JewelStreet, a U.K. site that gives jewelry designers and brands a platform to sell direct to consumers, is now bringing its “disruptive” business model to the United States.
The company, which has been open for 18 months and hopes to make its American debut next year, lets designers that pass its accreditation process to set up an e-boutique. When customers buy a piece, the designers handle all the fulfillment and customer service, and the site collects a 25 percent commission on each item sold.
Site managing director Rob Passmore says the site will own no inventory and compares it to Amazon Marketplace or Etsy, but for fine jewelry.
“The best way to think about it: Airlines used to rely on travel agents for ticket sales,” he says. “Fashion houses used to rely on Main Street and the malls. Both of those models have seen the disruptive impact of the Internet. But with jewelry, the majority of stock is still being sold through retail channels. We feel there is ground for discontent when retailers are taking a disproportionate amount of the margin.”
The site argues it gives designers a fairer deal: “Jewelry brands and designers, who typically see only 35 percent of the revenue through traditional retail channels, are thrilled to get more than double (a full 75 percent) of the retail price.”
Passmore says that the company has 250 designers on its U.K. site and hopes to attract a similar number in the United States. It plans to promote the site through publicity and search-engine marketing.
As for manufacturers that are worried about so-called channel conflict, Passmore says, “You can’t stop the Internet or e-commerce.”
“When we first started, some of the brands said that their retail partners were unhappy about it,” he says. “But we’re not suggesting brands should not sell to those outlets. We feel brands should take a multichannel approach.”
Transactions are subject to customer feedback. If there is an issue with product quality, the site’s in-house goldsmith will examine it .
The company is attempting to fund its expansion through an offering on British crowd-funding site Crowdcube, where it has so far raised £34,580 (about $58,000) of its £100,000 goal.
Raising money on a crowd-funding site gives the site publicity and helps make its case for more conventional investors, Passmore says.
Passmore, who has a marketing background, is one of the site’s three founders, along with creative director Mike Taylor, who has 35 years’ experience as a designer and goldsmith, and Andy Jones, whose background is in technology.