Harvey Kanter is president, chairman, and CEO of Blue Nile; he has headed the Seattle-based e-tailer since 2012. He spoke to JCK in July, shortly after the company opened its first store—or “webroom”—at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y., in June.
JCK: Can you explain the reasoning behind the webroom?
Kanter: In 2014, we tested display cases of bridal jewelry in two Nordstrom stores. We were testing the hypothesis that there might be a segment of customers that want to see, touch, and feel product, and that by giving them more choices to shop—not just on a PC or tablet or phone, but now in stores—the advantage of the online environment might be furthered.
On average, about 90 percent of visitors specifically came for Blue Nile, versus being random customers to the Nordstrom store. They had great purchase intent. That is a powerful statistic for us.
JCK: Blue Nile is introducing several new designer brands, and you have talked about a Blue Nile aesthetic. How would you term that?
Kanter: The millennial customer is younger, slightly more modern. You could call [their taste] “updated classic.” If you think about the three core designers, Monique [Lhuillier] is lacy, frilly, and more feminine, a little more traditional but updated; Zac [Posen] is more modern, certainly younger; Colin [Cowie] is in the middle, having an element of modernity but a traditional element. Our customer is not that forward, [meaning] trendy and fashionable, to the point of cutting-edge.
We feel that our customer’s aesthetic fits really well with the J.Crew design aesthetic, if that’s a good reference point.
JCK: Do you see Blue Nile getting more involved in industry issues, such as conflict diamonds or synthetics?
Kanter: As appropriate, we will get involved in issues. We are very involved in Jewelers for Children. [Kanter is a board member.] We have not historically been involved in that. We are getting involved in panel discussions, which we also haven’t done. So yes, we are part of the industry, and will get involved in issues or opportunities to help propel the industry.