Friday, October 7, 2011

Retailer tantrums

Just this week we read about Blue Nile selling a $300,000 diamond, and over a smartphone.  We wondered about its size and qualifications - just curiosity - but the sale itself came as no surprise.  Blue Nile has been working the loose diamond business now for years, and has amply proved that these nearly commoditized objects are well suited to Internet selling.  After all, can anyone name a company that sells diamonds that went from zero sales to $300 million plus in a handful of years.

Still, there are retailers who think the whole thing is a sham and a lie.  I read the comments that appeared on JCK's web site, and was shaking my head over those that came from "deniers."  Oh, they said, this was a marketing stunt, there was no such sale, and certainly not on a smartphone.  How could anyone buy a stone that expensive without looking at it.  One retailer suggested that the buyer got a retailer to bring the stone in, learn all about it, and then bought out without sales tax after it was returned to the supplier.  Others suggested that the public will come back to retailers once they realize how important that face to face interaction is.  Really?

On the other hand, there were retailers who exclaimed that this was reality, that the future of the business was with a strong Internet presence.  I am sure they sense, probably rightly, that a well thought out strategy of Internet and brick and mortar sales is a viable future.  One said straight out that retailers ought to get with it or pack it in.

We have been seeing these passionate exchanges for years now.  We frequently read of long-established stores closing up.  Sure, part of that is the desire for the owners to retire.  Retailing is long hours  and dedicated work.  But the other part is that retail stores are not easily sold.  Internet retailers, as we have seen, can quickly attract big money investors.  One business model is approaching obsolescence.  The other is burgeoning.

Take your choice.

Forever, and Forevermark

I finally got a look at Forevermark's web site, and everything took forever.  I viewed it on an I-Mac with plenty of speed and memory.  I mention that up front, because this site uses lots of Flash, and it crawls.  Crawls so badly that my browser timed out waiting to load a page.  When it did load, we see a slick, spare site.  The photos are over-Photoshopped, with metal a shade of gray, and diamonds always blue. 

Navigation is clumsy.  When looking at collections, for example, I had to click back five or six pages just to get to the point where I can look at another collection.  There is an app available too (click here), where one can see oneself wearing a piece.  It is a cute gimmick, but not worth the trouble and waiting.  I looked odd wearing a necklace.

No prices are shown anywhere, so it is left to the visitor to go to the retailer locator to find a store.  For the moment, the retailer outlets listed are very few.  The only New York retailer shown is up in Skaneateles.  Very nice, quiet part of upstate New York, but far from any major market.  And clicking on the retailer goes nowhere.  I presume it is supposed to go the the retailer's web site.  So if you live in New York, you have to call the store to see what they have or take a nice drive.  This is old website thinking.  Nobody wants to frustrate consumers like that any more, and De Beers should know better.

The products, in true De Beers style, are simple and not design intensive.  Certainly not exciting, either.  In order to avoid questions about (potentially) non-Forevermark side stones, there aren't many.  Except, as it turns out, where Everlon of two years ago emerges again as a "new" collection named Concordia!  Now I know where Everlon went.  No new ideas?

The site must talk somewhere about sourcing, and the assurances Forevermark offers.  It was not apparent in my crawling around the site, but it must be there somewhere.  I could go on with other comments on how the site does not help its own objectives, but would I be saying anything that De Beers does not already know?

What a disappointment.  This is it after all these years of effort?