By Lenore Fedow
A new Blue Nile location just opened in Lone Tree, Colorado as part of the company's plan to open 50 new showrooms over the next three years.
Seattle—At a time when many retailers are downsizing in the wake of COVID-19, Blue Nile is taking the road less traveled and plotting its expansion.

The jewelry e-tailer announced its brick-and-mortar expansion Monday, with plans to open 50 new locations in the top 50 metro-area markets in the U.S. over the next three years.

There are currently five showrooms in the U.S., in New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Washington.

“We want to be where our customers shop, so they can interact with Blue Nile on their terms,” CEO Sean Kell said in an email to National Jeweler.

“By localizing the approach, Blue Nile will be able to offer a seamless experience to customers who are actively shopping both traditional retail and online throughout the year.”

Unlike a traditional retail setting, its stores operate as showrooms, giving the customers a hands-on feel for its jewelry before they complete the purchase online.

“It’s an intimate, personalized experience that links traditional retail with our online business, allowing customers to access our almost limitless assortment while physically interacting with the product,” Kell said.

20201005 Blue Nile insertBlue Nile's showrooms allow customers to browse in-store and then purchase online.
The expansion plans were in the works before COVID-19 hit, but the company pushed forward as it expects in-store shopping to resume as a primary shopping channel in the U.S.

“Despite the pandemic, we’ve seen a pent-up demand for proposals and engagement rings,” Kell said.

“While we could have not predicted coronavirus to hit when expansion plans were already in motion, it is our responsibility to proceed with caution.”

To kick off the expansion, three new showrooms will open in the fourth quarter of 2020.

A showroom opened Monday in Lone Tree, Colorado, near Denver. A second location will open in Irvine, California on Nov. 2, and another in Oakbrook, Illinois, near Chicago, on Nov. 9.

The other locations will be opening in high-end malls, open air malls and urban, street-side locations, said Blue Nile.

The goal is to blend the online and in-store shopping experience seamlessly.

The company highlighted a 2019 Google/Ipsos Global Retail Study that found 83 percent of U.S. shoppers said they used online search before going into a store.

Blue Nile’s website features more than 150,000 diamonds, graded by GIA, for customers to browse through, it said.

While the company’s stores are implementing strict health and safety protocols, there are options available to customers who aren’t near a showroom or don’t feel comfortable visiting one just yet.

Virtual appointments, a service it’s offered for 20 years, has grown in popularity in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company is rolling out a new virtual appointment tool this fall, aiming to make the experience more personable and accessible.

Blue Nile diamond jewelry consultants can guide customers through the website, help them build a ring and offer guidance on diamond buying.

“Brands like ours are finding success by creating a true partnership between physical retail and e-commerce, making our showrooms an extension of our special online offerings, like building your own ring, and providing the expert service consumers expect from Blue Nile,” Kell said in a press release announcing the plans.

For more information about Blue Nile’s virtual appointments, visit the Blue Nile website.

TAGS:   Retail
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