Blue Nile continues to expand its physical retail presence.
The Seattle-based online diamond seller, which is set to be acquired by Bain Capital Private Equity and Bow Street LLC early next year, opened a “webroom” on Tuesday at Bellevue Square in Bellevue, Wash.
This is Blue Nile’s fifth showroom — the first location opened in a Long Island mall in June 2015 — and is part of the company’s growing brick-and-mortar initiative.
The showrooms lets shoppers look at, hold and feel more than 400 different engagement ring styles. They can talk to Blue Nile employees to answer questions and figure out exactly what they want. When it comes time to make the purchase, shoppers can use tablets in the store to order online or make a purchase later from home. The tablets also feature an online catalog of more than 150,000 independently-graded loose diamonds.
The company keeps its overhead low by not maintaining inventory, keeping the store space small and only staffing it with a couple employees who are not paid on commission. At the same time, it’s able to show off a wide selection and give personalized help to anyone who walks in.
“Our Webrooms are fresh, modern, and bright, and put shoppers in the driver’s seat – not the other way around,” Blue Nile CEO Harvey Kanter said in a statement. “It is truly a unique, customer-first experience that contrasts meaningfully with any traditional jewelry retailer.”
In addition to the new store in Bellevue and the Long Island location, the other showrooms are in Portland, Ore.; White Plains, N.Y.; and Fairfax County, Va.
Last year, Kanter said physical locations may be a central part of the company’s long-term strategy. Other online sellers also have similar brick-and-mortar retail strategies, like Bonobos for clothing and Warby Parker for eyewear. Even Amazon, which has driven most of the innovation in the e-commerce industry over the past two decades, now has a physical bookstore in Seattle and is preparing to open a physical grocery store.
Kanter said e-commerce retailers should bridge the gap between digital and online in order to give shoppers the kind of personalized experience they’re looking for.
“That’s really what we think the millennial customer is interested in,” he said last year. “Having that holistic, compelling experience that’s memorable.”
Blue Nile, which went public in 2004 after launching five years earlier, announced earlier this month that it agreed to be acquired for $500 million by Bain Capital Private Equity and Bow Street LLC. The all-cash deal will price Blue Nile’s stock at $40.75, which is a 34 percent premium over the company’s closing price on Nov. 4. Blue Nile will keep its Seattle headquarters and become a privately-held company. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year.