Jewelry Brand AUrate Scales Up With Innovative Brick-and-Mortar Plan

AUrate, the fine jewelry e-commerce brand that’s been called “the Warby Parker of jewelry,” is using a chunk of the $2.6 million in seed money it garnered earlier this year to grow its brick-and-mortar presence.

But while many brands newly infused with VC funds would be planning for a splashy flagship store in a major city, AUrate founders Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn aren’t in a hurry to set down roots outside the digital marketplace.

The cofounders, who met at Princeton University as finance majors, are instead opening several stores with open-ended lease terms. The brand, which has experimented with pop-up shops for years and considers its current Madison Avenue pop-up its flagship, opened two of these long-term pop-up locations Nov. 5 in New York’s SoHo and Washington’s Georgetown. Another shop will open in Boston on Nov. 20.

Why pop-ups? The overhead of a store with a 20-year fixed lease is, to Kahn’s mind, “an antiquated solution,” she explains, adding, “The retail landscape is changing so much. We don’t want to sign 10-year leases anymore. We want to be more nimble than that.”

Kahn and Ezzahraoui say they will operate the stores (all of which feature a pared-down decor scheme that echoes the brand’s aesthetics online) as long as they’re performing for the brand. That could mean running a shop for a month—or for a couple of years.

The freedom to move on from a market that’s gone soft is a potent one. And, like Amazon and Warby Parker and other savvy pop-up practitioners, the retailers choose every shop location based on numbers, not hunches.

“We’ve known where our customer is,” says Ezzahraoui. “We’ve found that the East Coast is our biggest buyer and specifically consumers in more cosmopolitan areas.”

New York City is AUrate’s biggest market, with Washington and Boston lagging just behind. The cofounders say they’re also considering popping up on the west coast, another area where the brand’s gained traction—but no plans have been finalized.

The company also debuted a new website this week. It continues to promote the brand’s message of democratizing gold, while playing more overtly to a consumer desire the cofounders identified through their data—customization and personalization.

“We noticed that customers really like to customize, whether it’s picking their metal—anything from vermeil to 18 gold—or choosing their diamond [color],” says Kahn. “And we’re also doing things like selling every earring as a single.”

The new site also hosts a stylish and shoppable lookbook. Because, “People really like the AUrate style,” says Kahn, “and want to know how to make it theirs.”

(Images from top: Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn; Circle earrings, starting at $180; a lifestyle image from the brand’s new look book; all photos courtesy of AUrate)

JCK Magazine Editor