It’s not just Blue Nile and BaubleBar. Now James Allen is also going clicks-and-bricks.
The Frederick, Md.–based company, sometimes said to be Blue Nile’s closest rival in pure-play jewelry e-tail, has set up 16 boutiques in Sears jewelry departments in New York, Maryland, and Puerto Rico. Each store-in-store will offer 120 rings available for try-ons, but—as with Blue Nile’s boutiques in two Nordstroms—the sales stations won’t actually sell anything, but will point shoppers to the company’s website.
James Allen CEO Oded Edelman tells JCK the 160 sq. ft. boutiques will give customers a chance to “touch and feel” the product and also show off the site’s proprietary 360-degree diamond display technology, which he says lets consumers “see the diamonds from every angle, better than you can at the store.”
He also believes they will raise the site’s profile. “We will have millions of people interact with the James Allen brand in the next few months,” he says, adding his company wanted to work with Sears because of its reach. “This lets us direct customers from our site to a retailer that has so many locations,” he says.
He adds that James Allen and Sears plan to do joint marketing.
The venture raises the question of whether these boutiques could be considered physical presences, requiring the site to collect sales tax from in-state residents.
Edelman notes that most of the store-in-stores are located in Sears in New York and Maryland, two states where it already collects sales tax. But if the effort expands—which he hopes it will—he thinks sales tax won’t be an issue.
“This is like us selling wholesale to Sears,” he says.
One intriguing point: The project is being overseen by Sears president of gifts and special holdings, Vijay Talwar, who formerly served as interim CEO, as well as international president, of Blue Nile.