONS

– Probably the biggest: Customers can’t walk out with pieces. This is still the land of instant gratification.

– Along those lines, less “impulse purchases. 

– No “brass and glass” model looks as nice as the real thing. (Although if customers decided they did look the same, we’d all be worse off.)

– Salespeople have to be retrained. It’s a very different way of doing business. That’s apparently been an issue with the Robbins-to-Spence switch.

– What Skaret calls “the law of unintended consequences.” If people can just try on samples, and then order what they want electronically, do you even need a salesperson around? Couldn’t you just set up a “brass and glass” station in a Wal mart and let ‘er rip?

Anything I missed? I would be particularly in hearing from people who have visited Spence, or of other jewelers trying “brass and glass.”

JCK News Director