New DTC toolkit   //   November 28, 2022

‘A major catalyst for building our brand’: Why Brilliant Earth is expanding its store footprint

DTC brand Brilliant Earth has big plans to bring its ethically sourced fine jewelry to more cities across the country this year.

Over the past few weeks, it opened locations in Palo Alto, Santa Monica and Baltimore, among others. The brand opened 10 stores in 2022 and will have a total of 25 stores by the end of the year. 

In an attempt to meet its customers’ needs, Brilliant Earth has nearly doubled its store count this year. As a high-priced category, jewelry tends to be a purchase made with plenty of considerations including fit, comfort and appearance, which is better assessed in person than online. Though jewelry sales hit $47.1 billion in 2021, e-commerce sales constitute just 18.2% of that, according to a February report from Insider Intelligence. 

“Showroom and showroom expansion strategy has been and will continue to be a major catalyst for building our brand,” said Kathryn Money, svp of merchandising and retail expansion at Brilliant Earth. “Each of our new showroom openings really let us bring more consumers to the brand and also deepen our relationships with both those new consumers as well as existing and returning customers.”

Founded in 2005, Brilliant Earth has directly sold lab-grown and natural diamonds to consumers with a commitment to sourcing transparency. It was one of several digitally native brands that went public last year. In its most recent quarter, Brilliant Earth reported a net sales increase of 17.0% year-over-year to $111.4 million. The company declined to share how much of its revenue comes from stores. 

Money said Brilliant Earth’s retail expansion strategy allows the company to offer in-person services. The company lets customers book appointments for personalized jewelry consultations, where they can meet with Brilliant Earth’s jewelry specialists. This service allows customers to personalize their rings, make adjustments, come in for repairs and learn more about different gemstones or diamonds.

“It really does provide customers that opportunity to connect with the brand,” Money said. “It’s a really consultative process and we’re able to really tailor the experience to their individual needs and preferences when they’re coming into a showroom.”

In the store itself, customers can find a range of Brilliant Earth products that serve both bridal and milestone moments at price points ranging from $150 to more expensive options worth thousands of dollars. The company offers rings, earrings, pendants and bracelets.

The company has stores in several key markets where it has a strong and growing customer base, including New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago. It also considers the neighborhood and the mix of tenants located in the area. For example, in Washington, D.C., Brilliant Earth’s store is located in the Georgetown neighborhood where many digitally native brands also have stores.   

“We’re a really data-driven company,” Money said. “We definitely use a combination of art and science when we’re making our decisions about location.” For example, its new store in Palo Alto is located in Stanford Shopping Center where many luxury and direct-to-consumer brands are also located. She said that the company looks at brands that its consumers might be interested in as well. 

The timing of the store openings is also key to Brilliant Earth. Although jewelry is less seasonal than other retail categories, the retailer said many couples tend to get engaged during the holidays and Valentine’s day is also just around the corner. 

Polly Wong, president of marketing firm Belardi Wong, said that it makes sense for a jewelry brand to grow its physical presence as a large majority of sales in this category still occur in stores. Part of the reason is that some of the legacy players haven’t built out their e-commerce business and part of it is because buying jewelry can be an emotional experience.  

“It’s very interesting the jewelry market has not been as quick to see that e-commerce growth compared to other categories,” she said. “Over 85% of all jewelry sales in the U.S. are in physical stores. It makes complete sense that [Brilliant Earth] would open stores otherwise they’re missing out.”

Signet Jewelers — which operates brands like Kay Jewelers, Zales and — in March reported $7.8 billion in total sales for the full year, with e-commerce making up just $1.5 billion compared to $6.3 billion from brick-and-mortar stores.

However, opening physical locations comes with its own set of challenges. Wong said that having a physical store requires a different set of expertise than a DTC business. “DTC brands are great at e-commerce, they’re great at product distribution,” she said. “Operating a store is a very different discipline from a human resources perspective, from a data perspective, from a transactional perspective, from a merchandising and a marketing perspective.”

Still, Wong added that stores are also a great method to acquire new customers as it is an effective way to generate brand awareness in addition to physical stores’ ability to provide a unique brand experience.

Apart from its stores, Brilliant Earth said it is also focused on making improvements to the shopping experience, such as enhancing its scheduling and customer follow-ups.