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Online Retailing

Gemvara: What we learned from our pop-up shop

By Brecken Branstrator

April 02, 2014


Gemvara’s pop-up shop on Newbury Street in Boston saw less foot traffic than expected, so the retailer has decided against a physical location for now. “The Gemvara Experience” was designed to serve as a showroom for the retailer’s offerings.

Boston--Online retailer Gemvara has decided not to open a permanent brick-and-mortar location after a temporary store designed to test the brand’s brick-and-mortar appeal didn’t attract many customers.

“The Gemvara Experience” pop-up shop, which was open from November to February on Boston’s Newbury Street, didn’t see enough traffic during its three-month stint to merit an actual brick-and-mortar location for the company, CEO Janet Holian told National Jeweler.

“At the end of the day, we found that 2,000 people total came to visit the store, as opposed to nearly 20,000 who visit our website on a daily basis,” she said, adding that they were disappointed by the foot traffic from one of the city’s busiest shopping streets. “The numbers were crystal clear, and now we’re going to focus on maximizing our online presence.”

Holian said that even though research conducted last year showed that a physical store wasn’t necessary for the company’s business plan, she still wanted to give it a trial run.

“To me, it just validated what we needed validated. And I’m happy with it, because if we had found that we needed a store, it would’ve changed the economics of our company.”

The shop was designed to serve as a showroom for the brand’s hundreds of designs, through both tangible samples and customizable images on iPads; no actual inventory was held in the store for purchase. 

Though it didn’t reach expected foot traffic, it was successful on many other counts, including helping explain the Gemvara experience and brand’s value proposition. Without giving specific numbers, Holian said that the turnover rate of visitors in the store to actual buyers online was high. 

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Additionally, the experience with the store and what the company learned is helping the brand strengthen the online shopping experience, Gemvara’s bread-and-butter, for the future.

Since a large amount of visitors indicated that they came to the area specifically for the Gemvara shop--about 50 percent, according to Holian--the company knew that they had to find a way to still provide a physical experience for shoppers who wanted it.

Since then, Gemvara has opened a showroom in their Boston office for shoppers to make appointments to come in and view pieces in person. This has come at no extra cost for the company, since the modules from the store were portable and moved directly into the office, and full-time employees are already available for help in the showroom.

They are considering doing this for their New York office as well. Holian said that if they do decide to do it, the showroom would be open in time for the holidays.

For those who can’t make it to the showroom but may express concern about wanting to see jewelry in person before buying, Gemvara will send real pieces in the mail for review and return.

Gemvara also is adding to its product line, expanding its offerings of necklaces, rings and bracelets, and putting more emphasis on introducing new products as collections. Though their focus lies in gemstone jewelry, Gemvara will begin expanding its diamond offerings as well.

In January, the brand hired its first chief marketing officer, Matt Marcus, a veteran digital and marketing executive. The appointment was made to help “elevate the brand,” Holian said, and Gemvara will launch a re-branding effort in the next month, the details of which have yet to be released.

“We’re focused on growing the business as big as we can, as fast as we can.”