By Michelle Graff
Seattle--Blue Nile revealed a bit more about its plans to open a store where consumers can try on--but not buy--jewelry during the company’s earnings call on Friday morning.

The company confirmed that the store will be, as previously speculated, in Roosevelt Field, a mall in Garden City (Long Island), N.Y. that is home to a Kay Jewelers, Zales, Na Hoku, Rolex, Swarovski and a Fast-Fix jewelry store and repair shop, as well as an Apple store and mid-tier retailers such as Ann Taylor, Gap and Aldo.

A Blue Nile spokesman declined to reveal exactly when the store will open but, when asked about its size and location, said it would be a “small space” near Macy’s and the yet-to-open Lord & Taylor store.

Roosevelt Field is the same mall where Blue Nile set up a try-on-but-don’t-buy showcase within a Nordstrom store, an experiment that has now ended. The Seattle-based e-tailer also had a showcase in the Nordstrom flagship in Seattle.

The store, Blue Nile’s first standalone physical space, is designed just as a place for customers to try on Blue Nile jewelry. Any purchases still must be made online, at least for now.

In addition, New York is one of the states where Blue Nile already must collect sales tax, as all online retailers have been required to do so in the Empire State since 2008. So, having this “webroom concept experience,” which constitutes a physical presence in the state, won’t change anything tax-wise for the e-tailer in New York.

The company’s revelations about its latest retail experiment came during the its first quarter results conference call, held Friday morning.

The e-tailer reported that sales in the period ending April 5 fell short of its expectations due to softness in the high-end market--the company said it sold $2 million less of products over $50,000 during the quarter--and in an industry that CEO Harvey Kanter described as “experiencing overall challenges.”

Total sales reached $106.5 million, a 3 percent increase when compared with the first quarter 2014. Net income totaled $1.2 million, and was flat year-over-year. Gross profit as a percent of net sales improved slightly, from 18.4 percent to 18.8 percent, due to fewer big sales, which generally have slimmer margins.

U.S. engagement ring sales were up 2 percent, from $59.7 million to $61.0 million, with the company moving more units at lower price points.

Non-engagement ring sales declined 0.3 percent. Kanter said that sales of fashion jewelry were up year-over-year but wedding band sales were flat, despite the fact that Blue Nile was less promotional with that category.

 International net sales were up 9 percent (16 percent at constant exchange rates), from $17.9 million to $19.5 million.

Despite a first quarter that fell short of expectations, Blue Nile executives said they are maintaining their guidance for the fiscal year. They added that they expect diamond prices, which have been falling, to stabilize and then increase in the second half of the year.

During the first quarter, Blue Nile announced that its next branded line of engagement rings and fashion jewelry would be with Colin Cowie, who also is going to serve as a spokesperson for the e-tailer. A well-known wedding designer, Cowie already is familiar to many in the jewelry industry because of his previous partnership with the Platinum Guild International (PGI USA).

The Cowie-branded line of baubles joins a growing collection of branded merchandise on Blue Nile, which also has lines of bridal and fashion jewelry created with fashion designers Zac Posen and Monique Lhuillier.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that the yet-to-open department store that Blue Nile will be located near is a Neiman Marcus, not a Lord & Taylor, as previously reported. 

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