The Julius Klein Group has sold its controlling interest in Ritani to a group of investors that are reinventing the brand as an e-commerce site.
A consortium led by Cantor Ventures, a subsidiary of investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald, now owns the bridal jewelry manufacturer, and has invested $15 million in it. JKG will retain its stake in the brand, which it has owned since 2002.
Ritani’s new site, which premiered this morning, will use a “clicks and bricks” model similar to that of Hearts On Fire: Consumers will have the option to purchase Ritani jewelry online and have the piece shipped from the company, as in traditional e-commerce. But they will also be given the option to examine and purchase the piece at a local jeweler.
“If that consumer wants to come in and needs assurance, this gives the retailer a chance to have a relationship with that customer,” says Brian Watkins, Ritani’s new president and a veteran of Nordstrom’s and Blue Nile.
Participating jewelers will also receive a share of proceeds from Ritani sales in their local area, even if they were not involved in the sale
“The idea of ‘omni-channel’ is the Holy Grail of retailing right now,” Watkins continues. “This industry is heavily siloed. You have Blue Nile saying, ‘You are too smart to shop at a jewelry store,’ and many jewelers don’t have sites at all. We think we can bridge the two.”
The company’s 380 retailers will also continue to sell the brand in their stores. Watkins says the company does not plan to change its products.
“The heritage of Ritani is this kind of hand-crafted custom-made piece,” he says. “We want to keep that prestige.”
The site will also feature videos of its jewelry.
Watkins says the Ritani brand enjoys high consumer recognition, with close to 700,000 fans on Facebook. But he adds the new site will do a “fair amount” of advertising.